MFA Thesis Reading: Melissa Hohl and John McDonough, a Reflection by Kaitlyn Phillips

Creative Writing Reading Series MFA Thesis Reading, Melissa Hohl and John McDonough

~From English Department Communications Intern Kaitlyn Phillips

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Melissa Hohl and John McDonough

As I walked into the Clara Hatton gallery, I noticed first the energy and the atmosphere; dozens of happy voices bounced from wall to wall and back, the result one hundred echoes containing all the enthusiasm and anticipation of an event about to start. As Dr. Cooperman took the stage to introduce the night’s readers, these voices collected in every corner of the room, settling as the people did on to chairs and benches and along the walls.

The event in question was the Creative Writing Reading Series MFA Thesis Reading featuring Melissa Hohl and John McDonough.

As Melissa Hohl took the stage, the crowd quieted almost immediately, anticipating her poetry that had been so beautifully introduced. After a tearful list of thank yous, Melissa launched straight into reading her work — and we weren’t disappointed.

Melissa Hohl’s poetry is sharp, paused and fragmented; listening to her read her work aloud was entrancing, and the audience sat at full attention from one poem to the next. Her poems focus on selfhood or sense of self, and the importance of one’s name to both of these things. As she finished reading, I felt as though I was being pulled out of her world and back into my own; her work captures the mind entirely, and I look forward to seeing her published work in the near future.

Next to read was John McDonough who primarily writes short stories, and chose to read his piece “Sitting,” a beautifully written and compelling short story about how humans connect with each other, focusing on the relationships between employers and employees, men and women, and strangers and friends. There is an authenticity that rang throughout the story as he told it, and a deep understanding of human relationships unfolded as he came to the story’s end. It was descriptive, enticing, deeply true and honest, and every bit as entrancing as Hohl’s work.

As the night came to an end and people began to clear the gallery, Hohl and McDonough were left at the front of the room, excitedly hugging family members and receiving high praise from friends and strangers alike. It was a pleasure to see two hard working CSU students read the work they were proud of and spend a night being celebrated for it.

So thank you to Melissa and John for a wonderful night of poetry and storytelling, and the English Department is wishing you luck in your careers beyond CSU.


The Creative Writing Reading Series at CSU is organized by English Department faculty and the Organization of Graduate Student Writers (OGSW); Creative Writing faculty serve on a rotating basis as director of the series and faculty advisor to OGSW. The series has a small annual budget and relies on the support of the Associated Students of Colorado State University (ASCSU), the College of Liberal Arts dean’s office, donors, local businesses, and CSU’s English Department. Its spring 2016 events are made possible with support from CSU’s Lilla B. Morgan Memorial Endowment, a premier funder of the arts at CSU. Please help grow this fund with a gift at: http://president.colostate.edu/lillabmorgan/index.aspx. All events are free and open to the public.

Next reading: Selah Saterstrom, Thursday April 14. 7:30 pm – 9:00 pm in the Clara Hatton Gallery, Visual Arts Building.

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