Poet reads on Jamaican background, gives advice to students

By Sam Miller, Staff Writer 

Poet Ishion Hutchinson read works from his poetry collections “Far District” and “House of Lords and Commons” in Stretansky Concert Hall on Nov. 13.

Hutchinson’s collections were published in 2010 and 2016, respectively.

Both of his collections contain many works about Jamaica, which is where he was born and raised.

Hutchinson has received many awards for his poetry, including the National Book Critics Circle Award of Poetry, a Whiting Writers’ Award, the Academy of American Poets’ Larry Levis Prize and the Guggenheim Fellowship for Creative Arts. He is also a contributing author for “The Common and Tongue: Journal of Writing and Art.”

While on campus, Hutchinson attended multiple classes to talk with students.

Attendees noted the opportunity to hear Hutchinson per- form his work, rather than just reading it from the page.

First-year Daniel Sellers said, “Hutchinson’s unique voice was already incredible on paper, but to hear him speak his words aloud gave each poem new meaning.”

“The rhythm of his verses almost felt like they had a life of their own and not to men- tion, he was funny,” Sellers continued.

Senior Shannon Wilcox noted that the pieces Hutchinson chose were a good length for the reading and were accessible to the audience.

“Sometimes the people that come to read have very good pieces, but it can be a little exhausting to listen to, because you really have to immerse yourself in it,” Wilcox said.

“Which is not a bad thing,” Wilcox continued. “It can just be exhausting, but nothing was too heavy or too light, like you were interested, but you weren’t too emotional.”

Wilcox also emphasized the value of having visiting writers come to Susquehanna and what they could provide for current students.

“I think not even just specifically this writer, but I think that one of the things that the writing students can get out of these visiting writers is a chance to be able to see what you can do with a writing degree,” Wilcox said.

“How you can improve your writing, how people present their writing, especially hearing how writing is written is more immersive than just reading it yourself because you can hear the author’s inclination and how they want things to be read,” Wilcox continued.

Other attendees also commented on Hutchinson’s thoughts and advice on writing for the students.

“At both the Q&A and the reading, Hutchinson was so insightful about the way we think about writing and the ways we embrace poetic craft,” said junior Ashleigh Tomcics.

Hutchinson currently teaches in the graduate writing program at Cornell.

He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of the West Indies, his master’s degree from New York University and his doctorate from the University of Utah.

According to Hutchinson’s biography on Poetry Foundation’s website, Hutchinson’s poems “interrogate landscape, measuring the elusive weight of colonial history.”

In a 2013 interview for American University’s Creative Writing Program’s blog “Cafe Americain,” Hutchinson said, “The landscapes in some of the newer poems are less autobiographical, less from the backhand of retrospect, I guess, and more a shifting concatenation of landscapes not yet arrived at.”

“i think this is a result of reading rather than actual travel,” Hutchinson continued. “I have been crisscrossing centuries, different existences, the rhythm and mode of other places and now it has woven a basket in my head. I am pulling the straws from that.” Hutchinson’s reading was the third this year as a part of the Seavey Reading Series. Previous participants included Joseph Scapellato in September and Claire Vaye Watkins and Derek Palacio in October. The next reading is scheduled for Susquehanna faculty Karla Kelsey and Silas Zobal on Nov. 27 in Isaacs Auditorium. Readings scheduled for later in the year are St. Martin’s Press executive editor Jennifer Weis on Feb. 6, author Aminatta Forna on Feb. 21, founder of the Writers Institute Gary Fincke on March 5, author Sayed Kashua on March 20 and Susquehanna alumnus Melissa Goodrich on April 16. Goodrich will be reading in conjunction with the launch of RiverCraft. Other magazine launches for the next year include Essay on Feb. 12 and Susquehanna Review on March 26.

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