Way with Words
The annual Visiting Writers Series kicked off on Tuesday, September 29 with a poetry reading by Emily Warn. A small but attentive crowd attended the reading held in the Robinson Room of Special Collections. Current English Department Chair Peter Harris introduced Warn, noting in particular her experience as "a web mistress"- alluding to her position as web editor of poetryfoundation.org.
The mission of poetryfoundation.org is "to raise poetry to a more visible and influential position in American culture," something that Warn does both as a poet and by working on the website.
Hailing from Seattle, Warn is the author of three books of poetry: The Leaf Path (1982), The Nervous Insomniac (1996), and most recently, The Shadow Architect (2008).
Warn's reading was mostly from her latest publication, which was inspired by the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Each letter has three creative powers, Warn explained, and for each letter she created a poem about each of the three powers.
"The mythology of Judaism shaped [her] imagination," she said. She was also inspired by the belief that "if you know how to manipulate the letters, you can raise the dead." She uses this idea throughout her poetry, taking letters and making them alive once again. She breathes life into her poetry.
In her poem "Mnemonic," which appears at the end of the work, she asks 22 questions, one for each of the Hebrew letters. The answers to each of her questions can be found by reading the poems for every letter of the alphabet.
Warn's reading also featured a few new poems, including one inspired by trees in her yard being destroyed by a storm. "The things that trigger to write are often outside of your control," she said. When asked how she became a poet, Warn replied, "poetry gave me a way to be in the world." Through her success, it is evident that she has found someone to be, and through her website, she wants to share her life and art with others.
The College's Visiting Writers Series continues throughout the year, and promises to fulfill its purpose of bringing contemporary writers to campus. The next event in the series will take place on October 20 and will feature the work of author Dani Shapiro.
Though the small crowd that attended Warn's reading created a warm and intimate atmosphere in which poetry could be enjoyed, it is important for students to realize what a great opportunity the Visiting Writers Series presents.