Marshall Hosts Visiting Writer’s Event

Poet Donika Kelly and essayist Mellissa Febos from the University of Iowa came as part of the A.E. Stringer Visiting Writers Series at Marshall University. Both were named finalists for the National Book Critics Circle Award. 

The writers read their selection of readings onstage at the Joan C. Edwards Performing Arts Center. 

Kelly read a handful of poems from both of her books Bestiary and Renunciations. Bestiary contained many mythological stories about characters from Greek mythology. Kelly said her reasoning for writing so much in that area came from being naturally drawn to it and it feeling right for her. 

When taking the stage, Kelly said that she felt nervous from the pressure, that it “doesn’t get old,” and that it had been a while since she had taken a stage. After fumbling some words during one of her poems, Kelly said, “told you I’m out of practice.”  

After Kelly read her chosen poems, she thanked her listeners for their attention and the noises and nodding she noticed while on stage. 

Febos picked some of her essays to read from her collections Abandon Me and Girlhood. Febos said she wanted to read these for the college audience as students could relate to them. She also mentioned that she had found herself on the floor crying while writing some of these, so she felt like they would be good for the college listeners. 

Febos told the audience that while writing some of these stories about her childhood, it made her think about who she used to be. “Sometimes, when you write about your childhood, you realize how weird you were,” Febos said. 

The writers of the evening filled the auditorium with not only prose and poetry, but also laughs and smiles with ideas and feeling that the two had shared over the time they have known each other. Febos began chuckling during an essay, as it reminded her of an impression Kelly could do of her eating a watermelon.  

Febos also said, “I joked this morning that I was six weasels hiding in a trench coat.” 

Rachael Peckham, a creative writing professor at Marshall and the coordinator of the event, introduced the writers during the event. She had been the one to reach out to Kelly and Febos to see if they would come to the university.   

“For eight months I held my breath, praying that the visit wouldn’t fall through in our present circumstances. All of this is to say, to be in a room with them, and with you, really is a flattering win,” said Peckham. 

 The writers thanked their listeners and those who had brought them to the school. Febos told the audience, “Everyone here is so nice. It’s disarming.”