Tag Archives: Katie Haggstrom

The Creative Writing Reading Series ended with this semester’s second, and final, thesis reading in the Gregory Allicar Museum of Art. The space was filled with family, peers and faculty members eager to hear the accomplishments of these three students: Joyce Bohling (MA in Creative Nonfiction), KT Heins (MFA in Fiction), and Cedar Brant (MFA in Poetry).

Camille Dungy opened the evening with an introduction, both excited and sad to begin the last event in the Creative Writing Reading Series of the school year.

As my fellow English department intern, I was excited to hear Joyce Bohling read an excerpt from her nonfiction graduate thesis. Associate Professor E. J. Levy introduced Bohling, describing her as a writer marked for a literary life. Bohling’s small, soft spoken demeanor is largely contrasted with her fierce words on the page.

Bohling’s thesis builds on her personal journey with anorexia, moving through the science and cultural history of eating disorders and the modern fad of dieting. As she began her piece, a stark silence settled over the group. Her cultural criticism targeted professionals in the field who combine dieting with extreme exercise as the perfect (“healthy”) duo for weight-loss maintenance.

As Bohling presented fact after fact, her powerful voice permeated the room. The weight of her evidence piled against the alleged success of dieting, moving from a satirical to an outright dismissive tone as we learned more about her personal experiences with dieting. We were left with an important explanation surrounding the reality of Health at Every Size, a lasting message that will still resonate long after the reading.

Levy took the time to also introduce MFA fiction student KT Heins, who shared the first chapter of her novel. As Levy explained, Heins’ violent and eerie prose was something that was both haunting and haunted. The story revolved around a lesbian who lost her lover one year ago to anorexia, an unplanned but recurring topic for the evening.

As she began, Heins’ words were filled with intense imagery that worked to describe the vivid scenery of the world within her novel. We followed her characters as they built a life together, a life before loss. Through her descriptions and narration, I could picture the glass house they bought in Aspen, and the way each character moved in that space, in sync with one another.

A feeling of cold, and loss, carried throughout the reading. I could almost feel the cold surround me, mimicking Heins’ tone as the ghost of the lost partner appeared, followed by the absolute weight of the memory. Her first chapter left me wanting more of this story, a haunting reflection on love and loss.

Finally, Cedar Brant read an excerpt from her MFA poetry collection. While Associate Professor and poet Dan Beachy-Quick was unable to attend the event, he sent a speech introducing Brant’s poetry which Associate Professor Sasha Steensen read.

Through Beachy-Quick’s well-formulated words, we learned of the elegant and philosophical nature of Brant’s poetry. Her deeply vulnerable poetry allows us to “see how she is of and in the world.”

Before beginning her reading, Brant explained that the inspiration for her collection, and the focus on fire, came from the experience she had when her house burned down. Unsurprisingly, her poems are themed around these powerful images and memories of fire. These poems, according to Brant, are a “space where more parts of myself can be contained.”

Brant’s voice was calm and steady as she moved through each poem, delicately circling around the theme of fire. As an audience, we moved through her painful memories and her fluctuating relationship with her sister. Each poem took these smaller memories and expanded into larger ideals and reflections. With Brant, we experienced her giving parts of herself back to the earth, allowing us to dwell on our own relationship with the earth.

When the reading ended, I found myself wanting more. This past year, each graduating MA and MFA student has worked tirelessly on completing their final thesis project. I feel privileged to have shared in this part of their process, hearing just a portion of the work that Joyce Bohling, KT Heins, and Cedar Brant put into these creative projects. I can’t help but think about the small pieces of themselves they will leave behind, pieces that have forever become a part of their work and of us.

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For this week of National Poetry Month, we are featuring spoken word poetry and poets.

Image by Jhayne

Hearing a poem read by its author adds an additional dimension to any work.The inflection, the empty spaces, the tone. All of these pieces work together to create the art of spoken word.

Shane Koyzcan was born in 1976 in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. At the National Poetry Slam in 2000, he won the Individual Championship title, making him the first Canadian to win. From there, he continued to garner success for his slam poetry. He went on to publish his first full-length poetry collection in 2005 called Visiting Hours. This work brought together a collection his spoken word and poetry, all dealing with the “intricacies of human emotions.”

His collection made The Guardian’s “Books of the year” list in 2005 for Koyzcan’s “ability to take you straight to the heart of what on the surface may seem like mundane actions but which turn out to be much more complex. He makes you feel the depth of love, joy, and pain in everyday life. Love, after all, is in everything.”

In 2010, he performed a portion of his “We Are More” piece at the Opening Ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. In 2014, he released a digital spoken word album titled Silence Is A Song I Know All The Words To. Beyond the audio element, artist Gareth Gaudin illustrated his poems into a graphic novel of the same name.

Koyczan went viral online with his 2013 “To this Day Project.” The spoken word, set to an animated video on YouTube, addresses Koyzcan’s personal experiences with bullying. The video brought further attention to Koyzcan as a slam poet, and raised awareness about bullying.

Video: Shane Koyczan reads “To This Day”

As Koyczan explains, “My experiences with violence in schools still echo throughout my life but standing to face the problem has helped me in immeasurable ways. Schools and families are in desperate need of proper tools to confront this problem. This piece is a starting point.”

Through this project, Koyczan hopes to bring attention to the ongoing issue of bullying and its presence in schools today. As his poem explains, he grew up “surrounded by people who used to say/ that rhyme… about sticks and stones/ As if broken bones/ hurt more than the names we got called,/ and we got called them all.”

Spoken word has a way of sticking with people, hearing the words spoken with speed or suspended through dramatic silence. Koyzcan used his own stories to shed light on a problem children still have today. But, “to this day,” there’s still more we can do to help.

Shane Koyczan is currently on a Canadian and International tour that started in April and is continuing through June. This tour promotes his new album titled Debris. He will make an appearance at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in Colorado on June 16-19. (For more information: http://bit.ly/2nNHrE6.)

Want to know more about this poet?

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Image from rupikaur.com

Artist and poet Rupi Kaur was born in Punjab, India, in 1992. When she was only 4, her parents emigrated to Toronto, Canada. Her artistic and creative ability was something that emerged when she was a young age. Kaur began to draw and paint, inspired by her mom and would write poems for her friends, and even crushes.

As Kaur reflected in an interview, “I grew up reading everything I could get my hands on. I was moved by the ability of books to pull one out of their reality and into someone else’s…I want to put words to feelings we have trouble putting into words. Like the breath before the kiss, I want to make the mundane beautiful.”

At the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Kaur was able to pursue this passion by studying Rhetoric and Professional Writing. She then began posting her poems on social media sites, like Tumblr and Instagram. Through these venues she gained popularity and published her first collective works in 2015 titled milk and honey. 

The collection has received much attention for the voice she brings to violence, abuse, love, loss and family. Huffington Post said that “reading the [Kaur’s] book, is like getting the hug you need on a rainy day, the catharsis you crave after a tragedy.”

From the success of her first collection, Kaur has a contract for two more books with one slated for fall of this year.

While her poetry perfectly captures a wide breadth of powerful moments, it’s not without lots of time and sweat on Kaur’s part. As she explains, “The words get in the way of writing.” Her process often involves “Freewriting. Rewriting. Entering. Backspacing. Coping. Pasting. Until I stop. Until it feels like I’ve gotten out everything that needed to be written and then I will put it away.”

Rupi Kaur has made waves in both the poetry realm and within larger feminist work. In 2015, she posted a controversial image on Instagram of her lying on a bed with an obvious menstrual stain on her sweatpants. This was part of a Visual Rhetoric course at the University of Waterloo.

Through her art, Kaur fights to bring attention to these taboos of society, becoming a powerful messenger for many women without a voice of their own.

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The work of David Whyte moves between literary, psychological, theological and vocational worlds. As Whyte explains, his poetry and philosophy comes from “the conversational nature of reality.”

Born in 1955 in Mirfield Yorkshire, his poetry was influenced by bother his mother’s Irish heritage and what he called his “Wordsworthian childhood” in West Yorkshire. But his early life didn’t reflect his passion for poetry and philosophy. Instead, he received a degree from Bangor University in Marine Zoology.

Following his undergrad, he lived in the Galapagos Islands, working as a naturalist. He became quite the world traveler, leading various anthropological and natural history expeditions through the Andes, the Amazon, and the Himalayas.

It wasn’t until after Whyte moved to the States in 1981 that he began his career as a poet. In 1987, he began to share both his philosophy and writing with larger audiences. In an interview with Spirituality Health, he reflects on the role poetry and philosophy have played in his life, explaining that “I felt it in my infancy and first started articulating it in my early teens, but I actually thought that everyone was like this. So it was quite a surprise when people would be taken aback by the insights in my thoughts or my poetry.”

His first poetry collection, Songs for Coming Home, was published in 1984. Now, he boasts 7 volumes of poetry and 4 books of prose. Whyte has received an honorary degree from Neuman College in Pennsylvania. In 1994, he topped the best-seller list in the United States for his book The Heart Aroused: Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America. Whyte is an associate fellow at both Templeton College and Saïd Business School in Oxford.

In 2014, he published his book Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words. In an interview about this book, Whyte says that “there must be a place for everything in the human soul…it’s just a question of where they are in the hierarchy of experience.”

As human beings, it’s important to keep asking questions, and looking at the world around us. As Whyte reminds us, “you ask [a beautiful question] with your body. You ask it with your longing. And you can ask a beautiful question in complete silence with no verbalization whatsoever, just in the way you’re paying attention.”


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Photo by: Larry Moyer, from http://www.shelsilverstein.com/

Some poetry connects generations together, drawing them in at an early age through fun rhymes and silly images. Shel Silverstein has become synonymous with children’s poetry, the type of poetry that sticks with its readers well into adulthood.

Most children are familiar with poet Shel Silverstein’s work and the fun pen drawings that often accompany his poems. Silverstein’s poetry has been translated into over 30 languages and sold over 20 million copies. Probably one of his best known poems is “Where the Sidewalk Ends,” which was also the name of one of his poetry collections.

Born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1930, he began his career as a cartoonist at the age of 7 by tracing over Al Capp’s cartoons. Silverstein attended Roosevelt High School and got expelled from the University of Illinois which lead him to enroll in the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts. Drafted by the United States Army before completing his degree, he served in Japan and Korea.

Silverstein then studied English at Roosevelt University where he got his first cartoon published in the student newspaper, Roosevelt Torch. From there, his career skyrocketed with cartoons published in Look, Sports Illustrated, and This Week. In 1957, he was a leading cartoonist for Playboy, a role which sent him around the world creating a travel journal.

His children’s books have gained popularity among young (and older) readers. His most notable collections include The Giving Tree (1964), Where the Sidewalk Ends (1974), and A Light in the Attic (1981). A Boy Named Sue won the 1970 Grammy and Silverstein was inducted in the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame in 2014, after his death in 1999.

Silverstein is known for not giving interviews, but was passionate about his work. In a 1975 interview with Publisher’s Weekly, he said “I have an ego, I have ideas, I want to articulate, to communicate but in my own way. People say they create only for themselves and don’t care if they’re published…I hate to hear talk like that. If it’s good, it’s too good not to share. That’s the way I feel about my work.”

But he also ended this interview explaining that “I’m not going to give any more interviews.” As readers, we will just have to let Silverstein’s work speak for itself.

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giovanni singleton, (image from Harriet: a poetry blog)

The beauty of poetry is that is can exist outside conventional form, instead twisting and moving to a poet’s intent. The avant-garde poem below by giovanni singleton transformed words into images, created a cage made out of birds, the “caged bird.”

singleton received her BA from American University in Washington, D.C. She found her interest in form as art during her time at the New College of California where she earned her MFA. As she explains in a 2011 Pen America interview, she views the page as a blank, or borderless, canvas she can fill.

Her collection Ascension was published in 2011, winning the California Book Award for Poetry. Fellow poet Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon said that her “poems are minimalist…ascension is process. The buildup is slow, and culminates as play, in the clear space left as we literally watch an I disappear. Thereafter, we find the blank page again. And time to make another poem.”

Her most recent collection, American Letters: works on paper, came out in 2017. She is also the founding editor of nocturnes (re)view of the literary arts, an annual publication through Small Press Distribution. As described, “the journal serves as a forum for examining and celebrating the natural connections between diverse artistic mediums as expressed through visual and written language.”

singleton ended a 2011 interview with a simple question, “Why do you still write?” As she explained, “at this point, I write out of habit-a wish to be free…Poetry is a way of developing, of cultivating, fearlessness. Writing and working with language makes the world, makes life, for me anyway, more tolerable and more true.”

Video: giovanni singleton reading for the Lunch Poems series, the first time she publicly read from her Ascension collection.

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Philosopher and gender theorist Judith Butler was born in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1956. Surrounded by the Hungarian and Russian Jewish traditions of her family, Butler attended a Hebrew school and took special classes on Jewish ethics. This education was the beginning of Butler’s introduction to philosophy.

In an interview with Haaretz, and Israeli newspaper, Butler said that “I began to be interested in philosophy when I was 14, and I was in trouble in the synagogue. The rabbi said ‘You are too talkative in class…You have to come have a tutorial with me.’ I said ‘OK, great!’ I was thrilled.”

From there, Butler’s interest in philosophy skyrocketed as she delved into work on gender and feminism. She went to college at Bennington College, moving to Yale University where she received her B.A. in 1978 and Ph.D. in 1984 in Philosophy.

Following those degrees, Butler moved on to become a professor at various prestigious universities, including Wesleyan University, George Washington University and John Hopkins University. She has been a professor at University of California, Berkeley since 1993 where she teaches in both the Department of Comparative Literature and the Program of Critical Theory.

Most of Butler’s philosophical work has revolved around her theory of gender performativity, first presented in her 1990 book Gender Trouble. Her focus with this book was that gender is an improvised performance. With this book, she made great strides in the realm of feminist, women’s, gay and lesbian studies and queer theory.

As Butler explains in her Book Bodies that Matter published in 1992, “the misapprehension about gender performativity is this: that gender is a choice, or that gender is a role, or that gender is a construction that one puts on, as one puts on clothes in the morning, that there is a ‘one’ who is prior to this gender, a one who goes to the wardrobe of gender and decides with deliberation which gender it will be today.” She is trying to break down the norms and stereotypes that modern society has about gender.

Video: Judith Butler talks about what it means that gender is performative.

Butler has played a large role in human rights activism, including her positions on the board of the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York and the advisory board of Jewish Voice for Peace. In 2004, she was awarded the Brunder Prize from Yale University for “lifetime achievement in gay and lesbian studies.” She won the 2008 Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Distinguished Achievement Award for these contributions to the study of the humanities. In 2014, she received a diploma of Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters from the French Cultural Ministry. The American Association of Geographers made her an “honorary geographer” in 2015. Butler’s considerable list of honors and acclaimed positions goes on, including nine honorary degrees from various universities around the world.

Judith Butler continues her work on gender performativity and challenges modern philosophical thinking. In recent years, she’s written on post-9/11 “war on terror” rhetoric, Guantánamo, Israel, and police brutality, and is starting to anticipate her eventual retirement from Berkeley. Another project she’s been considering with her friend Ken Corbett, a psychologist and writer, is a new version of Gender Trouble — illustrated, for kids ages 8 to 12.

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President George W. Bush shares a moment with author Harper Lee Monday, Nov. 5, 2007, prior to presenting her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom during ceremonies in the East Room of the White House. Photo by Eric Draper, Courtesy of the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum.

Harper Lee (born Nelle Harper Lee) was born in 1926 in Monroeville, Alabama. After attending the all-female Huntingdon College in Montgomery, she transferred to the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa where she pursued English literature.

Lee spent a year working towards the university’s law degree as an undergrad, but decided that writing was her true passion. At the age of 23, Lee arrived in New York City in 1949. In 1956, Lee received a gift from the family of Broadway composer and lyricist Michael Martin Brown, and they supported her in New York for a year. Lee quit her job and began writing full time, working on a manuscript that turned into To Kill a Mockingbird.

Her first novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, was published in 1960 and instantly became a classic American novel. In 1961, her novel won the Pulitzer Prize and in 1998, the Library Journal declared To Kill a Mockingbird the best novel of the 20th century. She was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2007 for her contribution to literature.

But following the success of To Kill a Mockingbird, Lee abruptly stopped writing. In a letter sent to Oprah Winfrey’s magazine from Lee, she said that “in an abundant society where people have laptops, cellphones, iPods and minds like empty rooms, I still plod along with books.” Lee stopped giving interviews and returned to a solitary life in Monroeville.

As Telegraph explains, “that detachment is, clearly, necessary to her. It is the paradox of the novel that it could not have been written by someone in love with literary fame; that the fame it achieved and deserved killed off any prospect of a succeeding masterpiece.” It seems that this fame caused Lee to stop writing, and for decades she published no further work.

Back in 1967, Lee had written a prequel for To Kill a Mockingbird that she didn’t publish. The manuscript for Go Set a Watchman was submitted to Lee’s editor in ‘67, not long after the publication of her first novel. Lee believed that the manuscript was lost, explain that “after much thought and hesitation, I shared it with a handful of people I trust and was pleased to hear that they considered it worthy of publication.”

Go Set a Watchman abruptly appeared on bookshelves in July 2015, published by HarperCollins. While some readers were quick to share accolades with Lee about a second novel, others questioned her competence following decades of her reluctance to publish anything.

The New York Times explains that “in May 2013, her name [Lee] appeared in news reports and when she filed a lawsuit accusing her literary agent, Samuel Pinkus, of duping her into assigning the novel’s copyright to his company after a stroke she suffered in 2007 left her with impaired hearing and eyesight.”

While Lee’s mental competency was questioned, the novel had sold 1.6 million copies as of January 2016. In 2015, it also made the US bestseller list. Preorders alone turned it into an instant bestselling novel.

On February 19, 2016, Harper Lee died in her sleep at the age of 89. For members of the literary community, the release of Go Set a Watchman has not diminished Lee’s impact on the literary community. Today, To Kill a Mockingbird is still considered among one of America’s classics.

Video: In 1964, Harper Lee talked with WQXR host Roy Newquist for an interview in New York. For the first time, that interview is now available to listen to online. The interview is the only known recording of Lee discussing To Kill a Mockingbird, among other topics, and one of the last interviews she would ever give.

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Author and cartoonist Alison Bechdel was born in Beech Creek, Pennsylvania, to Helen and Bruce Bechdel. Bruce, her father, operated a funeral home part time, which Alison and her brothers, Bruce and John, called the Fun Home.

At the age of 19, she came out to her parents as a lesbian. A later conversation with her father revealed his intimate past with other men. This discovery brought more questions than answers when Bruce committed suicide shortly after, although Bechdel says “there’s no proof [just] some suggestive circumstances.”

Graduating high school a year early, she attended Simon’s Rock College before transferring to Oberlin College in Ohio. In 1981, she received her degree in studio arts and art history.

Bechdel first garnered success for her comics with the strip Dykes to Watch Out For, first published in 1983 in the feminist newspaper WomaNews. Her comic strip ran until 2008, becoming one of the first representations of lesbians in popular culture. The strip follows a group of diverse characters, most of them lesbians, as they experience life, love and politics. As Bechdel explains on her website, the comic “became a countercultural institution among lesbians and discerning non-lesbians all over the planet.”

Her closeted childhood was the basis for her autobiographical cartoon Fun Home, released in 2006. Fun Home chronicled Bechdel’s childhood, including her father’s obsession with restoring their Victorian Gothic Revival house and her journey to discovering her identity as a lesbian. Fun Home was then turned into a musical in 2013. Two years later, it won the Tony Award for Best Musical. Bechdel was also the recipient of the 2014 MacArthur “Genius” Award.

Bechdel is known for “the Bechdel test” for spotting gender bias in literature or film. To fulfill this test, the work must feature at list two girls/women who talk to each other about something that’s not a boy/man. Only about half of all films meet this requirement, calling attention to the gender inequality still present portrayals of women in literature and film.

Alison Bechdel become a voice for lesbians and the queer community, drawing attention to gender bias and the lives of LGBT people. Her autobiography provided the literary world with one of the first detailed coming out narratives, something that continues to help and inspire others.

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(Left to Right) Tiffany, Mackenzie, Emily, Danny, Leah, Katherine, and Kiley

Today’s Humans of Eddy doesn’t feature one person, but a group of humans who make their home in Eddy. These lovely individuals are some of Eddy’s own Writing Center consultants. The Writing Center is made up of 17 consultants who are both undergrad and grad students with various degree backgrounds.

Where are you located?
The CSU Writing Center is located in the basement of Eddy, room 23, Monday through Thursday.

What does the Writing Center do?

Our consultants can assist writers at all stages of the writing process, including brainstorming, drafting, revising, and polishing. Our clients come from all types of disciplines, with writing that ranges from research papers and essays to lab reports, resumes, and applications. There are three types of consultations: face-to-face appointments, online draft submission, and synchronous video conferencing for online and off-campus students. As our website says, we work “to help create better writers, not just better writing.”

How can a student make an appointment?
Visit our website at writingcenter.colostate.edu and click “Make and Appointment.” If you don’t already have an account, you can quickly register for one to access our availability. Or feel free to stop by our office for any questions or assistance. We have coffee and tea and great conversation!
Favorite words from various consultants:  

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