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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The power of poetry

Joseph Gidjunis JPG Photography
Sarah Blake at a photoshoot for a publication (Photo courtesy of Sarah Blake).

Local poet visits St. Joe’s as part of reading series. 

Sarah Blake, an established local poet, visited St. Joe’s on Feb. 22 as part of a mini-reading series tour from her most recent publication, “Let’s Not Live on Earth,” along with her ode to Kanye West, “Mr. West,” released in 2015.

Each year, the department of English hosts a variety of writers who are writing in different genres to expose the St. Joe’s community to various styles of creative art.

Past literary works include a one-woman play, detective-fiction, and an upcoming visit later in the semester from an author who writes both fiction and non-fiction work. Though funding makes it possible to primarily host local writers, the department usually brings in one writer from out of state.

“Let’s Not Live on Earth” explores more complex questions than simply, “If an alien ship came to Earth, would you get on?” Blake uses unique and raw language to capture the dangers that are faced by humans, especially women, while showing the readers it can be possible to fight through anxieties and adversities.

The publishing of “Mr. West” was far from easy. Following a year of research about West, the media and its representation of pop culture, this groundbreaking work revealed though we are often drawn to celebrities because of their status, we’re also drawn to aspects of their private life and share an emotional connection breaking barriers of gender and race.

Despite majoring in math throughout her undergraduate career, Blake always knew she had a passion for the arts, especially poetry.

“My mom taught at this small school that had a poet in residence, so she would go to all the different grade levels and do projects with the classes. When I was in fifth grade, she came and did a project and I wrote my first poem and that was amazing to me,” Blake said. “My parents didn’t really know much about poetry, so they got me a book of Dickinson, a book of Plath and a book of Elliot, so that was kind of my introduction.”

As Blake continued in her education, her parents encouraged her to also consider more pragmatic options for future financial stability, and while she understood this, her love for poetry and literature continued to grow each day and eventually became her life.

Melissa Goldthwaite, Ph.D., professor of English, works behind the scenes to ensure that each event is diverse and allowing students to have a deeper appreciation for the arts. Blake was recommended by Ellie Stanford, an adjunct faculty member in the English department.

“When I’m organizing, I’m interested in who other people recommend. Sometimes we’re able to link things to a particular class, and so sometimes a writer will come into a class, for instance Alan Drew went to Dr. Kersti Powell’s detective fiction class,” Goldthwaite said.

In addition, Goldthwaite explained taking notice of authors who had recently published a new work for the reading series. In doing so, this allows the author to be exposed to a larger audience in sharing their newest publications, as well as sharing the art of public reading.

“We definitely encourage students who want to be writers or who are taking writing classes to come to public readings because almost anyone who is a writer or is going to be a writer, you need to at some point read in public,” Goldthwaite said. “Especially with poetry, you can gain a different understanding by hearing the work aloud and it also gives people an opportunity to meet a writer in person and if they’ve read that person’s work before, it can be especially exciting.”

Gabriella Frangipani ’18 was among the students who attended Blake’s reading and walked away with a further appreciation for writing.

“I was particularly interested in the poems about Kanye West and intertwining her own life and experiences with his,” Frangipani said. “Hip Hop, paparazzi, and media are typically things that English majors are told to shy away from when writing or are not really prominent as topics among writers, so I really enjoyed the way that she interjected herself and her very different experience into his.”

Regardless of age or future occupation, Blake explained the power words hold and what it means to take time to write for yourself.

“I hope that people just keep writing,”Blake said. “I started teaching these creative writing courses at the College of New Jersey at a very introductory level, and there were a lot of students who would come and tell me they never wrote something purely for themselves and not for an assignment,” Blake said. “I forget there are people who don’t sit down to just write for themselves, and it’s just wonderful. It feels good.”

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