Marshall professor featured in poetry reading at Empire Books

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Huntington’s Empire Books and News hosted live readings from local poets and writers, Marshall students and faculty Monday, Jan. 16.

The “Writers Can Read” open mic event featured guest readers Matt Morris, an award winning published poet from Huntington, and Sarah Chavez, a visiting professor of ethnic American literature and creative writing at Marshall who has also received an award for her published chapbook “All Day, Talking.”

Morris began the event by reading from his own selected works, starting with a poem titled “Grey Hills Beyond.” Afterwards, he read a sampling of his poems that ranged from dramatic to comedic and places in-between.

Chavez began her reading with a poem by Claudia Rankine, titled “from Citizen, VI [My brothers are notorious].” Chavez chose her poem in recognition of the holiday the event fell on, Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The choice of poem was inspired by Chavez’s use of it when teaching a graduate course in ethnic American literature.

“Reading it in whole and getting to talk about it with my students just helped me understand how impactful her writing style is on them, and so I felt like if it was that impactful for them as it is for me, then it maybe is one that would speak to a larger group of people,” Chavez said.

“One of the things that I teach in my workshops and also something that I use for myself as a writer is specificity,” Chavez said. “If you and I are going to both tell the stories of our Christmas day, it’s probably going to look very different. What you eat, who’s there, the kind of things you talk about, that’s all regionally specific.”

In her own poems, Chavez uses her own ethnicity to provide a frame for her work.

“When I read poetry when I was in college, I did not see myself reflected in what I was reading. So I wanted to reflect more of the sort of cultural reality that I experienced,” Chavez said.

As a professor for both creative writing and ethnic American literature, Chavez said presenting her own work at an event like this one is “very important.”

“I think that it shows community,” Chavez said, “that being a writer is not just you being in a room and being angsty. It’s about you making connections with other people.”

Chavez has an upcoming full-length collection, titled “Hands That Break & Scar,” that will be published later this year.

 

Austin Creel can be contacted at [email protected]

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