“Why Study English and Business?” An Alumni Feature by Matthew Harkema ’19

As my four years at Hope College are coming to an inevitable end, the reason why I committed myself to an English and Business double major is becoming significantly more relevant to my vocational choices.

In the past I’ve had many agitating conversations, trying to explain my reasons for choosing two opened-ended majors, even though this leaves my fate  dependent how I decide to use the overlapping skills I have attained from each discipline. These last four years, I’ve gotten used to clarifying that this unlikely pair does in fact work hand-in-hand to family, friends, and Hope faculty. This choice is now coming to fruition. With just a few weeks until graduation, I find myself reminiscing about my journey to find my niche.

My first steps on campus were in my father’s shoes. I sought to become an Engineer, but that dream was short-lived, as I found myself drowning in a life that wasn’t meant to be. One semester later, I switched my major to Business for practical reasons — because it would open up a wide range of opportunities for me in the future; because I would learn critical thinking, financial, and analytical skills; and, let’s face it, because I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do yet. Sophomore year came around and life seemed to be moving along smoothly, but it still felt as if I was wandering through college without a passion for the material I was learning.

I had yet to find an end goal for life after Hope College, and I found it difficult to maneuver through rigorous school work without one. That is, until I found a new sense of inspiration by adding an English major into the mix. Despite my doubtful conscience telling me that a degree in English might be impractical in today’s competitive job market, I made the life-altering choice to double major because of my love for writing and the broader understanding I gained from reading.

Becoming an English major veered me toward the path I believe I was meant be on. I have always felt myself to be a open-minded person, engaged in the intellectual side of the world. An English major allowed me to pursue my creative passions while simultaneously preparing me with skills that are transferable to other disciplines, like Business.

Even though the past few years were confusing and intensely stressful at times, as I tried to make sense of how I should employ the majors I chose, I have gradually found my answer to the question that’s been haunting me since I first arrived for orientation. I constructed a plan for the future that would tie in my passions for reading and writing into my occupation in a business setting.

Though it may be obvious to some, and unclear to others outside of the Liberal Arts bubble, many of the skills learned in Business classes overlap with those of English. This remarkable realization indicated to me that I was onto something and gave me a sense of drive for the work I was doing. I put the pieces of the two areas I excelled in together to find the bigger picture. I decided to use the writing, communication, and critical thinking skills from my English and Business majors to hopefully find my calling in Public Relations.

My English degree has allowed me to view the world through a critical lens and has enabled me to capture observations through researching and writing narratives of my own. My Liberal Arts education came full circle when I realized that my Business degree showed me how organizations and societies operate through the behavior and synergy of decision makers in the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services. With this understanding, alongside the ability to understand and connect with people that I owe to my English degree, I feel empowered to be a positive ambassador for the brand I choose to represent.

I have faith in my potential, formed through a well-rounded Hope College education. In a future Public Relations position, I would have the chance to gain support and understanding for clients, as well as the opportunity to influence people’s behavior and opinions through blogs, conventional media, and social media. I will employ my narrative writing strategies through various forms of communication to manage and maintain reputations, building a relationship with the target audience through credibility. My post-graduation aspiration is to shape public perceptions of the organization I work for by increasing awareness of its goals and ambitions.

Although I am unsure of what the future holds for me, I find the work of a Public Relations position at a socially responsible company appealing. I hope to use my English and Business degrees to work toward resolving some of the moral and ethical issues that arise in realms of business. In these situations, my goal would be to encapsulate the truthful narratives of sticky situations with concise writing, complex problem-solving skills, and the insights I feel equipped to gain into the inner workings of society and the minds within it.

Hope College Academy of American Poets Prize 2019

We’re delighted to share this year’s recognized poets and poems below. Congratulations to these talented student artists!

About the Prize

The Hope College Academy of American Poets (AAP) Prize award is funded by the AAP’s University and College Poetry Prize program. The academy began the program in 1955 at 10 schools, and now sponsors nearly 200 annual prizes for poetry at colleges and universities nationwide. Poets honored through the program have included Mark Doty, Louise Gluck, Joy Harjo, Robert Hass, Robert Pinsky, Sylvia Plath, Gjertrud Schnackenberg, and Charles Wright. The winning poet receives $100. 

About this Year’s Judge

Poet Todd Kaneko is the author of The Dead Wrestler Elegies (2014). His poems and prose have appeared in Bellingham Review, Los Angeles Review, Barrelhouse, PANK, the Collagist, and many other places. A recipient of fellowships from Kundiman and the Kenyon Review Writer’s Workshop, he is currently co-editor of Waxwing and teaches at Grand Valley State University in Michigan.

Winner

 
Kellyanne Fitzgerald’s “Road Trip”

Todd Kaneko writes:

There is a lovely surrealism to this poem, and also a kind of unpredictable sensibility, as the poem takes us from the speaker’s silence to that moment where they sit on their own tongue and listen to the words they are saying. I appreciate the elegant strangeness to this poem as it moves from the ribcage children to that request: “Kiss me,” the speaker says, which is the poem’s center in this dream about the tongue, about longing, and a disarming combination of desire and fear. And that moment at the end when the poem delivers the parenthetical about love, it follows a quietly violent description of a kiss that is as startling as it is quick. This poem is a journey through the body, and it keeps the reader off-balance so expertly to deliver that understated turn at the end. It’s a marvelously strange trip.

Road Trip

I dreamed that I was small, and my veins
were the size of highways, and we were puttering

around inside, throwing pebbles and listening
to the echo as they hit some vital organ.

What are we doing here, you asked,
and I had no answer. We climbed my tongue

with ropes, and sat at the top, listening
to the words cascading across my teeth.

Red lights stretch the dusk of my heart
like taffy. I am afraid I am a liar

and that the children in my ribcage
just want to be adopted. “Kiss me,”

I suggest, and your pupils shine black,
fingers slipping to grab the sides of my face.

(if this is not love I don’t know what is.)

 

Honorable Mention

Julia Kirby’s “A Billy Goat Rests on Dolomites”

Todd Kaneko writes:

This short poem shows such admirable restraint as it roots itself in an observational moment before allowing its strangeness, anchored by the simple image of the goat, to seep into the ground and the flowers. It all seems so tranquil and normal, and yet I can’t help but wonder where the wine comes from in the first stanza, and how it changes to blood in the second, a reverse transubstantiation of sorts, a disturbing miracle with no one around to witness but that goat who doesn’t seem to care. This poem takes its power from its simplicity, its concision, and its ability to surprise.

A Billy Goat Rests on Dolomites

A goat perches
atop a range of Dolomites.
Drinking from a puddle,
his beard drips with Italian wine.

Crimson sinks
into the mossy earth
below his hooves, turning clovers
into blood-soaked poppies.

The reflections
of Lago di Carezza
mirror in his eyes – brilliant
emerald and turquoise.

His head hangs low,
eyes glassy and content.

Six Student Snapshots: A Day with Writers Chen Chen & Hilary Plum

On March 7th, the poet Chen Chen and the writer Hilary Plum visited Hope College as part of the Jack Ridl Visiting Writers Series. They visited classrooms, dined with students, answered questions, and read from their latest books. Chen Chen read from his acclaimed first book of poems When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities, and Hilary Plum read from her new, celebrated first memoir Watchfires.

It was a cold day, even for an early March in Holland, Michigan. The spirits of the students were very much warmed, though, by the visits of Chen and Plum. Alongside many others, Kellyanne Fitzgerald, Ceilidh Holmes, Sarah Kalthof, Leah Asen, Sarah Simmons, and Allison Lindquist had meaningful meetings with the two visitors. Let their reflections below lead you through the day…

Kellyanne Fitzgerald ’19
Chen Chen Classroom Visit

Chen Chen visited our Advanced Poetry class, and led us in a series of generative ekphrastic activities. First, he asked each member of the class to contribute one verb. Then he pulled up a picture of an abstract painting by Paul Klee of what looked like several jumbled dominoes walking together. We spent about ten minutes working on potential titles for the picture. “Write one long title, and one short title. You can have fun with it, or be more serious,” he said with a smile. Good titles can be very difficult to generate, even for an accomplished poet like Chen Chen.

Later, Chen projected a painting by René Magritte and a second by Paul Klee. Chen closed the class with a prompt: use the verbs we’d written down at the beginning of class to make a poem about our own invented backstory for one of the paintings. I enjoyed having a class period just producing work in response to prompts, and Chen Chen’s presence was creative, upbeat, and friendly.

Ceilidh Holmes ’19
Hilary Plum Classroom Visit

Hilary Plum visited our Advanced Nonfiction class, and we were all very excited. We’d hoped to absorb as much from her talent and experience as possible. Students posed a variety of questions, and Plum shared her insight. Our conversation topics included the purpose and use of an argument in writing, specifics about Plum’s memoir, Watchfires, the process of its creation, and details about getting the book published. We talked about the events and themes in her memoir, like the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013. Hilary Plum’s visit to the class was very insightful. We left feeling filled with new ideas.

Sarah Kalthof ’20
Lunch with Chen Chen

A few other students and I had the delight of sitting down with poet Chen Chen for fish ‘n’ chips and conversation. He shared with us his undergraduate experience at a small liberal arts college in Massachusetts. We bonded over the small community feel and the fondness for the humanities there and at Hope. Just like in his poetry, Chen was fascinated with the little details. He wondered with us over the Gaelic phrase on the wall of the restaurant, talked of a double-decker grocery store not far from his home, and recommended a Chinese film, Happy Together, which he loves. Chen was positively wonderful company.

Leah Asen ’19
Chen Chen & Hilary Plum Q & A

In an engaged question-and-answer session, Chen Chen and Hilary Plum shared ideas with us about the writing experience. One of the most interesting similarities was the challenge they both faced in their writing: opening up while remaining authentic, yet trying to write against expected norms. Chen said “it is easier to know what I don’t want from my writing than what I do,” and Plum agreed. Both said they have ways to “trick” themselves into writing. Chen tries to lower the stakes by addressing his poems to people and acting as though he is writing to friends. Plum tricked herself by writing her memoir, Watchfires, in the third person, even though it was all about her own experiences. Chen and Plum encouraged us to work against modern expectations. Hope College is so lucky to have hosted such incredible writers.

Sarah Simmons ’19
Dinner with Chen Chen and Hilary Plum

Our dinner at New Holland was served with a side of lovely conversation with Chen Chen and Hilary Plum. We chatted about the menu, bonded over our love of cheese, and made jokes about the chili Chen Chen ordered—The Spicy Poet Chili. Hilary Plum had just bought a house over one hundred years old, and was looking forward to moving in. She had just moved to Cleveland, Ohio, and enjoyed the Midwest.

I sat next to Chen Chen, and later in the meal we touched on deeper subjects. I asked Chen about his view on religion. I found his poem “I’m Not a Religious Person But” particularly interesting. Chen’s parents had taken interest in God through intellect, and he continues to find those ideas interesting, but he explained how the poem set the tone for the rest of his book with its hints at connection with a higher creative power. He recommended Jennifer S. Cheng’s Moon to me after I explained my interest in exploring the divine through my current poetry in progress. It was both a tasty and enlightening mealtime.

Allison Lindquist ’19
Chen Chen & Hilary Plum Reading

The reading showcased a collision of two brilliant minds. Most striking for me was the difference between these two writers. Chen’s subtle sass and self-aware delivery contrasted drastically with Plum’s serious and intimate tone.  On the surface, these writers didn’t seem like they would get along, let alone connect. But it was clear once they both finished the reading that their mutual respect created an instantaneous bond in both craft and topic.

I was impressed that both Chen and Plum refused to romanticize difficult topics. Each focused on their honest, confusing, weird, and strikingly specific experiences of chronic illness, family difficulties, and sexual orientation.  I am honored to have experienced the intimate headspaces that each artist so carefully and openly invited us into.

Snowed In with Sophfronia Scott: A Memoir Writing Feature by Safia Hattab

I shivered, rubbing my palms on my pants as I sat in the lobby of the Haworth Inn on that first snow day. While my friends were warm in their dorm rooms, I had made the trek across campus to meet with JRVWS visiting writer Sophfronia Scott.

I had never met an author after reading his or her work. In Professor Rhoda Burton’s Advanced Creative Nonfiction Class, we spent a few weeks pouring over several pieces in Scott’s essay collection Love’s Long Line. There exists an intimacy in memoir—I’ve heard it described as a “warm, inviting voice that sits on your shoulder and whispers in your ear”—and Scott’s voice definitely holds that closeness.

She writes what she wants unapologetically, never shying away from bold topics such as her experience with the Sandy Hook shooting in her civil discourse essay “For Roxane Gay: Notes from a Forgiving Heart.” She even plays with different forms—like her essay “A Payoff Letter,” a piece that begins as a literal mortgage payoff letter, but twists into a serious commentary on our attachments to physical space.

As a beginner creative writer trying to figure out her own genre, I wanted some insight from Sophfronia Scott on finding that perfect balance: how does one successfully blend a warm memoir voice with the genre’s inherent exploration of colder subject matter? Since Scott offered to meet with a few creative writers to give feedback on their pieces, I couldn’t resist the urge to bring a piece I had written for class that was based on one of her essays.

Now let me just say: I have been studying creative writing for two years. I have studied memoir for a solid semester at this point.  I have written about pretty much every embarrassing, secret, awkward, dark moment I have ever had. Many of my classmates and professors have read these pieces. I figured at this point, I was over the whole shyness bit. Nope.

Sophfronia Scott and I ended up meeting in one of the rooms in the Haworth. For thirty minutes, we dissected the piece. However, it very quickly shifted from a critical analysis of the piece to an analysis of me:

“Why did you feel the urge to write this piece?”
“Why is this important to you?”
“You keep circling back to this metaphor. Why is that?”
“Why did you write about this now? Why not a year ago?”
“How many times have you written about this? Why so few?”

Suddenly a somewhat humorous piece about how much of a neurotic cleaner I am turned into a deeper analysis of who I was: someone who perhaps uses her excessive tidiness as a tactic to gain control of a situation in which I had none. Even the colloquial language I used to describe the situation spilled my subconscious intent: “the whole thing was such a mess!

“My piece ‘A Fur For Annie Pearl’ started out as a funny little piece about my search for the perfect fur coat,” Scott mentioned in our meeting, “but as I was writing it, I realized that it was so much more than that. My obsession with the coat stems from my relationship with my mother.” Perhaps the secret for the balance of a warm voice in serious conversation lies in a deeper understanding of the self; after all, humans don’t exist in a binary of light and constant darkness. Even our humor is seated in a deeper struggle, and writing is just a conversation between the reader and the writer about this inherent humanity in the humorous mundane.

Scott echoed this sentiment when she visited my writing class the next day. When one of my classmates asked for any advice Scott had for the beginning writer, she responded with: “Journal. It can be about everything and anything; it can even be about the weather. But journal. Notice everything—the snow, your emotions, your experiences—and keep a record of them. You get to practice your writing and you’ll learn about yourself along the way.”

Good thing it was a snow day that next day, because I took her advice, writing about the white landscape from the comfort of my warm bed.

So You’re Thinking About the Chicago Semester?

Hope English major Lisette Boer (’19) recounts why studying off-campus turned out to be one of her best college decisions.

When I decided to commit to the Chicago Semester last spring, I was both excited and terrified. Little did I know that living, learning, and working in Chicago would be an integral part of my growth as a Hope student and an individual.

Like many of the Fall 2018 students, I grew up in a small town in the Midwest without much experience in an urban setting, which made Chicago seem very daunting. However, upon arriving, the Chicago Semester staff helped us get acquainted with public transportation, city life—all the elements of becoming independent.

In classes every Wednesday, I was asked to question the limitations I had set on myself, both emotionally and spiritually. One of my favorite class days that the Chicago Semester provided was a Service Learning Day. That Wednesday, we learned about homelessness in Chicago and volunteered at Pacific Garden Mission, a homeless shelter. Learning about the residents’ experiences and the prejudice that others have faced really prompted me to reflect on my own privilege and how my actions impact the world around me.


Each opportunity that I had in Chicago was invaluable, because it gave me hands-on experience outside the traditional classroom. I was able to talk to people face-to-face in contexts I may not have encountered on campus, which gave me a greater perspective on life outside of Hope.

A core part of the Chicago Semester’s program is interviewing and being placed at an internship, corresponding to each student’s major and interests. After several interviews, I accepted an internship at Open Books, a social nonprofit venture that promotes literacy programs in Chicago, within the Chicago Literacy Alliance.

At Open Books, I was able to apply what I had learned in classrooms at Hope and practice them in a fast-paced professional setting. Four days a week, I facilitated reading mentorship programs in Chicago public schools and assisted with publishing the content of the organization’s creative nonfiction writing and performance workshops. Often I would travel alone to and from my classrooms and the Open Books office, which was frightening at first, but ultimately helped me to embrace having more independence.

Working as a literacy intern was significant part of my experience, because I felt like the work that I did was valued and going towards a larger cause in the Chicago community. On the last day of my internship, it was amazing to see the growth my students had made and all the work I had done through the semester.

Beyond the academic goals you complete during an off-campus program, I’ve found that the people you cultivate friendships with are vital to the growth you achieve. The friendships that I made fostered my confidence and pushed me to discover many different parts of Chicago. It was a lot easier to travel on public transportation and go to big events, like the Festival of Lights in the Magnificent Mile, with a friend by my side.

One important relationship I made was with my supervisor, who guided me through working in a third grade classroom at a Chicago public school, and at Open Books. I remember being so nervous about starting my classroom program. She helped me put together materials to help my students, along with walking me through the goals for the program before and after I started. After working with students who were sometimes resistant, and not always knowing what to do, it was just what I needed to have someone who pushed me to be the best version of myself.

So, you’re thinking of doing the Chicago Semester? Each day will be a discovery of the person you’re becoming and what you want to get out of life. In the end, you’ll be asking yourself how you got so lucky.

25 & Counting: The Jack Ridl Visiting Writers Series 2018 Preview

It’s been 25 years since Hope English professor Jack Ridl founded his Visiting Writers Series — JRVWS for short — and it’s time to celebrate! We have remarkable events scheduled for 7:00 p.m. on September 27th and November 13th. Will we see you there?

Hope College has a true legacy in creating a rich community of writers. Throughout the school year, students, faculty, and locals alike will have opportunities to engage these writers in conversation, hear them read from their work, and learn from their artistry.

How does one “humbly celebrate”? Not a paradox if you’re Jack Ridl…

To begin the season, here’s a sneak peak of this fall’s unprecedented gathering of artists, brought to you by the team behind the curtain: English professor and JRVWS director Susanna Childress, and JRVWS interns Shanley Smith (’19) and Annika Gidley (’19). In the words of Dr. Childress: “We hope you’ll join us as we humbly celebrate the rich legacy of years past and look forward to years to come.”

September 27: Matthew Baker, Linda Nemec Foster, Anne-Marie Oomen, and Meridith Ridl

In less than two weeks, Hope College will welcome back alum Matthew Baker for the Tom Andrews Memorial Reading. Since leaving Hope, he’s made a big splash, including a recent Netflix deal — look out for more details in our forthcoming interview here at the department blog!

Shanley Smith, who is helping to coordinate Baker’s visit, shared a bit about what his work means to her:

“During my first semester at Hope College, my professor assigned the short story ‘Rites’ by Matthew Baker. I clicked instantly with his crisp style and bizarre subject material. I discovered in class the next day that Baker ranks as one of Hope College’s most successful creative writing graduates.

“Ripe with philosophy and equations, his latest work Hybrid Creatures catered to my left-brain mindset. His specificity with topics such as Aristotle or trigonometry creates a paradoxical accessibility to individuals across various disciplines. Through the mathematical and scientific, his stories tap into the humanity of subjects such as memory loss and family conflict.

“For nearly four years I’ve admired Baker’s work, so it is with heightened anticipation that I look forward to welcoming this year’s JRVWS alumni guest.”

On the same evening, we’ll also welcome the creators of a beautiful book featuring two types of artistic collaboration! It’s not just a reading — Dr. Childress lets us know to expect the unexpected from Linda Nemec Foster, Anne-Marie Oomen, and Meridith Ridl:

“What makes Lake Michigan Mermaid unusual is not just the ‘tale in poems’ of a young woman trying to find where she belongs or the threat of losing connection with her family and their home, a ramshackle cottage on the lake. It’s also the voice of a mermaid speaking telepathically into such an urgent and pivotal moment.

“This poem-tale is a collaboration of Michigan co-authors Linda Nemec Foster and Anne-Marie Oomen, illustrated by the striking, mystical hand of Meridith Ridl. Such a summation of talent and connectivity brings us the fascinating, fantastical, and endearing story-verse and visuals of Lykretia and Phyliadellacia, which JRVWS-goers will get to experience as a co-reading with projected illustrations. In our series’ 25 years, there’s never been an event quite like it!”

November 13: Emily St. John Mandel

Partnering with the Big Read, JRVWS will be bringing Emily St. John Mandel back to the very lakeshore that provides the setting for her New York Times-bestselling novel Station Eleven.

Annika Gidley, one of the students making it all possible, gives us the details:

Station Eleven, a novel by Emily St. John Mandel and this year’s selection for the NEA Big Read Lakeshore, examines the search for human connection in a world where ninety-nine percent of the population has perished in a pandemic. The novel offers all the action and suspense that readers of post-apocalyptic and dystopian fiction expect. But more than that, it allows the reader to ruminate on bigger, more uplifting ideas, such as the importance of art and the power of relationships that develop in unexpected places.

“In a world where social media and ever-increasing workloads make authentic connection seem harder to come by, St. John Mandel offers readers a chance to reflect on and interrogate their own world, their own relationships.

“When she visits Hope’s campus in November, St. John Mandel will provide insight that readers can take with them as they put down the novel and step out into their own lives.”

Intrigued? Join us, and experience these unique opportunities for yourself.

Matthew Baker, Linda Nemec Foster, Anne-Marie Oomen, and Meridith Ridl will appear for a Q&A in the Martha Miller Center at 3:30 p.m. on 9/27. Their presentations are at 7:00 p.m. in the Jack Miller Center, followed by a 25th anniversary dessert reception.

Emily St. John Mandel will give an address to students at 11:00 a.m. on 11/13, and her keynote speech will be at 7:00 p.m. the same day in Jack Miller.

Hello! We’ve Got Some Catching Up to Do

At the end of Spring semester, the last exam lets out. Students scatter to all parts of Michigan, the country, and the world. Meanwhile, the professors gather canned goods and bottled water, select their favorite classroom, turn off the lights, and slip under a desk to hibernate for the summer.

Wait… can that be right?

Welcome back, returning Hope students! Welcome, first-years! The English department is delighted to see you, and we’d love to hear what you did on your summer vacation — though we promise not to make you to write an essay with that title. Here’s a glimpse into what some of us did with ours!

Over the summer, Dr. Kendra Parker completed her manuscript, She Bites Back: Black Female Vampires in African American Women’s Novels, 1977-2011, and the book is expected to be released in December 2018.
← Here’s a partial sneak peek of the book’s cover image. We can’t wait for She Bites Back to come out!

* * *

Dr. Jesus Montaño and Dr. Regan Postma-Montaño spent the summer finalizing their book manuscript, Tactics of Hope in Latinx Children’s and Young Adult Literature, under contract with University of New Mexico Press. Busy people around here!  We’re all very excited to read Tactics of Hope, too.

* * *

Bill Moreau shared this wonderful photo of him standing with his Education Department June Term group.  Students took either an elementary school literacy class (taught by Laura Pardo) or a secondary school methods class (taught by Bill), and spent two weeks in classrooms in Liverpool area schools. They also got to take fun three-day weekend trips, like this visit to the top of King Arthur’s Seat (an extinct volcano) just outside Edinburgh, Scotland!

* * *

We’re impressed and proud of awesome office manager Raquel Niles, who shared this note: “Attached is a pic of me with my cool medal. I ran my first 5k and it was the longest 3 miles ever.”

* * *

Dr. Kathleen Verduin told us that after a trip to Las Vegas (no, not really) and the Grand Canyon, she settled down to research not one but three essays in progress: one on the American literary historian George Ticknor (1791-1871) and his interest in Dante, coming out in the Massachusetts Historical Review later this year; another on James Russell Lowell (1819-1891); and an essay on John Updike (1932-2009) and stuttering that will be published in a collection on literature and disability. But, she confessed, she still didn’t get to clearing out the basement…

* * *

Dr. Elizabeth Trembley had a very full summer. She got to sing Hope’s Alma Mater hymn with the Chapel Choir several times in South Africa! In her words, she had an amazing time “experiencing music and history and the daily work still done in South Africa to further the cause of justice, especially for marginalized groups of people.” She also worked on her graphic memoir, and traveled to Vermont for a workshop on creating book-length comics with Eisner award winner Paul Karasik. She’ll be on leave of absence this year to work on her book, but plans to stay connected.

* * *

Dr. Curtis Gruenler and Dr. Matthew Packer of Buena Vista University, U2 fans and joint editors of the Bulletin of the Colloquium on Violence and Religion, were thrilled to visit the famous Red Rocks Amphitheater while in Denver for COV&R‘s annual meeting. Prof. Gruenler gave a paper on “Mimesis, Friendship, and Truth,” ideas he’d explored during his spring semester sabbatical. English major Annika Gidley ’19 came along too, and gave a very well-received paper on her summer research project with Prof. Gruenler, about René Girard’s mimetic theory and the Harry Potter series.

* * *

Not only does Dr. Rhoda Janzen have a new textbook out from Flip learning, she teased us with some fascinating details about her next book project: “I spent my summer in CA with my head in the nineteenth century, researching this old house. It’s a bit like Bly — remote secrets, a hidden mistress, a Raisin Barron, a murder!”

* * *

Another traveling researcher was Dr. Marla Lunderberg, who wrote an article about best practices for including Asian Studies materials in Western Cultural Heritage courses. (She invites everyone to ask her about Zheng He!) Between teaching two summer courses, she gathered with all four kids and their significant others to celebrate her oldest son’s wedding! In June, she meandered through Europe, biking in the Netherlands, visiting the Bayeux Tapestry in northern France, connecting with a Hope English alumna in Paris, reconnecting with a dear Swiss friend in the Alps, and participating in a John Donne conference in Lausanne, Switzerland. Whew!

* * *

She wasn’t the only one in the Alps; Dr. Christiana Salah visited Switzerland in mid-July, but before doing some hiking like Heidi, she made a stop in Vienna, Austria and couldn’t believe who she happened to bump into while catching a train out of the city, boarding the same car, by the same door… our very own Doc Hemenway!

Doc directed and taught both sessions (May and June) of the 62nd annual Hope College Vienna Summer School, which he has led for 43 consecutive summers.   Seventy-four students participated this time! After it ended, he visited several of Hope College’s European graduates in Germany and Austria, participated in the San Fermin Running of the Bulls Fiesta in Pamplona, Spain, and attended the week-long 18th International Ernest Hemingway Conference in Paris, France.

So that was our summer. How was yours? Let us know in the comments or @HopeEnglishDept, or pay us a visit in Lubbers Hall!

“The Art of Attention and a Hope Education”: A Faculty Feature from Alex Mouw (’14)

Alex Mouw (’14)

During the spring of 2014, I’d walk into the south entrance of Lubbers Hall and pass the oil painting of President and Mrs. Lubbers playing a diligent game of chess. I’d round the corner onto the stairs and proceed to the second floor where a cross listed English and philosophy course on Existentialism met each Tuesday and Thursday.

It was this class that introduced me to the 20th century mystic Simone Weil, and one line of hers has remained in my memory ever since: “prayer consists of attention.” Weil wrote this as a defense of “school studies” broadly conceived. According to her, all subjects become inherently prayerful when given sincere attention, whether geometric problems, Yusef Komunyakaa’s poetry, or the history of the French Revolution. As a liberal arts student, I took this line as a mantra to remind myself that everything I was learning had inherent value.

Yet attention isn’t about wrinkling your brow in dogged frustration at an impossible homework assignment; instead, it’s about de-cluttering the mind, turning off the email notifications, making sure you are alone with a good novel, then letting that text soak its way into your consciousness. If this sounds fuzzy, I’ll remind you that Weil was a mystic.

What’s so special about a Hope education, and the English major in particular, is that it fosters two kinds of attention. The first we associate with that all-important skill: critical thinking. English majors are good workers in a variety of environments because they know how to pay attention, closely read whatever problem is at hand and find a solution. From English 113 to Literary Theory, English majors are trained in the art of paying attention. As previous alumni blog posts can attest (check out what Sara and Kian have to say), this training yields a more fruitful personal and professional life.

The second form is unique to a small institution like Hope: professors give their students the gift of close, sustained attention. Our student-professor ratio is 11:1, which is top-notch. But what does such a statistic mean in practice? When I was an English major, I could (and did) knock on any door on the third floor of Lubbers Hall with essay, application, or poem in hand, knowing that I’d receive wise and measured counsel. Never did I feel that I, the student, was pulling professors away from their “real work.” Instead, our work was a shared enterprise in earnest human inquiry. That gift has served me well professionally, but more importantly, it has made me a more attentive person. Now, as a faculty member, I try to carry on the tradition and offer all my students the same care that I was given.

As I planned an Introduction to Creative Writing course for this semester, I read a book by Donald Revell about how to write poetry. I figured I could pick up some new teaching ideas to guide students through a poetry unit. To my utter astonishment and joy, I got something much grander. In the opening paragraphs of The Art of Attention, Revell writes: “poetry is a form of attention.” What a marvelous gift of the liberal arts education (which doesn’t really end, even after graduation), to see Simone Weil and Donald Revell collaborate across nearly a century! I took his idea to heart as I planned the course. Since then, the students in my creative writing class have gained hours of experience attending to the world around them, harnessing that energy into strong writing, and then offering one another thoughtful feedback.

My experience with these two authors was facilitated by a Hope education, and it is emblematic of what the liberal arts can provide: Weil’s essay had been assigned to me, but years later I sought out Revell’s book for my own purposes and made an utterly unexpected connection. That connection, in turn, helped fuel my attention to others─in this case, English 253 students. This circular pattern of learning and sharing never needs to end, and it can get a jump start in the Hope English department.

I’m writing this at the end of the semester, and all the faculty members are positively giddy over the accomplishments of our students. So, a hearty congratulations to all those award winners who were honored at the department awards ceremony on April 17; to those participating in Honors Convocation on April 26; to those attending the Senior Dinner on May 3; and to those graduating on May 6. To all our students: we are proud of the diligent attention you gave to your studies this year, and we are eager to see where your learning carries you during and beyond your Hope career. You are always welcome in Lubbers Hall!

Hope College Academy of American Poets Prize 2018

About the Prize

The Hope College Academy of American Poets (AAP) Prize award is funded by the University and College Poetry Prize program of the AAP. The academy began the program in 1955 at 10 schools, and now sponsors nearly 200 annual prizes for poetry at colleges and universities nationwide. Poets honored through the program have included Mark Doty, Louise Gluck, Joy Harjo, Robert Hass, Robert Pinsky, Sylvia Plath, Gjertrud Schnackenberg and Charles Wright. The winning poet receives $100.

Judged by Lauren Haldeman

Lauren Haldeman

Lauren Haldeman is the author of the poetry collections Instead of Dying (winner of the 2017 Colorado Prize for Poetry), Calenday (Rescue Press, 2014) and The Eccentricity is Zero (Digraph Press, 2014). She works as a web developer, web designer and editor during the daytime. She received her M.F.A. from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and has been a finalist for the Walt Whitman award and National Poetry Series. She is also a mom and makes paintings.

Lauren Haldeman writes: “I loved reading all of these! I am really impressed with this quality of the work — there is so much talent here! It was hard to choose, but these are the two I kept coming back to, over and over.”

Winner: Amber Carnahan’s “Rooted”

Amber Carnahan

Lauren Haldeman writes: “Immediately this poem had me off-balance, engaged, interested. Within the first two lines, we are already moving from the wild and natural place of “bones bury roots” to the domestic and enclosed space of “in the body of my bed”. This initial action promises more angles, pivots and fresh viewpoints to come. The form alone carries the poem into higher realms, with slashed punctuation acting as indicative lines breaks, visual structure and pauses within the spill of consciousness. There are fantastic emotive turns in this work, hinging on singular words, such as “admiring the life // sprouting through the cracks // I am cracked,” while images such as “a kaleidoscope of nameless gravestones” thrill visually. Meanwhile, the subtle use of alliteration throughout the work ballast the poem in sound. Most of all, I love that we travel so far from the initial scene — the bed — outward to an interstate, to a graveyard, to cracks in a windshield, only to arrive back, finally at the end, to a snooze button on an alarm. This last image is wonderful: it is poetic, it is silly and it is human.”

Rooted

bones bury roots // in the body of my bed // head a rock refusing // to be lifted or even turned to face the window // displaying life in action // like the fry cook on his way to work // tracing the path of red bricks // and admiring the life sprouting // through the cracks // I am cracked // but not a violent shatter // that hints at spontaneity // but like a chip in the glass // of your car windshield // that time never provided // a chance to heal // fractures spread // until I am encompassed // by a kaleidoscope of nameless gravestones // my identity faded // past recognition // past grief // glass fragments intermingle // with the roots in my bed // I think about rising // before shifting the tide // of stagnance // from the window’s disapproving view // and hitting snooze.

 

Honorable Mention: Safia Hattab’s “The Aftermath Sestina”

Safia Hattab

Lauren Haldeman writes: “A sestina is a difficult endeavor, and not often successful. Yet the struggle to write a sestina sometimes reveals treasures of innovation, and in this poem they appear with a wonderful subtlety: in surprises like the switch from “flown” to “flu” within two stanzas, or the change of “tear” from noun to verb. I also enjoyed the odd images and newly-seen objects, such as “sugared wool” and “petals bleeding pollen into soil” that arise out of the quiet storm of this work. This is a rich poem, a poem that twists into and inside of itself; this is a poem that takes on a life of its own, through the demands of a rigid form, through its insistence on returning over and over to an obsessive question of ingrown desires.”

The Aftermath Sestina

The first time she bled,
tiny roses erupting from pieces
of broken glass, she flew,
like mama told her, to her safe place,
where crystalline tears
on cherubed cheeks stayed buried

in five year-old minds, buried
behind dollhouses that bled
candy floss’d sunshine, sugared tears
leaking from pieces
of puffy treats placed
by the honeyed God flown.

The second time she flew
to where her pain was buried,
a lotus bloomed in place
of the home, petals bleeding
pollen into soil, pieces
of yellow dust like golden tears

in vibrant green. No one told her tears
could grow, and as she flew
years later, she found only pieces
of cotton-candied buildings buried
under golden grass, encased by ivy bled
from crystalled seeds; no longer the place

she could hide, or the place
where houses grew from inked tears,
black from all the times she bled
crooked trails of rust, flown
over the graves of buried
worlds left behind, pieces

broken but intact. When she returns, pieces
of nostalgia still visible, she will place
another dilapidated shack over buried
remains, plant it with the tears
of a more mature sadness, festering like flu
until allowed to bleed

in buried houses with fruitless pieces,
bleed through sacred places and rotted sweet,
tear into sugared wool flown over cuckoo’s nest.

“To Reclaim Reading”: A Faculty Feature from Dana VanderLugt (’01)

Dana VanderLugt (’01) and her book-loving students

As an English teacher who races from my 8th grade classroom over to Hope to teach a late afternoon  composition class, I spend a lot of my time with young people in life’s messy middles: in the midst of adolescence, in the midst of the semester, in the midst of the academic year. When we’re swimming far from shore, it can be easy to lose sight of the mainland, to feel disoriented about what matters or where we’re heading.

Last semester, a quiet student, on her way out the door of our English 113 classroom for the final time, pulled me aside and asked: “Can you send me a list of books, maybe like some of the ones we read, that I could read next? This class reminded me that I like to read.”

In this mid-ish point in the semester, when our minds are on deadlines and to-do lists, when we’ve left behind the coziness of winter but are still waiting on the spring daffodils, an antidote may be remembering the joy that is reading, the beauty of words. We may deserve a gentle nudge to reclaim reading — not just as an academic pursuit, but as a comfort, a safe place, and a window to the world. Reading for the wonder of it.

While one of the strongest predictors of being a frequent, lifelong reader is a child who holds a strong belief that reading for fun is important, statistics show that reading enjoyment declines sharply after age eight, and that kids read for fun less and less as they get older, “with 45% of 17-year-old saying they read by choice only once or twice a year.” Author and teacher Penny Kittle describes a “calamitous drop-off in students’ reading after age 13 and a downward trend in voluntary reading by youth at middle and high school levels over the past two decades.”

Mary Cassatt’s 1894 painting “The Pensive Reader”

In this March is Reading month, those of us engaged in the study and teaching of English can be reminded that we are more than task-masters; we are ambassadors of literature, called to spread the love of reading. In the middle of our syllabi and schedules, we can hold fast to the deep conviction that books matter and that words have the ability to change and challenge us. And that in the midst of overwhelming to-do lists, what we might actually need most is to plunge into a good book.

Maybe one of my former middle school students can speak to this better than I can. In his end-of-the-year reflection, he wrote:  “Throughout 8th grade, I’ve learned many different things about my reading, but one main thing is actually caring about the story and theme. When I used to read, I did it just for the grade. Now, when I read books like the Harry Potter series, I actually pay notice to the characters’ emotions, the plot, and the relationship between people. Doing this gives me a larger respect for characters and stories. My newfound respect of stories actually makes reading a nice thing to do in my spare time, so I actually do plan to buy some new books. It may sound pretty nerdy, but I plan to read over summer vacation.”

Thanks to this young man, I’m adding “Leave class as an admitted book nerd” to my list of objectives in every class, at every grade level. And I will cling to his words when I’m mired in the middle and doggy-paddling in the deep end.

March on and read for the joy of it, my friends!