Whitworth students host public reading

Words leapt from pages last Friday night as English students and faculty read poetry and prose at Boots Bakery & Lounge. The off-campus reading event hosted by Westminster Round is in its second year and attracted a large crowd that sat on chairs, benches, booths and the floor.

The reading began with senior Kyler Lacey and showcased close to twenty students and professors.

The off-campus reading is a way for Westminster Round to put on a more serious, formal event than Bad Love Poetry or Poetry & Pie, Westminster Round President Katie Cunningham said.

With English department faculty members Nicole Sheets, Fred Johnson and Thom Caraway reading, students were encouraged to put their best work forward.

“It’s kind of a nice, more adult type of reading, but it’s also not super serious,” Cunningham said.

Cunningham, whose responsibilities include sifting through emails, running Westminster Round meetings on Thursday mornings and attending both ASWU and English department meetings, thinks the club is good at connecting the department, students and Whitworth community.

Reading pieces aloud can be nerve-wracking to many students, but the off-campus reading provided a safe environment to get over this fear and become comfortable with performing what they have written.

Sheets admitted that she still gets nervous before she reads, even though she performs her work regularly and reads aloud when she revises pieces. To her, the nervousness is not purely a bad thing.

“It’s constructive to see when people laugh, and how the pauses sound in a piece,” Sheets said.

Sheets, who usually reads excerpts from longer essays, was also inspired by the variety of work performed at the reading. It’s a misconception that you can only read poetry at a reading, Sheets said.

Students performed a wide variety of original work at the reading. One creative performer was senior Josh Tuttle, who presented a how-to guide-esque description of how to go about entering a graveyard in the middle of the night.

The off-campus reading was freshman Lauren Klepinger’s first chance to read her work in a formal setting.

Most of the time, Klepinger prefers to write prose, but at the reading she performed two poems. Her prose narratives require more planning, and poetry is less planned, Klepinger said.

“I’m somewhat inspired because there are people here who are better than me, but I...can learn from them,” Klepinger said, about reading with other students and successful professors such as Sheets, Johnson and Caraway.

“I feel like I know them well even though there’s this whole ‘I would be afraid of them if I had read their bio before I had a class with them’ type of thing,” Cunningham said.

Through events like the various readings put on throughout the year, Westminster Round hopes to foster a community of fun in the English department and across campus. It also aims to show people that English teaches valuable practical skills, such as analysis, oral and written communication and persistence.

“[Westminster Round] makes the English department not merely just an academic department but kind of a social department—a department where you make a lot of friends and you feel really comfortable,” Cunningham said.

If you are interested in being involved in Westminster Round or learning more about their events, you can attend their meetings Thursdays at 8 a.m. at Le Petit Chat.

Courtney Murphy

Staff Writer

English faculty salvage problematic poetry reading

“As the wind rises,/your legs shake and you remember learning/that language has power. What need for fists,/in the face of such force?”  English professor Thom Caraway said in his original poem “Hard Wind, End of the Block,” which he presented as part of the English department poetry reading Monday, Oct. 6 in the HUB Multipurpose Room. Award-winning poet B.H. Fairchild had been scheduled last spring to read his work at the event, but he cancelled his trip to Spokane a week before the reading on doctors’ orders.

“Mr. Fairchild sends his profuse apologies,” Caraway said. “We send him our best wishes and prayers.” Caraway opened the reading with the first part of Fairchild’s four-part poem about prejudice entitled “Beauty.”

In an effort to salvage the long-awaited and highly publicized evening, the English department gathered a handful of local poets to read in lieu of Fairchild. Nicole Sheets, an assistant professor of English and Cathy Bobb, the wife of English professor Vic Bobb joined Caraway in the presentation of their original creative works.

Students, faculty and community members filled rows of chairs and tables in the Multipurpose room to hear the poetry.

“These are brilliant writers, and they’re part of our Whitworth community. It’s wonderful to come together and listen to their work,” associate professor of English Fred Johnson said. All three of the substitute readers have extensive bibliographies.

Thom Caraway reads original poetry. Simon Puzankov | Photographer

In addition to teaching alongside Johnson in the English department, Caraway is also the poet-laureate of Spokane. He read several poems last Monday, including “Hard Wind, End of the Block,” which is set in his own neighborhood in west-central Spokane. The poem examines the struggles of a father who has been court-ordered away from his family, and who shows up once in a while, ghostlike, to curse at them from the street until the police chase him away.

Sheets has had work published in a variety of journals including “Image” and writes a blog called WanderChic about travel, fashion and everything in between. She presented a piece of autobiographical prose in six parts dealing with her relationship with her mother, her perceptions of salvation and an orange kitten.

Bobb (photo above) recently received the Violet Reed Haas Prize for Poetry for her book, “Among the Missing.” She read a series of poems from the collection. Her poetry focused on loss; the death of her daughter and her struggles with mental health were foremost in her subject matter. Near the end of her reading she made a point to say how blessed she felt, in spite of the hardships she had faced.

Though the evening did not go as planned, Spokane’s tight-knit literary community turned out to support the event anyway.

“Even when things don’t work out we can still pull something together,” junior English major Nick Avery said.


Samantha Starkey

Arts & Culture Editor