JRVWS, or the Jack Ridl Visiting Writers Series, is my FAVORITE time in the semester because 1. I get to take a break from reading anything academic related and instead actually listen to someone read their work, and 2. I get to meet amazingly talented and inspiring poets and writers. I think that is the best of both worlds really (well at least to me!) Since I am an English major, a lot of my professors encourage that we go to these events, and rightly so since the writers that come to visit never disappoint!
For the first JRVWS event of the semester, poets (and Hope grads!) Laura Donnelly and Katherine Bode-Lang read several poems from their books titled, Watershed and The Reformation, respectively. Funny enough, Laura and Katherine are not only Hope graduates, but best friends. Laura even told us that Katherine stood up for her in her wedding! Likewise, Katherine said she felt grateful that she was able to read her work alongside Laura. How cool right?!
Laura read a few poems from her book Watershed, and she told us that a lot of her poems were inspired by movement, change, artwork, as well as her memories from growing up in Holland. My favorite poem from her book is entitled, “The Coefficient of Longing,” that she wrote in graduate school and incorporates the word “O” into algebraic terms. I don’t even know she did that, but either way, it is written beautifully. I highly recommend buying her book!
Katherine read poems from her book The Reformation, and her poetry is inspired a lot by her family as well as living in Holland and Pennsylvania, where she currently resides with her husband. My favorite poem she read is entitled, “Mending,” and is about Katherine’s time spent working at VanWylen library! She joked that she thought it would be an easy job, but instead got put to work “manual labor.” Her nametag even read, “Katie-Mender.” I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did:
“I spent that summer tucked behind the library’s stacks
with broken books, repairing bends and tatters,
erasing pencil marks, tipping in the missing pages.
Old books, weak and torn books, all came to my table–
covers like rags. I undressed them further: removed
battered cloth with cuts through the spine and name,
down inside joints still holding flapping limbs to well-stitched pages.
Once undone, I would fashion a cast–red, green, black, or blue–
cut cloth and bristol board, build a new spine,
fasten on the covers with a batch of glue I made that week.
The dressing so fitted, I would paint pages back together, layer tissue
over tears, splint the bent corners, slip waxed paper
under the eyelids of the book. In my windowless room,
a ward of old books lay quiet, pinned and drying
between bricks and boards. My handwriting later named them,
numbered and tagged them, sent them back to metal shelves.”
Source: Katherine Bode-Lang « Toad
I hope that whether you are an English major/minor or not, you will come to future JRVWS events. There is always something for everyone, and I believe that you will leave afterwards feeling inspired to continue writing or even start writing! It’s also a chance for you to talk to writers and ask them questions or even have them sign their book like Katherine did for me! For more information on upcoming JRVWS events, go to their website at: Jack Ridl Visiting Writers Series | The Official Blog of VWS
Thanks so much for reading and keep up with me on twitter @