Some people get lucky and find ways to merge two passions into one. Ball State’s Outstanding Creative Endeavor Awardee, Dr. Katy Didden, did just that when she wrote her most recent book Ore Choir: The Lava on Iceland. Didden grew up appreciating the outdoors with her family. Her father was a birdwatcher and amateur naturalist. She grew up hiking the Blue Ridge Mountains, and her first published poem was about going with her father on a birdwatching excursion.  

Her first book, The Glacier’s Wake, is a collection of poems featuring varying dramatic landscapes written in the voice of nature involved – a glacier, a sycamore, a wasp. It seems only natural that her second book took that concept and built on it exponentially. Her latest book revolves around the lava flows of Iceland, something she has been interested in since taking an undergraduate geology course covering tectonic forces. 


In 2018, Didden was awarded a New Faculty Research Grant to travel to Iceland, where she attended a language school in Ísafjörður, was a fellow at Listhús artist residency and conducted research at the University of Iceland in Reykjavík. Adopting lava as a persona, Didden used the poetic process of erasure (a form that suggests the flow of lava over land) to alter a series of texts about Iceland (an Icelandic Edda, a survey of volcanism, interviews with Bjork) into lyric poems. To create the look of lava, Didden collaborated with illustrator Kevin Tseng, who layered the erasures over photographs of the Icelandic landscape. The resulting image is topographic and suggests the flow of lava over land which leaves high features in relief. The resulting book, Ore Choir: The Lava on Iceland, was published by Tupelo Press in October 2022. 

As the Director of Creative Writing at Ball State, Didden brings her combined passions of environmentalism and writing to her classrooms and workshops. Since starting at Ball State in 2015, she has taught multiple styles of writing courses including Creative Writing and the Environment, Writing Across the Genres, and Relatives or Rivals? Poetry and Visual Art. In addition to publishing books, poems, and essays, Didden’s range of knowledge has earned her multiple accolades including guest features on blogs and podcasts, and numerous prizes and awards Didden’s next book, another collection of poems, will be centered around weather forecasting. It is her hope that it will help readers shift the way they perceive and contemplate the weather. Didden uses poetry to educate people about the environment and presents it in a way that is new, refreshing, and encourages a deeper reflection about the world. Her work brings beauty to topics that are rarely considered through an integration of disciplines that transcends traditional boundaries.