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VOICES Reading: Jennifer Chang

On Oct. 26 at 8:15 p.m., St. Mary’s College of Maryland (SMCM) hosted the third installment of this semester’s VOICES reading series at Daugherty-Palmer Commons (DPC). The speaker was Jennifer Chang, the author of poetry books The History of Anonymity and Some Say the Lark, the latter of which was published earlier this month by Alice James Books.

Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in American Poetry Review, Boston Review, The New Yorker, A Public Space, and elsewhere, and as a scholar of poetics, ecocriticism, and modernism, she has published and presented work on the Harlem Renaissance, modernist pastoral, and Emily Dickinson’s global imagination.

Professor of English and VOICES coordinator Karen Anderson said in introducing Chang “Some Say the Lark is also a joyful book in its own quietly explosive way, a book about what I can only call love: for a friend, a parent, a partner, a mother and father, a material world that offers us its mixed miracles unsparingly.”

Chang read poems from both collections of her work, including “How to Live in an American Town”, “Dorothy Wordsworth”, and “The Winter’s Wife”, among others. The poet is interested in exploring emotions through the language of nature. She described her writing process as “entering into a space that is both weather and emotion”, a sentiment that is evident in her work.

Her work fared well with students in the audience. James Schmitt told The Point News that “I thought the reading was interesting due to the poetry’s mature themes. The poems about Wordsworth (“Dorothy Wordsworth”), Thomas Jefferson (“A Horse Named Never”), and fairy tales especially stood out.”

Another of her poems, “Obedience, or the Lying Tale”, drew inspiration from fairy tales. Chang recalled reading Grimm’s Tales with her son, describing the stories as “the place where you first learn about the cost of knowledge.” The poem explores the “dark truths” presented by the stories.

She finished the event with her poem “Sea Song,” joking that we should “pretend it’s called ‘River Song’.

Chang is a professor at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

The next VOICES reading will be on Nov. 16, and will feature Joy Castro. The reading will be co-sponsored by the Office of Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity, and will be followed with a question and answer session led by Kortet Mensah, associate vice president of diversity and inclusion at the College.

Student promoter Keith Packard urges students who are interested in gaining a deeper context for the VOICES speakers to reach out to Anderson prior to the event. Seats at the speaker’s dinner may be available for those who express interest.

All VOICES readings are hosted in DPC and are free and open to the public. To view the schedule for this semesters readings, visit http://www.smcm.edu/events/voices-reading-series/schedule/.

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