Mark your calendars! Richard Rankin Russel Lecture – 9.19.2017

63938 On September 19th, Whitworth University will be hosting Dr. Richard Rankin Russel to hear his lecture “Who Is My Neighbor?”: Leopold Bloom and the Parable of the Good Samaritan in Joyce’s Ulysses.” Dr. Richard Russel is a Professor of English at Baylor University, an esteemed scholar of modern Irish literature, and a published writer. He is internationally recognized for his books on Northern Irish playwrights and poets, along with books about writers such as Seamus Heaney and Michael Longley.

Dr. Russel even shares a part of his past with Whitworth English Department’s very own Dr. Casey Andrews!

Casey Andrews and Richard Russel first crossed paths in July of 2012. Both Dr. Andrews and Dr. Russel studied and traveled for three weeks in Northern Ireland as part of a travel seminar through the Corrymeela Organization. Whitworth Professor Casey Andrews describes Dr. Russel as being a “highly published scholar;” someone who can and has “had tea with amazing writers.” However, Dr. Russel’s focus on Protestant Theology in James Joyce’s writing is what excites Casey most about Richard Russel’s work.

Please join the Whitworth University English Department in welcoming and honoring this astounding scholar, speaker, and writer. The lecture will take place on September 19, 2017 in the Eric Johnston Science Building, room 233. Mark your calendars!

An Enchanting Interview with Awarded Poet Susanna Childress

By: Emily Church

Before Susanna Childress’ campus reading on April 6th, I accompanied her for lunch in Whitworth’s dining hall and a discussion about her writing. Knowing that Childress was an awarded, successful writer, based on the research I had conducted before my interview like any good interviewer should do, I was nervous as I waited, in anticipation, for Childress’ arrival with Thom Caraway. She has received an AWP Intro Journals Award, the Nation Career Award in Poetry from the National Society of Arts and Letters, a Lilly post-doctoral fellowship, and her first book, Jagged with Love, was awarded the Brittingham Prize in Poetry. She was everything I wanted to someday be and I couldn’t believe I was getting this opportunity to speak with her.

Susanna Childress is a delightful human being. Once our lunch began, discussion flowed smoothly and, for the first time in weeks, I felt at peace. In our short span of thirty minutes, we covered everything from humor in writing, the magic of public readings, and how different forms call to us at different points in our life.

To feel prepared for my interview, I visited Childress’ website in order to get an idea of her style of writing, since I hadn’t encountered it before. I listened to some audio recordings of Childress’ reading some of her poems and was immediately drawn in. I was amazed by her ability to talk about these difficult, dark subjects while making her audience laugh in the process. When I asked her about the inclusion of humor in her poetry, she told me that while she had thought of herself as a humorous person in her personal life, she had never thought of her writing as humorous until after poet Billy Collins picked her first book to be awarded the Brittingham Prize. She said, “he mentioned how humorous it was and appreciated how there was a lot of whit in it, and I was like what?” It is not in the process of writing, but in the experience of reading her work to the public that finding that humor becomes a priority.  She finds that even though she doesn’t try for humor in the beginning, predicting that if she tried to be funny it would “fall very flat,” she thinks it’s a necessary element for her readers. “I do tend to write about darker subject matter and it seems to me that people are willing to go someplace hard if you’ve invited them into something more humorous…they will cry with you if you make them laugh. If you just make them cry, then they’ll recent you. My goal for every reading to make them laugh before I make them cry.”

Amid our talk about making people laugh and creating time to write in her busy life, she mentioned how she was working on a book of essays with a small independent publisher. I was curious about how her inspiration and process for the essays differed from her process of writing poetry. For Childress, the form of the essay was what she needed in her life right now. She stated how “one of the reasons that I moved to prose was that the circumstances of my personal life required of me a different escape. The way that I was processing the grief and the transition was very dramatic, and in some ways traumatic, and I couldn’t step into the chaos of poetry.” She talked with me about how since she doesn’t typically write narrative poetry, her poetry involves making a lot of leaps and the following of your subconscious. While, in hindsight, she thinks that this process could have ended up being a kind of therapy, it was too much to handle at the time. “The length of the sentence gave me something more restful,” she said. “I felt like the things that were happening in my life were all very connected and I couldn’t make those connections in poetry.” She needed space and a different kind of structure. For me, this discussion highlighted something new about the different forms in writing that I had never thought of before. Sometimes, due to the content of your writing, one form, or genre, may seem safer or more useful than another, even if this new form is different from what you’ve done before. I was amazed and I was inspired.

One piece of advice from Susanna Childress that is pertinent to young writers is the idea that in making time for writing, you will then want to write more. She said we, as students, should be rejoicing in the fact that right now writing is part of required assignments that need to be completed. Through juggling working full time and having small children, Childress understands the importance of those hours that she is able to dedicate each week to write. In creating a discipline for yourself, Childress said, “the discipline feeds the desire. By making time, you’ll want to make more time to write. Building that discipline is difficult, but could be worth it.”

So, keep reading. Keep writing. And go ahead and thank your wonderful English professors for assigning all those essays and workshop pieces. Plus, also thank them for convincing Susanna Childress to come visit our campus.

 

Emily Church (’17) is a graduating senior and the current managing editor of the blog. She is majoring in English Writing, as well as Sociology, with a minor in psychology. She enjoys hiking, discovering new writers, attending AWP, editing, and the prospect of working with juveniles after graduation. 

The Art in Sound, the Sound of Art: Susanna Childress’ Campus Reading

By: Kalani Padilla

Before I talk about Susanna Childress and her poetry, I want to dwell for a moment on the venue.

I still take a lot of (undeserved) pride in the 1.5 semesters I endured as a music major. I sympathize with the struggles of friends now braving upper division theory and ear training classes; I criticize this melodic line or that chord, this translation or that key change; I monopolize the Lantern for long study hours and leave highly-trained musicians to use the lounge just outside the bathrooms. Even before non-music majors, I pretend to qualify as an honorary. After finding out Susanna Childress would be reading in the recital hall, I told people they should “come early,” recalling my own memories of the room being full to overflowing with hosts of loving peers, and hordes of procrastinators (trying to get their last three required recital hours all on one night).

The recital hall is a special place, but when I pushed through the door, I immediately started to prickle with past anxieties. I was remembering all the tears I’ve seen shed— all the tears that I’d shed—in that room as a voice student. Though seeing the room filled with people from my new home department made me feel protected, I also felt like a traitor and a coward. So you’re back, I felt the room say, what are you here for? What are you here as?

And yet, I was given, by Susanna Childress’ performance, the audacity to answer both. Childress’s poems, (and the kind voice with which she gave them) were open invitations to each of us to share in her joy and vulnerability. Her confessional and inquisitive writing compels us to identify with all these jagged notions of love, from the viewpoint of child, father, wife, stranger, daughter. These were poems about the physicality of solitude, the familiarity of strangers, the predictability of intimacy. Poems about learning to embrace that which could cut you. Poems about worlds small enough to cradle like a bird. Poems infused with the laughter and tears that inspired them.

And when she sang, when she sang! I feel like we’re so selfish as audiences, to be projecting our own sorry images onto those brave enough to take the stage. But it happens. I closed my eyes and remembered what it was like to give the gift of my voice without the assurance of it being accepted. Speaking with her after her reading, she laughed when she stated that she wasn’t a trained singer, and I marveled to myself about the journey in-between that, and the stack of fully produced albums to her left. Here was Susanna Childress, boldly demonstrating to us that art is loving the things you’ve created so much that you must share them—even when, and especially when it makes you vulnerable.

This morning I listen to a song cascade from the Lantern’s grand piano down to Main Street, with Childress’s Jagged With Love open on my lap. From here I know the quietude, the turbulent grace, and honest longing of art, and that the sound of the heart is equal parts poetry and song.

Kalani Padilla (’19) is a student of English, Theology, and Film & Visual Narrative at Whitworth University. She is also involved in the music program as a singer and Campus Worship leader. Most of all, Kalani is a proud kama’aina, inspired in all things by the people, culture, and Creator of her home in the state of Hawai’i.

Thursday April 6th: Come to the Susanna Childress Poetry Reading!

Join the Whitworth University English Reading Series in welcoming poet Susanna Childress.

The reading will take place in the Cowles Music Building in the recital hall at 7pm.

Her most recent book, Entering the House of Awe, was publish by New Issues Press, and won the 2012 prize in poetry from the Society of Midland Authors. Her first book, Jagged with Love, was awarded the Brittingham Prize in Poetry from the University of Wisconsin and the Devil’s Kitchen Reading Award from the University of Southern Illinois-Carbondale. She has received an AWP Intro Journals Award, the National Career Award in Poetry from the National Society of Arts and Letters, and a Lilly post-doctoral fellowship. She lives in Holland, Michigan.

 

The Harvest Party: Following Rule #4 of Being an English Major

By: Jordin Connall fall-dog

I know, I know, you’re all wondering “but I don’t like going places” and I understand that really I do, but the things is, you will one hundred percent not remember that night you stayed home and got an early start on your weekend homework. Take, for example, the recent harvest party put on by Westminster Round. There was poetry and games and tons of random food stuffs to nibble on (and/or feed to the tiny wizard your have hidden in your hoodie pocket). Was it awkward at first, of course it was.

We’re English majors for crying out loud, we were born awkward and uncomfortable. But we do not stay that way, once we get enough sugar in us and someone breaks out spooky Halloween poetry, everyone loosens up and really interesting academic and non-college-student-fallacademic conversations occur. It’s very easy not to go anywhere on your friday night, but as I’ve said before you definitely did not stay up with your roommate talking about Advanced Calculus (or whatever horrid torture device you prefer).

English parties are relaxed and fun and give you the opportunity to meet new people with whom you will be sharing classes for the next four or so years. They are havens to develop and find your very own discourse communities of like-minded individuals. Even if you’re not an English major, and I pity those of you that aren’t, you can come and talk about books, or movies, or your secret desire to learn unicorn husbandry (see John Pell for more information). All I’m suggesting is that you try it a few times, you might like it.

Who knows, you could end up accidentally forming an English karaoke band an hour and a half after the party was supposed to be over.

Jordin Connall is a Senior English Major. Her hobbies include: long walks on the beach, making baked goods, taking long walks on the beach with baked goods, and interpretive macaroni art.

Pursuing Interest: A Conversation with Dr. Solveig Robinson

By Kristin Bertsch

I hoped that the large cup of coffee in front of me on the lounge table would be a casual excuse for my jitters. I waited for Dr. Robinson to come from her hotel to our little interview room, and every minute past 10:45 was a reassurance that maybe I wouldn’t embarrass myself in this interview. Maybe a department professor had detained her, or maybe she was caught up in preparing for one of her presentations on campus. After two minutes, Dr. Robinson came in, and after introductions shuffled her backpack onto the floor across from mine, and sat tall on the couch opposite me. She cupped her hands in her lap and leaned forward, and we both shifted a little in our seats. Then she gave me earnest eyes and said:

“I’m really glad there aren’t lights and cameras in here. I was so scared. This was the most intimidating thing on my schedule today.”

I was both relieved and amused to know that I was not alone in my anxious anticipation of our conversation. Dr. Robinson had come to Whitworth to give a lecture on her work in publishing and Victorian women’s literature, which culminated most recently in her project on “Victorian Women’s (Publishing) House work: Gender and Cultural Authority in Nineteenth Century Britain.” She had been visiting classes and giving presentation about her areas of expertise. She is an expert in her field, and a highlight of her department at PLU. But sitting across from me talking about the process of research and writing, she was speaking as a student immersed in the thrills and anxieties of a new intellectual pursuit.

“Research is always overwhelming, until something clicks. I try to show my students by example how to channel their own curiosity and interest into materials and topics. It may not be apparent that things connect or even really matter until you approach a topic as a matter of your own interest.”

And Dr. Robinson knows how to explore and make things connect. Her two areas of expertise, the history of the book and Victorian literature, seem to be placed along parallel but separate tracks of English. But during her 36 years in academia, she found a way to intertwine and give direction to both of her academic interests.

“I’m interested in the way books work as a way of giving voices, and how the publishing and print culture works as a way of mediating and curating those voices.”

That sort of intersectionality of interests in something Whitworth English majors recognize and aspire to. Choosing a track and curating a class schedule inevitably means that certain classes are left out, certain projects left undone, certain interests negotiated out of the plan to make room for others. Saying yes to one direction often means saying no to valuable others. And this is something Dr. Robinson sees as a problem for young scholars.

“Among my students, I see this paralyzing fear of specialization. They worry that by choosing to pursue one interest or project, they are forced to give up their curiosity and interest in other things. And that is really counterintuitive to what a liberal arts education is meant to be.”

I asked Dr. Robinson what she saw as being the most valuable asset of a liberal arts education from a university like Whitworth or PLU.

“I knew I wanted to work at a small liberal arts institution because that would be a place where I could explore. The faculty and the students embrace intersecting interests and interaction among projects, and I knew I wanted that freedom.”

Dr. Robinson’s advice for students is to feed as many interests as they can, and to let their interests feed each other.

 

Kristin Bertsch (’17) is a Senior English major at Whitworth. Kristin has studied English abroad in Britain and Ireland, most recently for a semester at Oxford University in spring of 2016. In addition to her studies and contributions to the English Department blog, Kristin works as research assistant to English faculty, as a conference assistant to Communications faculty, and as archiving assistant to Library Director and Art Professor Dr. Amanda Clark. Kristin is an active supporter of local art and theater and a frequenter of Spokane Poetry Slam.

Upcoming Event: Greg Wolfe Lecture and Discussion

Wednesday, Feb. 10 at Whitworth University, Lied Center for the Visual Arts Room 102

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Greg Wolfe, founder and editor of Image Journal, the big kahuna in the faith/art/literary magazine world, and author of “Beauty WIll Save the World: Recovering the Human in an Ideological Age,” will being giving a talk on beauty, art, and faith followed by a Q&A with Professor Thom Caraway. He has been called “one of the most incisive and persuasive voices of our generation” (Ron Hansen). He will be available after the discussion for a book signing session.

Make plans to attend!

“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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Applying for a job, internship or grad school? Learn what makes your resume, cover letter or curriculum vita effective!

Let the Whitworth Composition Commons help you out!

WCC Post

Join the Whitworth Composition Commons on November 5 from 6-8 in Weyerhaeuser 111 to get information, tips and feedback on your resumes, cover letters, or curriculum vitae

 There will be snacks and a guest speaker to talk about what separates good resumes from the rest. Most importantly, the event is FREE!