Three Poets Bring Wit and Wisdom to WSU
Put them together in the same room, and you get the fifth Judith O’Connell Hoyer Poetry Reading - a bold, comical, and avant-garde experience that was held on Tuesday, April 12.
Poets Katie Kinkel, BK Fischer, and Kevin Prufer read their work at this year’s event.
This event is the brainchild of Professor Heather Treseler of the Worcester State University English Department.
Tresler began her career at WSU during the Fall of 2011, and organized the poetry reading by her second academic year.
“When I was an undergraduate student myself, and studying literature, I certainly loved my classroom experiences,” she said prior to the event. “But I also had the chance to hear poets like Maya Angelou read (in person) from their work on campus. I felt that those experiences were, in some ways, just as important as some of the best courses I took at Brown University. I wanted to try and replicate that experience for my own students.”
The event is funded by Judith O’Connell Hoyer, a WSU alum of the class of 1965, and also by the English Department, the Honors Program, the WSU Alumni Association, and the Worcester County Poetry Association.
“Its aim is to bring students in contact with contemporary writers,” Tresler said. “It’s a cool way in which Worcester State can engage with a broader community by providing cultural programming of interest to a wide range of alumni and a large range of community members, staff and faculty of the university itself.”
Two of this year’s literary artists were chosen based on national prestige.
“These poets have a few decades of work and accomplishments behind them, but they’re still tuned in to the contemporary scene, the politics of the literary business, and the forces and challenges that student writers might be grappling with or responding to in their own work,” Tresler said.
One of the three poets who read last Tuesday, though, was actually a newcomer - or, as Tresler called her, “the young virgin poet”: Katherine Kinkel of Worcester.
Kinkel, who is currently a Creative Writing and Literature teacher at Worcester Academy, was the first to read.
Descriptive and abstract, Kinkel’s poetry manages to be both thought-provoking and serene.
She brought the audience along through a dream-like sequence, starting at the boundary between “woods and not woods.”
From then on, audience members found themselves bound in a glass box full of water, roaming the pages of William Faulkner’s “As I Lay Dying,” and, finally, in browning fields, experiencing all four seasons.
“I always read at least one poem about fossils and pre-history,” she said.
Kinkel is currently curating an anthology of poems on medicine and the
body while completing her first chap book about social inequity in the era of climate change.
With whimsical imagery, the well-versed BK Fischer was second to read.
She immediately hooked the audience.
“Fiction is about telling lies, but you must be scathingly honest in telling those lies,”she quoted. “Poetry is about truth-telling, but you need the lie; the artifice of the form, to tell those truths.”
Fischer is the author of Mutiny Gallery, an award-winning tale of a woman and her 10-year-old son who are escaping domestic peril and the confines of suburban life.
Mother and son take off on a cross-country road trip, stopping at little museums and outposts of ‘Americana.’
First stop is the “Museum of Menstruation.”
“Kitty’s nose bleed, medium rare, Dracula’s teabag, taking Harry to the prom,” Fischer said. “A metaphysics of absorption.”
Back to back, quick and witty euphemisms flowed from Fischer’s mouth, eliciting laughs from the audience each time.
“I’m drawn to writing that blurs that line, that blurs the line between fiction, poetry, and truth and invention,” she said. “For a while I’ve been working with hybrid forms that put lyric to the service of story. I want to tap into the energies of song and litany, and also fractured narrative.”
Her forthcoming book Radio Apocrypha is, in Fischer’s words, a suburban retelling of the Gospel.
“The story is mostly told from the point of view of the Mary Magdalene character, Marin,” she said. “Her and Jesus fall in love.”
Fischer’s own personal Jesus, as depicted in the book, is a “hunky, post-punk, high school chemistry teacher,” and the 12 disciples are a 12-member garageband.
She ended her reading with the poem, “Half Life,” which was Marin’s reflection of the past.
My Lover’s Discourse, which is a “burlesque remix of Roland Barthes’ book, Lover’s Discourse.”
Fischer has another new book coming out called
“Roland Barthes’ book is male, esoteric, and French, while mine is feminine, American, and tacky,” Fischer said.
Fischer has an M.F.A. from Columbia University and a Ph.D. in English and American Literature from New York University, and she teaches in the School of Arts at Columbia.
Last to read was Kevin Prufer, author of six books of poetry and editor of numerous anthologies.
Prufer has graduate degrees from Hollins University and Washington University and is currently Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Houston and the M.F.A. program at Lesley University.
He walked comfortably up to the podium clutching a complimentary can of Diet Coke.
“Hey,” he said warmly. “I am going to read a poem or two from Churches, and then some new ones from a book I’m working on right now called The Art of Fiction, which is a book of poems. I’m going to call it that until my editor changes it,” he said.
Prufer talked about a writing fellowship he once had in the small town of Marfa, Texas. He was given a house and a car for the six weeks he was there, but he was not able to leave much or have any guests.
“I was slowly going crazy because I could only write for two hours a day and I had these other 22 hours to deal with,” he said. “Partly I went around town and talked to people in stores, and partly I watched a lot of House Hunters.”
During this time, he read a story on Yahoo News about “the disturbing frequency with which doctors leave objects in patients before sewing them up.” This became the basis for his poem “Inside the Body.”
In every piece of work he read, Prufer added a unique element of humor.
He explained how another of his poems was inspired by the problems Texas has had dealing with an out-of-control wild hog population in the state.
“The state of Texas is trying hard to deal with them; they tried shooting them from helicopters,” he laughed. “Which is the Texas way of solving a lot of problems -- but not this one, because they were reproducing faster than they could reload.”
Introducing another of his poems, he reminisced, “I went to this lecture in a room like this. There was a translator speaking about the art of translation - which is something I’m kind of interested in - and he said, ‘A poem in translation is like the dead body of a foreigner washed up on our shores.’”
This concept inspired him to write a poem called, “The Translator.”
After Prufer was done, Professor Treseler invited all of the poets back up for questions from the audience.
The audience was eager to ask questions, wondering how the artists operated.
If you are interested in purchasing any of the poet’s work, you can find it for sale in WSU’s library.
Any questions about the event can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.