Tag Archives: Rekindle the Classics

~from Michaela Hayes

Rekindle the Classics Flyer

Recently, representatives from the CSU English department and the Poudre Valley Public library gathered to lead a discussion on Toni Morrison’s acclaimed novel Beloved. The discussion was the first of the season for the Fort Collins book club appropriately named “Rekindle the Classics.”

Rekindle the Classics was started several years ago by CSU English professor Ellen Brinks. As stated by Lynn Shutters, also a professor of English at CSU, “The basic idea behind the program is that a lot of people are curious about ‘classic’ literature, but might be a little intimidated by it, or might want someone with whom they can talk about it, or might just want to have a regular monthly meeting to encourage them to actually read that book. Rekindle the Classics is a program for those people.” Rekindle now meets once a month during the academic year, always at the Wolverine Farm Letterpress & Publick House, to discuss a new (or old!) book.

Copy of Beloved the book and cup of coffee

Each discussion is led by a different member of the CSU English department, faculty and students alike. This particular discussion was led by Kelly Weber, an MFA student in the poetry program. After the meeting, Weber spoke to her love for the novel and how it has inspired her transformation as a poet: “It was the first book that really got to me. I think it’s the book that introduced me to real poetry before I liked poems.” As Weber led the discussion, her enthusiasm for the novel radiated from her in waves.

Lynn Shutters and Kelly Weber (top left) discuss Beloved with a group of interested readers

Lynn Shutters and Kelly Weber (top left) discuss Beloved with a group of interested readers

As a fellow English student, I understand this enthusiasm fully. There’s a very specific and very beautiful light that only a person talking about their favorite book can emit. We English majors live for it.

Rekindle the Classics will be meeting again in October, but with a different discussion leader and book. Next month, they will be discussing The Call of Cthulhu by H.P. Lovecraft. Anyone in the community who would like to come is welcome; the more diverse the group, the more lively the discussion. As put by Lynn Shutters, “ Everyone has something to bring to the table. Discussions are lively and fun, smart but highly accessible. I encourage anyone who’s interested to show up for a session and check it out.” This English major agrees.


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  • Matthew Cooperman currently has new poems out in The Laurel Review and Saltfront, in print. Online, Mary: A Journal of New Writing, is featuring three of his poems at http://maryjournal.org/fall2016/?page_id=416
  • On Wednesday, April 5, Camille Dungy will present at the Newberry Library, Chicago as part of a panel in celebration of the centennial of poet and former US Poet Laureate Gwendolyn Brooks. As part of a citywide celebration of Gwendolyn Brooks marking the one-hundredth anniversary of her birth, the Newberry will gather poets, scholars, historians, and archivists to discuss the historical context of Brooks’ groundbreaking first book of poems, A Street in Bronzeville. Published in in August 1945—the same month that World War II ended—the collection expresses the rich complexities of life on Chicago’s South Side within the larger fight for democracy both at home and abroad. https://www.newberry.org/04052017-gwendolyn-brooks
  • Todd Mitchell attended and delivered a session on “Teaching Dystopian Fiction” at this year’s Colorado Teen Literature Conference in Denver.
  • Debbie Vance’s short story, “Choose Your Own,” was accepted for publication in the next issue of Black Warrior Review.
  • Steven Schwartz’s Madagascar: New and Selected Stories is a finalist for the Colorado Book Award for Literary Fiction and the Foreword Review Award for Short Stories.
  • Rico Moore, MFA Summer 2011 (Poetry), has had four poems (“Immanence of Star,” “Three Lyrics Composed of Words from Seneca’s Epistle, ‘On the God within Us,’” “When Awakened at Night by the Quiet,” and “What You’ve Unearthed from the Past,” appear in the journal, LVNG, number 17, online at https://lvngmagazine.files.wordpress.com/2017/03/lvng17.pdf.In addition, Rico has been a freelance writer for the past two years with Boulder Weekly. He writes about plans through which the Colorado Department of Parks and Wildlife hopes to kill mountain lions and bears in the name of boosting mule deer populations. His articles include “Off target: are mountain lions and bears about to be killed for the sins of the oil and gas industry?,” “Update: Commission asked to delay killing of mountain lions and bears in the name of sound science,” and “CPW and the oil and gas industry can’t have it both ways.”  An update, published Thursday, deals with an injunction filed by WildEarth Guardians.  You can read these articles online at http://www.boulderweekly.com/author/ricomoore/.
  • On March 27 at a ceremony at the Tishman Auditorium in New York, Natalie Scenters-Zapico accepted the PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award for Poetry for her book The Verging Cities, published by the Center for Literary Publishing as part of the Mountain West Poetry Series.

Rekindle the Classics 

The next Rekindle the Classics discussion will be on Wednesday, April 12, 6:30-8:30 pm at Wolverine Farms Publick House. MFA student Lauren Matheny will lead a discussion of Flaubert’s Madame Bovary. Rekindle the Classics brings together CSU English faculty and graduate students and lovers of literature in the Fort Collins community. For more information, see http://blog.poudrelibraries.org/2017/01/rekindle-a-love-of-the-classics/

English Department Writing Contests

The English department has FOUR different writing contests running right now. Check out the details here, and submit something!

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Kelly Weber is a first-year graduate student in the MFA Poetry program and graduate teaching assistant (GTA) for CO150. She’s been featured in our Humans of Eddy series and recently facilitated a Rekindle the Classics discussion about Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness. She was kind enough to report back to us about how it went.


~from Kelly Weber

“While reading, like writing, may feel like a solitary endeavor, it’s perhaps best shared as part of a community.”


You know that feeling when you just need to talk out a book with friends?

On Wednesday, February 8, I and faculty from CSU gathered with members of the Fort Collins community for a conversation about Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness as part of the Rekindle the Classics series. At Wolverine Farm Letterpress & Publick House, we shoved a couple tables together and crowded glasses, books, and knees around it to start the conversation. Several of us sneaked in a few gibes about one another’s book covers–the literary “Who wore it best?” of icy vistas plastered across trade paperbacks. (Don’t lie, English majors live for this stuff.) After a few minutes of settling and a proper introduction from Lynn Shutters, we jumped in.


Feminism. Ambisexuality. Ice. Anthropology. Ethnography. Science fiction. Loyalty. Nationalism. Love. War. Every topic was fair game in our conversation, and as we talked, I slowly found that others had crossed the same imaginary ice I did. People thumbed through pages more and more frequently to read aloud passages. Someone in the group would offer a question and another a theory with parts of the text, and then yet another would jump in with an alternative reading of the same scene. We ranted about characters we didn’t like, raved on the ones we did. Is the world of The Left Hand of Darkness the main character, or is it a tool only developed as much as it needs to be?

By break time, people were laughing and circling into little knots and groups as they got up to stretch or order refills. When we found our seats again, we reached a consensus: each of us needed to finally process a major character’s death. (No spoilers.) How did we interpret that final scene? How had rereading opened new perspectives on it for us? I felt–years after flipping through those final pages on a dark, cold winter night–that I could finally reach some closure. Toward the end of the conversation, we veered away from Left Hand to talk more generally about “genre” literature’s representation and the underrepresented benefits of good literary science fiction and fantasy. The evening’s talk ended with excited chitchat about stories even as people were walking out the door.

Ursula K. Le Guin

Ursula K. Le Guin, author of Left Hand of Darkness

The best part of discussing books with a good group of people (and this is something we talked about during our conversation) is a) being able to talk about lit in a way that’s fruitful and b) finally sharing what’s been on your mind about what you’ve read: the challenges, the heartaches, the head-scratchers. While reading, like writing, may feel like a solitary endeavor, it’s perhaps best shared as part of a community. A passionate conversation about a novel, or poetry, or memoir, or what-have-you, becomes of course precisely what the best literature stands for: a passionate conversation about what we think and feel about our everyday lives. To talk about reading is to talk about thinking and dreaming, and that’s kind of an amazing thing to bring into a communal space.

I’ve already got my calendar marked for next month’s Rekindle the Classics. I look forward to paging through a classic again with a great group of people–and I hope to keep seeing new faces.


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~by Beth Campbell, English Department Communications Intern


For centuries before our own, it was not Instagram or Netflix or the latest celebrity gossip that captivated the mind. It was not whatever so-and-so tweeted or posted or funny cat videos. Evenings were spent surrounded by good company steeped in intelligent conversation. Night lent her dark robes to block out anything that could disturb such delight and her starry skies gave the atmosphere the sensation of possibility. Anything could happen on these nights. These were the times that inspired Keats, Shelley, Whitman, Tennyson, Eliot, Pound… It was nights like this one that inspired greatness.

Readers gather to discuss the book

Readers gather to discuss the book

By now, I was no stranger to the second story of the Wolverine Letterpress & Publick House. I made my way up the creaking wooden stairs with my overly sugary tea in my hand and my copy of Shakespeare’s Macbeth in the other. The loft was just as huge as I remembered, lofted ceilings stretching heavenward and a wall of windows to welcome in the stars from their ethereal perch. The group had already started to gather, conversation buzzing between friends and introductions, like my own, being tossed to newcomers. Not a phone, tablet, laptop, or any mechanical device could be seen, but the two tables that had been pushed together were covered with books, bookmarks, sticky notes, pens, and notebooks wedged between pints of beer and mugs of steaming coffee.The only notifications we would be getting tonight would be scrawled in the margins of our notes or found on rambling, but self-deemed important, tangents.

With this, the Rekindle the Classics bookclub came to order. The club is the brain child of Lara Roberts, a graduate student here at Colorado State University, under the supervision of Ellen Brinks, a professor here in the English Department. The goal of the club is to revive the reading of classic literature and the discussion of its themes, characters, and impacts in our world, a very noble cause in a society that has become centered on the brevity and instant gratification of formulaic modern texts. And may I say, the conversation sparked in that room was enough to fuel me as a reader and writer for weeks to come.

 Courtney Pollard facilitates the discussion

Courtney Pollard facilitates the discussion

Time lost all relevance when the first few lines of the play were read. It began subtly, with all in attendance dancing around the underlying themes and addressing scenes for clarification. Lines of conversation spun themselves around quotes and couplets, weaving the English language into a spell that kept all else at bay. The room seemed to give way to the walls of Inverness and Macbeth and his wife plot the murder of the noble King Duncan. It became a battle of will against madness, of nobility against usurper, as the debate rose into a scholarly frenzy. Not all of us were students or professors. Some were community members, others poets and writers. Yet we each brought with us a distinct view on the play and our own expertise. The man who wore a replica of Aragorn’s ring from Lord of the Rings focused on the social critique of the play, addressing the role of a king and what kingship really meant. The stunning European woman with a think accent and handcrafted fountain pen remarked on Shakespeare’s use of poetic devices whenever the witches came onstage. All of us in that room were magicians, entwining words and meanings to create significance. We spoke the same language, a language that many have used before us, yet few understand today. We played with the supernatural and addressed the surreal. The heavens could have been crashing down outside, but the walls of our incantations would have left us oblivious. We had found paradise, and none of us were about to question that.

I left blinking the depths of that world from my eyes, my mind swirling with so many new ideas. In that room, we did so much more than discuss the wonder that is Macbeth. We were forced to think beyond the ease and convince of our technological society. We dove instead into the realm words, a kingdom brimming with power, meaning, and elegance. We looked back into the classics to see ourselves. In that moment, we were infinite, bathed in the fires of dialogue. and ravished by the author’s legerdemain. We were readers at the mercy of the words, and we loved every second of it.

The next session of Rekindle the Classics will meet this Thursday, April 14, at 6:30 at the Wolverine Letterpress & Publick House, (316 Willow Street, Fort Collins). There are two sessions left in the season:

April 14: Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
May 18: East of Eden by John Steinbeck

Rekindle the Classics, the new and creative collaboration between Poudre Libraries, Colorado State University’s Department of English and Wolverine Farm Publick House. A series of free, open-to-the-public discussions about classic literature. 

For more information, see monthly calendar at www.poudrelibraries.org or call 970-221-6740

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