“Respiratory Sinus Arrythmia” by Molly Rupp (’16): A Preview for This Whitworth Life

Please mark your calendar for the 2015 This Whitworth Life: Whitworth’s Untold Stories. The cast includes nine readers who’ll share their stories at 5:30 pm on Wednesday, Dec. 2, in the HUB MPR.

For a taste of what you’ll hear on Dec. 2, check out “Respiratory Sinus Arrythmia” by Molly Rupp (’16).

It’s said that when a choir sings together, their heart rates begin to collectively synchronize, beat lining up with beat, a steady tha-thump, tha-thump resonating within each member, as they inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale, at the same pace.

Breathe in-2-3-4-5, out-2-3-4-5

Each Wednesday night at 7:10, our director pulls us to the edge of the pews, pushes our spines straight and our chins up. Keep it loose, support from down here, don’t close your throat. If you’re doing it correctly, your nose should tickle and your lips vibrate a little when you hum.

Breathe in-2-3-4-5, out-2-3-4-5

I am the youngest permanent member of the choir by at least two decades, although this season a new girl joined, older than me by just a few years. I’m front row soprano, in the pew that comfortably holds two people. Annie sits next to me, a sassy old lady with swollen ankles, who reluctantly uses a walker and will quietly make snarky asides to me and then cover her mouth with her hand and giggle “oh! I’m so bad.” I teach her how to use her iPhone (which she uses to show me pictures of the creatures, dolls, and hats she knits), and she lets me use her pencil and calls me her “sweet molls.”

Breathe in-2-3-4-5, out-2-3-4-5

As a choir, we don’t always sound, well, good. Our director taught middle school band for many years, so he’s learned to hide grimaces and frustration with an impressive talent I have yet to master. The altos are always off key, the basses are always behind. None of the sopranos can successfully sing past a g above the staff, although unfortunately several try. Counting, it seems, is entirely too difficult a task, so a lot of improvised rhythms and false starts litter our practices. Only half of us watch the director, turning ritardandos into a herky-jerky struggle to the last note. Sometimes when I glance over to my mother during service as we perform the anthem, I can see her very visibly cringing.

Breathe in-2-3-4-5, out-2-3-4-5

And yet, every Sunday morning we zip the unbecoming black choir robes over our clothes, pull the white stoles over our heads, adjusting them on others if the long end hanging down the back gets bunched or twisted. We gather in the Celtic Hall for coffee before making what the congregation jokingly calls the “March of the Penguins” into the sanctuary.

Breathe in-2-3-4-5, out-2-3-4-5

When Joann Snyder, choir and church member for more than 50 years, passed away, we draped her robe and stole over her spot every Sunday for a month.

Breathe in-2-3-4-5, out-2-3-4-5

At the end of each practice, we form a circle around the communion table for a group prayer, a long list of illnesses, deaths, and grievances, an inevitable side effect of an aging church. And then, before we gather our books and water bottles and purses, a song we’ve sung every Wednesday for the past three years, a song we now all know by heart. No longer segregated by section, we mingle, soprano lilting upwards next to a bass stair-stepping down, as we sing of going in peace, faith, and love, never being afraid and our hearts go tha-thump. tha-thump.

Molly Rupp is a senior English major, with an art minor. She has an alarming affinity for parenthetical asides, strongly advocates for the Oxford Comma, and hopes to one day live in a cabin on the Oregon Coast, surrounded by cats. Notable skills include, but are not limited to: binge watching Netflix, quoting Harry Potter in everyday conversation, embracing awkward social situations, and making killer mac and cheese.

Jacob Realizes That He Has Wasted His Undergraduate Years: A Summer Tale

by Jacob Millay

I, like most avid readers, have a bit of a problem. I tend to overextend myself when it comes to reading plans.

For instance, last summer, I was working forty hours a week, but I figured that I could also get some heavy duty reading done. So… for the three months that I was home… I bought twenty-two books.

Now, maybe someone who is completely dedicated to reading and digesting novels could have conquered that stack which lay dormant in the corner of my room, but I was also faithful in seeing every new summer blockbuster, listening to every Death Cab for Cutie album on repeat, and catching up on the Telltale Games. Oh, and having some semblance of a social life.

However, I was able to find one strange gem in the stack. I found it in the “Buy two, get a third free” pile at Barnes and Nobles. Normally I shop at the quirky, eclectic, local bookstore on the corner as all good English majors do, but this one time I stumbled into the large corporate repository and saw the deal. I wanted two Stephen King books that were also in this section, so I was able to get a random book for free. I thought about it for approximately two seconds and grabbed The Opposite of Loneliness. I wish that I had a grand story about how I felt drawn to the book, but in reality I think I grabbed it simply because there was a pretty girl on the cover. That is just biology at work, baby.

51RqhC1C71L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

It took me awhile to actually read this book, but when I did, I was surprised by its story. The Opposite of Loneliness is by Marina Keagan, a student at Yale University. Five days before she was going to graduate, she died in a car accident. This book is a collection of her works that she wrote at school, and it was published posthumously.

Most of the stories and essays focus on youth and relationship, two messages that hit especially close to home for us college-age folk. She comes close to summing up the idea of relationship in her essay, “The Opposite of Loneliness”:  “It’s not quite love and it’s not quite community; it’s just this feeling that there are people, an abundance of people, who are in this together. Who are on your team. When the check is paid and you stay at the table” (rest of essay found here). Keagan gets at what we at Whitworth love to sum up as “community” when we try to calculate the meaning of our time here. But we really fail with that word.

The book is wonderful and I am very glad that I randomly picked it up, but that is not really the point. It goes beyond that. I felt very touched by these essays and short stories that were contained in this book. And it wasn’t simply the content of the stories. It was the fact that this author was not really that different from me. We were close to the same age and I am now in a similar position of graduating college and moving on to other endeavors. The sense of kinship I felt with this author was unnerving and especially heartbreaking due to her untimely death.

Rather than just being sad though, I came to a realization. Some of the work included in this collection that touched me so were probably written for classes. And that made me think of all the things that I have written for classes during my time here. I thought about the essays on Shakespeare written for Doug that I really gave up on at 2 A.M. I thought about the poetry assignment in Nicole’s Creative Writing class that I turned in after my first draft because I was pretty busy that week. I thought about how I copied twelve copies of postcards and turned them into a literary journal for Thom because I was terrified of having to use a computer to design a book.

I really did not put myself one hundred percent into very many assignments, and that made me incredibly sad. We always think of the future and how at some point we will get some “real” writing done. We will finally start that novel that will change the world. Or we will start that poetry project that will be so avant-garde that no one will like it, but they will respect it. But right now, on this campus, we have the opportunity to pour ourselves into our writings almost every day. We could knock that essay on Beowulf out of the park. Or that short answer essay on the final about Yeats could have some absolute truth contained within it.

If we try to thoroughly create with all of our writing who knows whom we might be influencing?

Jacob Millay (’16)  is an English Education major at Whitworth University. He is a master of consuming, whether that is the newest David Fincher film, the newest Death Cab for Cutie album, or his mother’s spaghetti. He wishes he had any plans for after graduation or for next weekend, but, alas, he has none.

This Whitworth Life 2014 Podcast Is Now Available

This Whitworth Life 2014

If you missed our This Whitworth Life reading last fall and you’ve been plagued with regret ever since, now your prayers have been answered. If you attended last November’s storytelling extravaganza and have wanted to relive the magic, those prayers have been answered, too.

A podcast of the event is now available here.

The event was a project of EL 347: Creative Nonfiction Workshop. Eight members of our campus community wrote and read stories about significant moments in their lives.
Topics include but are not limited to: jigsaw puzzles, introversion, campus tours, grits, comical-only-in-hindsight interactions with law enforcement, martyrs, PTSD, forgiveness.
Enjoy these stories by our 2014 cast: Katie Ferris (’15), Amanda Clark, Alan Jacob, Tim Grayson, Henry Stelter (’16), Amy Hendricks (’09), Laura Bloxham, and Helen Higgs.
Thanks also to our faculty panelists, Fred Johnson and Karin Heller, to Annie Stillar, and to the Fall 2014 students of EL 347.

 

 

2015 Poetry Contest Deadline is Monday, March 2

pine cone

Calling all Whitworth poets!

The deadline for the 2015 poetry contest is Monday, March 2, at 5 p.m. Submit your entries at the EL department front desk. Include your name and contact info on a separate sheet.

This year’s challenge is to write a poem of exactly 125 words. Three of those words must be pine, cone, and curtain.

Dr. Arlin Migliazzo, a professor in Whitworth’s history department, is our guest judge.

 

Congratulations to our 2015 Chapbook Contest Winners!

stull

Congratulations to Dana Stull (’16), the first-prize winner for the 2015 Chapbook contest, and to Annika Bratton (’18) for an Honorable Mention!

Dana (above) describes herself as one who “writes, reads, bakes pies, pickles and preserves, speaks goat, takes names, and is currently developing a stand-up comedy routine.”

Here’s what our guest judge, Daniel Bowman Jr., had to say about Dana’s manuscript, the girl who says nothing:

“I was a bit torn on this decision at first. the girl who says nothing in some ways lacks the range of some other manuscripts—an experimentation with styles, forms, lines and line breaks, and sound necessary as the true voices and chief concerns of young poets begin to emerge.

And yet…the girl who says nothing resounds with a maturity and sense of purpose beyond expectations. It is, quite simply, the one chapbook that haunted me long after I’d read all of them. These terse, focused poems left me no choice but to reckon deeply and personally with this girl who says nothing, and, by extension, with the terrifying distances between how things ought to work and the realities of our world.

The ‘incident reports’ are particularly effective. Told in an alarmingly clinical voice, they remind us how the stories of the most vulnerable are so often mediated—shaped and controlled—by those in power.

In addition, many individual lines reverberate despite the tight spaces of the poems: ‘she is crossing the small bridges/in me.’ Indeed. That image accounts precisely for the way this character, and these poems, get under your skin, how they disturb and finally transcend niceties on the journey toward truth.

The critic R.P. Blackmur wrote of poetry operating at a high level, noting how it ‘not only expresses the matter in hand but adds to the stock of available reality.’ the girl who says nothing has added a rich and subtly textured experience to my own stock of availability reality, and for that I am grateful.”

stull poem

Annika Bratton (’18) describes herself as “a first year student from Banks, Oregon, right between Portland and the coast. I am double majoring in Peace Studies and English and minoring in Environmental Studies. When I’m not studying or writing poetry, I enjoy dancing, hiking, going to the beach, and attempting to solve social justice issues. I am beyond excited to have received such an honor in this competition.”

bratton

On Bratton’s manuscript, Bowman states that “the poems in Becoming radiate with an attractive zeal, physicality, and longing. Though they sometimes risk abstraction, they nonetheless provide a space where joy and pain coexist in a creative tension.

I came to a nearly instant trust in the poet’s voice, which is clear, inventive, vulnerable, by turns earnest and ironic, but never dull or stilted. And the poems are consistently invitational; one becomes less a reader and more a participant: ‘Hold every echo in the cavern of your lungs,’ the poet bids us. The brand of partaking described in Becoming isn’t for the faint of heart—this poet is all in. And so was I.”

Here’s “Jewelry Boxes,” a poem from Becoming:

she wrung the light
out of a bulb
but not before a kiss of shattered glass
and chemicals.
children take longer to die
and less time to be alive
when mousetraps are baited with
hollow models and the expectancy
of manhood.
children
can’t see how many heartbeats
a day makes;
her heart
beat so much faster with
the light stuck in her palms.
she sewed a necklace from her teeth,
presented it to collarbones on one knee.
my heart can’t stop flashing traffic lights
so i had to uncap my brain.
listen.
the rocking chair can’t sway
the weather-vane
enough to birth some lightning,
but it keeps a kite in its lap
just in case.
she melted some crayons
for the waxing moon
and fingerpainted a new skyline
from all the blood in her mouth.
Thanks to Thom Caraway, Annie Stillar, the Whitworth Department of English, to all of this year’s contestants, and to our 2015 guest judge, Daniel Bowman Jr.
Daniel_Bowman_Jr_author_photo - large
Daniel Bowman Jr. is the author A Plum Tree in Leatherstocking Country (virtual artists collective, 2012) andBeggars in Heaven: A Novel (forthcoming 2015). His work has appeared in The Adirondack ReviewBooks and CultureThe CressetThe Midwest QuarterlyRio Grande ReviewSaint Katherine ReviewSeneca Review, and many other journals. A native of the Mohawk Valley in upstate New York, he lives in Hartford City, Indiana and is Associate Professor of English at Taylor University.
 

“Namaste” by Kevin Moore (’16): A Preview of This Whitworth Life

This Whitworth Life 2014

Please mark your calendar for This Whitworth Life: A Campus Storytelling event. The 2014 cast includes nine readers who’ll share their stories at 6pm on Friday, Nov. 21, in the chapel.

For a taste of what you’ll hear on the 21st, check out “Namaste” by Kevin Moore (’16):

Have you ever seen what happiness truly is? What absolute joy and contentment look like? I think I have. When I was a junior in high school, I had the opportunity to travel to India on a service trip over our winter break in early February. Oddly enough, I had applied for a summer trip to Africa, but the political situation in our destination at the time forced administration to divert applicants into the India trip. I was sixteen, and I had never been in the service field before. We flew from LAX to Dubai, and from Dubai to Delhi. We spent two days in Delhi—one for sightseeing, one for visiting three local churches and their Sunday services. I was amazed to see their passion for Christ in such a little space—rooms about the size of a Dixon Hall classroom. The next five days, after a day of travel, were spent at the North India New Life Boy’s Home, run by Pastor Varughese. It was there, among the teeming activity of the home, that I learned what joy looked like.

They received us with banners and a common Indian dinner consisting of rice, naan, curried chicken, and the wonderfully familiar liters of Pepsi. We shuffled about, unsure of ourselves, while dark faces and huge grins lugged our suitcases upstairs. We were specifically instructed to leave the baggage to the boys, who viewed it as their sacred duty. After the meal, we divided into rooms and collapsed exhausted into bed while mosquito candles burned, filling the air with a scented smoke that, thankfully, did its job. The week that came after was filled with equal parts work and play. We worked in and around the house, which I was told used to be a smaller scale training facility for the Indian Air Force. We painted, cleaned, organized, and overall did anything that the small staff could come up with. We spent time in devotional time with them, singing hymns in English and listening to the boys chorus together in Hindi. We visited the school they attended and spent time with all the kids there, organizing and playing simple games with large groups of the school’s uniformed students.

This aspect of their lives, the nature of their play, showed me what I believe and use today as a measure of human satisfaction. Back at the home, we played with a soccer ball. That is not to say we played soccer, which did occur enough for me to learn the breadth of the tenacity and energy of these children. But we played something much simpler. We stood in a circle and threw the ball to one another. That was it—the game in its entirety, and yet every boy in the circle was beside himself with joy to be part of that circle, to toss a decrepit ball barely held together by archaic stitches to friends both old and new. No rules, no remotes, no screens, no batteries, no assembly required. We stood together, smiled together, and tossed around an old ball together. We were happy.

 

Kevin Moore is a junior and an English major on the Writing track. Kevin enjoys sunshine, writing, aquatic activities, and any combination therein.

Song Of My Shelf

 

westminster book shelf

When you return to the hallowed halls of Westminster this fall, you’ll notice a fetching display of literary journals in the second-floor lounge.

Tin House, Poetry, Creative Nonfiction, Ninth Letter, American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, and other titles await you. Imagine drinking a cup of tea or a mason jar full of kombucha, sitting in one of those leather-ish chairs, reading some new poetry and prose. As if you needed another reason to be excited for the new academic year!

Coming soon: on the corkboard above the journals, we’ll have copies of recent publications by our own illustrious faculty! Good reads abound.

Alumni Update: Dani Douvikas (’14)

dani douvikas

“Not being the maker of what I do,/ but only the one who holds the pencil.” – Mary Oliver

 

Shortly after graduating, I decided to try embracing Eastern medicinal practices. My first thought was yoga. In my first gentle yoga class, I found the one thing that made me feel not only calm, but as if no external thing could interfere with that calm. It was truly amazing.

When I began practicing yoga, I found myself seeking huge sensations and more flexibility. But as the year went on and I kept practicing, I began to notice that the impulse I have had my whole life, to always demand more of myself, was slowly diminishing. I was beginning to relax. I think yoga has really helped my writing seem a whole lot less overwhelming. Through my time at Whitworth, I came to realize that poems sometimes start because we are moved by the words of another person, or an experience that someone chooses to share with us. So through this, you don’t actually have to do anything for the poem to come or happen. In the words of Laurie Lamon, “You don’t have to be brilliant.”

Emily Dickinson once said, “Beauty is not caused. It is.” I like to think of writing not as something I am actually creating myself, but something that comes from a whirlpool of elements. What I see, what I hear, voices I have read: this, to me, makes writing feel a whole lot less scary and intimidating. It also means that everyone is capable of it, which I find wonderful.

Over the past year, I put a few essays of mine aside that I had written in Thom Caraway’s autobiographical writing class. When I came back to these essays I was previously borderline-obsessed with, my ideas, reflections, and connections all began to flow so much more easily than before. I no longer felt like I was pulling teeth. Through this, I have found Thom’s words–to sometimes put writing aside for a few years and come back to it later–to be very good advice.

When I am not writing or practicing yoga, I teach an in-water fitness and stretch class for people with arthritis or arthritis-type ailments. It is truly fantastic to see my participants better themselves in ways similar to how I have learned to better my own self through yoga. I love challenging my participants and acknowledging their hard work and dedication.

And I get so overwhelmed when they come to me enthusiastic about feeling better and enjoying class. It is hard to believe I can actually call this my “job.”

But it can be hard work, just like writing is. Some of my participants hurt every day. It definitely is not always easy.

Although my job is very rewarding, I hesitate to call writing just rewarding. Writing is something different. Something I struggle to even begin to get on the page.

Lately when I pick up something to read, it is by a writer I have met or have gone to see at a reading, or know from taking a class of theirs. It just feels so much more personal that way. This is what I look most forward to as I work on my MFA. One of my favorite things about being a writer is receiving a poem from a student or a professor and wanting so much to expand or look further, or just feel plain happy about the new way they have caused me to look at the world.

Dani lives in the Bay Area where she writes, practices yoga, and teaches an in-water exercise and stretch class for people with arthritis. Her work has appeared in Santa Clara Review. She is pursuing her MFA at Saint Mary’s College where she is a recipient of the Chester Aaron Scholarship. She loves when people share writing with her. You can contact her at danidouvikas@gmail.com.