Daily Egyptian

Poetry reading to showcase two alumni books

Daily Egyptian file photo

Daily Egyptian file photo

By Amelia Blakely

The creative writing master’s program is holding a poetry reading at 5:30 p.m. on Oct. 12 in Morris Library to showcase two newly published books of poetry written by two graduates of the program.

Allison Joseph, the director of the program, said the reading is also a release party to celebrate the publications.

One of the poets, Elisabeth Meyer, published her book “The word b-i-r-d” this year.

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Meyer, who is from and currently lives in Paducah, Kentucky, graduated from SIU with her master’s in 2007.

She said she’s never been the type of person to make deliberate actions to meet a specific end, and she originally came to the university 13 years ago knowing little about the local artistic culture or campus atmosphere.

Even coming in with limited knowledge of the region, Meyer described her years at the university as enriching, nurturing and supportive.

“I feel like I just got lucky on having found it,” Meyer said. “I was so glad that it became real.”

Her book is a compilation of different themes, including miscommunication, longing, loss, hope, language and the cycle of time, she said, adding that misunderstanding is one of the central messages.

“Sometimes it’s just a desire to articulate something,” Meyer said. “Or maybe a disagreement to desire to celebrate or honor something.”

The subject of birds is recurring throughout the 26 poems in the book. In some, birds symbolize a certain theme present in the poems, she said. In the last poem of her book, birds are a symbol of hope.

“I feel like birds sing the world back into being,” Meyer said. “Sometimes the world ends at night and … birds singing in the morning saves the world.”

Some of her poems — for example, the first one in the book — were inspired by her experiences at the university, she said.

In several other poems, Meyer said her personal experiences and formal class writing experiments were foundational.

Meyer said she is also influenced by works of literature. One poem came about after she read a translation of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” she said.  

“I kind of developed a crush on Quasimodo, and it’s called ‘A Love Song to Quasimodo,’” Meyer said.

Meyer said some of the poems published in her book were written for her MFA thesis, which took her three years to write.  Others were written as recently as 2014, she said.

Some poems were written in one or two sittings, but she said others have been revised for years.

“I keep working on it if I really think it’s promising,” Meyer said of her writing process.

Meyer’s book is part of a series published by Joseph called the Chapbook series. Meyer’s book is the second in the series after Joseph’s “Surviving Artistry.”

The other poet being featured during the reading is alumna Lesley Brower. Her book of poetry “Salt Lick Prayer” was also published in 2017.

The reading is free and open to the public.

Staff writer Amelia Blakely can be reached at [email protected]

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