Joe Hess


Portrait of Joe Hess in a classroom.

Joe Hess has always been a writer, specifically a poet. This passion has carried him through his creative and professional journeys alike, though it wasn’t a straightforward path to teaching and, soon, publishing.

Hess, adjunct English faculty at Central Ohio Technical College (COTC), completed his undergraduate degree at The Ohio State University, majoring in English. “I wanted to get that degree, and I thought: I can do whatever I want in life, I will always be a writer,” explains Hess, who went on to work in the restaurant industry after graduation. “But after 10 to 15 years of living in the restaurant business, I realized I wasn’t writing. I had a life change in about 2005, where I realized, I’ve got to do something different, or I’m going to end up being a restaurant manager.”

Hess went on to receive two postgraduate degrees: an MA and an MFA, both in poetry, from two separate universities. “I found I was drawn to the freedom of poetry, the freedom of the forms of expression and the styles you can use.”

Hess’ journey to teaching

Hess’ first experience teaching was when he was still in graduate school. “I was talking about choosing a career in poetry. Well, that means you have an alternative career, of course, out of necessity,” he says. “I got a feel for teaching in graduate school, and I enjoyed it.”

His first job teaching was at another community college, before he eventually got hired to teach at COTC in 2017. “I’m very impressed with my experiences working at a two-year institution,” says Hess. “COTC is very extensive in terms of what they teach students about writing, in terms of different styles and formants, argumentation and critical thinking. I’m quite happy with my opportunity to teach.”

While Hess is a poet by trade, he teaches composition at COTC. “You would think the normal desire for a poet would be to teach creative writing and poetry, and of course that’s an option I’d like to keep open. But I find that teaching composition, the core elements of critical thinking and argumentation, drafting papers – it’s very relevant to keeping my creative process from being too out of left field,” he explains. “Teaching composition, how to get your point across to people, helps remind me as a creative to keep my message interpretable.”

Into the Ancient

Hess, a lifelong poet, will see his poetry collection Into the Ancient published May 31 by Finishing Line Press. “I have a chapbook and I’ve published several poems beforehand, but this is going to be a full-length poetry book,” he enthuses. “It’s kind of autobiographical; it’s confessional. It has themes involving modern man and the environment, war and masculinity. It’s a work I’m very proud of, and I’m glad it’s going to see the light of day.”

When not in the classroom, you can find Hess and his guitar in Columbus performing Lady of Opposites, his solo record of songs about his experience living in the city in the ‘90s. He also travels to Paris every June with other poets to workshop and write.