Award winning poet, Lynn Emanuel guest lecture: Spring Writers Series sponsored by Allan Hamilton Dickson Fund

On March 16, 2015, award-winning poet Lynn Emanuel visited campus as part of the English Department’s Spring Writers Series. The Spring Writers Series is sponsored by the Allan Hamilton Dickson Fund. As part of Emanuel’s visit, she served as a guest speaker in Dr. Mischelle Anthony’s Advanced Creative Writing, Poetry class. Students were able to submit poems to Emanuel a week before her visit. Submitting poetry afforded students the opportunity to have Emanuel offer comments which were discussed as part of Monday’s class workshop.

Offering comments and conducting a workshop are nothing new for Emanuel, who is a professor of English at the University of Pittsburg. In addition to teaching, Emanuel has also served as a poetry editor for the Pushcart Prize Anthology, a judge for the National Book Awards and a member of the Literature Panel for the National Endowment of the Arts. Emanuel’s qualifications do not stop there; students studying poetry have become familiar with her work from her four published books of poetry. Emanuel spent the class time leading group discussions which focused on the students’ submitted poems. The class began with Emanuel stating each of the students’ poems, “occupies a distinct voice with no cookie cutter format or copy-catting of each other or a favorite poet.” As the class and Emanuel discussed the works, the differing topics and varying styles lead to a wide range of topics being examined.

A major topic of class discussion focused on the revision process. As many authors find revising difficult, Emanuel cautioned “revision isn’t about dissolving a poem to sand.” Instead she advises the best way to revise can be to write a completely new poem. Each student received possible points of revision from Emanuel on their submitted pieces.

Students also conversed on the ideas behind imagist poetry. Emanuel described this type of poetry as, “Sometimes poetry does large things in small spaces.” Through work-shopping Emanuel expressed that when working with imagist poetry the concept focuses on employing sounds and images to draw a reader to conclusions about the work. Often imagist poems lack a concrete time and place as a traditional setting. Using specific lines from their classmates’ poetry, students offered comments on their beliefs of the ideas represented through the imagist poems.

The class visit offered students unique insight into an admired author as well as invaluable feedback on work from a professional. Junior English major Gabriella Romanelli summarizes the class experience by asserting, “It was very cool to meet someone whose poetry we read and especially to have her read our work.” She continues to elaborate on the students’ and Emanuel’s role reversal by praising, “She [Emanuel] came into class as someone who is extremely down to earth.” Students departed the class with insight into furthering their writing techniques as they travel on the road to becoming more experienced writers.