Poetry program highlights student, faculty work

By The Columbia Chronicle

By Tyler Eagle Contributing Writer

Columbia’s poetry program kicked off its annual reading series Sept. 19 at Stage Two in the 618 S. Michigan Ave. Building.

The readings highlighted the work of two poets, Jill Magi and Kenyatta Rogers, and drew a full audience of students from Columbia and other colleges. Both poets are currently visiting writers in the English Department.

Magi a professor at Goddard College in Plainfield, Vt. teaches two courses at the graduate level in the Columbia poetry program and advises graduate students on their thesis papers.

Magi owns and operates Sona Books and was named one of the most inspiring authors of 2010 by Poets & Writers magazine. She read from two different series of her work, one focusing on historical figure Ellen White and the women of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, and the other excerpted from her book “SLOT.”

“[My work] is about memorialization and how society remembers events,” Magi said.

Interacting with students in the poetry program is  the best part of being an instructor at Columbia, she said.

“I like that they’re [both] serious and humorous,” she said. “They seem very dedicated to making a community of creative

writers here.”

Some of Magi’s other published work includes “Torchwood,” “Cadastral Map” and “Threads.”

Rogers, who teaches three undergraduate poetry classes in the English Department, has also taught at Kent State University in Ohio and Chicago City Colleges.

A 2009 a nominee for the Illinois Arts Council Literary Award, Rogers began his reading with a series of unfinished poems about zombies, written during summer break.

His other works explored his relationships with women, both romantic and platonic, and some of his other life experiences.

His poem “I Found a Dandelion” is about his feelings when someone asks him about his work.

“Have you ever had someone ask you what your poem is about?” Rogers asked. “Never ask a writer what their poem is about! You’re supposed to read the poem and figure it out.”

Calvin Monsoon, a writer and junior biology major at Harold Washington College, said he enjoyed Rogers’ work.

“I like the fact that [it] is relatively easy to envision his words,” he said.

Rogers’ last poem, “I Am the Best Writer in the World,” was inspired by pro wrestling and won the crowd over with its humor.

“During the summer as I was watching [World Wrestling Entertainment], CM Punk made a comment about how he was the best wrestler in the world,” Rogers said. “I then decided to write the poem.”

English major Kate Glasgow said Rogers’ closing poem was her favorite.

“I like that his readings are just so varied in style,” she said.

Rogers said he likes how Columbia’s writing program is specifically geared toward poetry, a rarity at other institutions. He is also pleased that the college gives students the opportunity to practice their craft and meet published authors.

After the featured  poets finished, a poetry student gave a reading.

English major Patrick Samuel was selected to read his poem “Arsonist,” which, he said, “plays on the idea of the interior of the individual.”

Abigail Christian, a first-year student in the poetry program, helped coordinate the event. She said she appreciated hearing the professors read their own work.

“There are such great faculty [at Columbia],” she said. “Just being able to hear their work and their voice is great.”

Nicole Wilson, an alumna of the English Department’s graduate program and associate director of Creative Writing Programs, said she thinks the reading series is beneficial to Columbia students.

“It’s really good to have established writers to see how it is in the real world after undergrad and graduate programs,” she said.

The next reading in the series will take place Oct. 17 at 5:30 p.m. at Stage Two in the 618 S. Michigan Ave. Building.