Visiting poets read at the last Visiting Writers Series event of the semester

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Humor and reflection, comedy and narrative all graced the glass atrium of Drinko Library Monday as award-winning poets Gary Dop and Jill Khoury read from their bodies of work, as well as took questions from the audience and signed their books. The event was brought to Marshall through the A.E. Stringer Visiting Writers Series, and marked the series’ final reading event of the 2016-2017 school year.

Beginning the night’s readings was Khoury, who’s recently published volume, “Suites for the Modern Dancer,” was a collection of narrative poems centered on the fictional Rose Valley Psychiatric Hospital and its patients. Khoury uses her own disability, congenital blindness, to influence her writings.

Hailey Hughes, a senior creative writing major who introduced Khoury, said in her introduction that Khoury’s poems “give voice to the silent erasure and colonization of the disabled body.”

“Jill’s work really resonates with me,” said Hughes, who has spastic diplegia cerebral palsy.

“She really captures the spirit of the difficulty of living with a mental illness,” Hughes said, adding praise for the author’s language and specificity.

“You can only achieve those things when you truly are dedicated to your writing,” Hughes said.

Following Khoury was poet and performer Gary Dop, who read poems from his first collection titled “Father, Child, Water.”

Dop’s poems draw inspiration from his childhood, his life as a father, as well as his career as a professor at Randolph College, which inspired poems such as “Pothead Pete’s English Presentation” and “How to Pretend You’ve Read Moby Dick.”

The comedy in Dop’s poems was contrasted by his more contemplative poems, such as “A Brief Argument,” which tells a childhood story of a boy clumsily hunting a deer, which Dop recited at the beginning of his reading.

“I always start with a serious one, because it’s easier than to open up to humor,” Dop said.

When it comes to balancing between humor and seriousness, Dop said, “I think I write many more serious poems, but when it comes down to putting a collection together, I want a good amount of humorous work in there. I have this psychological hurdle I have to get over to give myself permission to write humorous work.”

Dop’s readings had no trouble spreading laughter across the fully-seated atrium.

“I write for a connection with people in the audience,” Dop said. “I’m regularly thinking when I’m writing, about moments like tonight. I love this. This is glorious.”

The experience was no less glorious for professor Sarah Chavez, who wrapped up her first year as director for the Visiting Writers Series.

“It’s been really wonderful,” Chavez said. “I got the opportunity to meet all these wonderful writers, and meet students who weren’t in my classes. I’ve loved it.”

Chavez began the night by reading a poem by Ire’ne Lara Silva in dedication to the author, who could not attend the event due to health issues.

For the Visiting Writers Series’ run next year, Chavez plans to “connect to bigger Hispanic Heritage Month events.”

“I also want to get writers from far-flung. People who wouldn’t normally be in West Virginia, while also celebrating local authors,” Chavez said, who noted the opening event for next year’s series would feature local talent.

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