“My first serious writing project was a comic strip in third grade about my hamster, Speedo. I’ve always liked writing little stories and things,” junior Dana Stull said. Although she has moved away from comics, Stull still writes. She is the assistant poetry editor of Rock & Sling, Whitworth’s national literary journal and majors in English on the writing track. Her chapbook—a small collection of poetry, often with fewer than 40 pages— “the girl who says nothing,” won Whitworth’s chapbook competition this year and will be published in a limited run.
It was after a creative writing class her freshman year that Stull found herself drawn to writing as a serious discipline. Stull then began working with Rock & Sling, which she credits with teaching her how to write and discuss poetry.
“[There], it mattered that you looked carefully at things and considered what was happening and [put] personal preference aside," Stull said. "That’s when, I think, it shifted from like, ‘reading poetry is kind of fun and neat’ and ‘I took a poetry class in high school’ to it being a serious field of study.”
There have been opportunities at Whitworth that she may not have encountered at other schools, Stull said. She comments that it is special to be in a town with a thriving literary scene where people are creating a community of writers. She has worked with professors here, especially Thom Caraway and John Pell, who have inspired her and shaped her understanding of what it means to be a poet.
“They’re all great … I would say especially Thom … and I think John Pell too [because] I think developing a rhetorical foundation is actually really important when you’re looking at and writing poetry, and critically that has helped and influenced me,” Stull said.
Stull is invested in what poetry writing means, noting common misconceptions that students often have about the craft. She says that the study of poetry is more intellectually rigorous and applicable to other areas of study than people may generally believe.
“I think in general … poetry just has this weird aura. [The perception is] you can’t talk about poetry because it’s just the way that people feel … [but] just looking at all of the things you should be learning about writing in college, like, the argument [and] the audience you’re writing to … you learn all of those things in a poetry class, and I think that’s useful,” Stull said.
Stull says that she does not necessarily have a preference for a genre of writing or any particular subject that she draws inspiration from.
“I just like writing things,” Stull said. “I think there are things I end up writing about more than things I like writing about.”
In “the girl who says nothing,” Stull focuses on her experience working in a childcare program with a 6-year-old girl who was selectively mute. After the program lost funding and closed, ending Stull’s relationship with the girl, Stull began to write about her observations.
Stull has not decided on her definite plans post-graduation, but hopes to incorporate writing and editing into her future work.
“I think I would really like doing the things I am doing now," Stull said. "I really enjoy the editorial process.”
Stull’s chapbook will be published in a short run this semester, but selected poems from the work can be read below.
the girl who says nothing
needs to sit at the table
with everybody loud and stacking
cheese squares that are for snack
that need to be eaten or
at least given a no-thank-you
bite or no leaving the table no
moving on to blocks, if
Fuzzy eats it does not count
because he is pretend
and does not have a real throat
The girl who says nothing
cannot hit the ground with her fist,
it can mean all different things
it is not the way we use our hands
our hands are not our words
incident report #3
child & Fluffy brought cardboard fort and reading lamp into bathroom & plugged lamp in & went (w/ lamp) into fort & told to keep the fort & lamp in the classroom & made a choice to not listen & locked the door & the assistant teacher says she listened for a while & heard voices coming from the inside & we want a safe space for her to talk but not here & not alone