EMU student Anthony Zick reviews both BathHouse readings from Fall semester (Laura Wetherington, Jill Darling, and Sara Williams from Sept. 28; Taylor Brady from Nov. 10):
BathHouse this Semester was in many ways, enjoyable, cohesive, and productive. First I would like to praise the specifics of its organization, I will say that the requirement of all Creative Writing (CW) students to attend is a smart and generous move of the CW faculty. Otherwise, unfortunately, half of the Sponberg Theater would be empty and the visiting authors would feel unappreciated. Also, Sponberg Theater is a good is good location being that it is near the center of EMU’s Campus and thus makes the walk about even for everybody. Additionally, the timing of the events were as good as they could have been at a college full of commuters Eastern. Since anything scheduled before 4pm is likely to interrupt with classes, it made sense to have the readings start around 5 or 6:30pm. And, of course, since many commuters come from an hour or more away, it was helpful to have the reading on a day when they were already on campus.
To broaden my review, the planning and programming of these events provided EMU students with a cohesive experience. Most obviously, Taylor Brady’s work was taught in at least some of the CW classes this semester, precisely to prepare for Taylor’s live presence at the BathHouse readings. Hearing an author live can make all the difference, especially for younger poets who are always in the hunt for mentors and real, available brains to pick for opinions. The Reading with Jill Darling, Sara Williams, and Laura Wetherington benefited CW students in that many students were already invested in them as their former or current teachers. Pathos really does make a difference in how we see a person’s work. That is not to say that their work was not so good without the pathos. It is only to say that the students are more likely to lend a generous ear to people who have been generous to them. I should also mention that Jill and Laura’s plan to read a collaborative poem was another good example of community. I wonder now whether they were reading their own lines or whether they read each other’s lines or some mixture of the two. Both of these readings stand as good models for community in literature.
In regards to the actual poets and poems, I am somewhat ignorant. I was not one of the students who studied the poems that Taylor Brady read in class, and I have never had a class with any of the EMU MA’s, so I was partially out of the loop. I know now that Taylor Brady’s poetry is the kind of poetry that needs to be read ahead of time, but I didn’t know then, so I did my best to catch a glimpse of what was being said. This is one suggestion I have for future readings. If the poet writes short and/or dense poems, I would put as many poems as possible online for students to study beforehand.
Another suggestion I have is in regards to the interests of the EMU CW community and to the larger EMU community. As with all Universities, EMU’s Creative Writing program has a distinctive flavor. In my experience it tends to be more experimental than other communities I’ve been around. That said, my professors accommodate different tastes to a reasonable extent in their classes. I would like to see this happen more with the reader series. Personally, I like experimental work, but I also like the poets who are more conversational and highly emotional (not sentimental of course). If we were to bring in poets like this, on an occasional basis, I believe that more non-CW students would come to readings and that CW students would get a new take on the possibilities of contemporary poetry. Take this suggestion with a grain of salt because I’ve only been at EMU since last Fall.
Even though I have said that EMU tends to be experimental, I will also say that it is very practical, in that, when you’re handing in a final draft, your work is your work. The teacher just wants to know that you are working hard and that you’re going through the process of learning what he or she is teaching you. I think this has been beneficial for me because I’m not great at all forms of writing. I try them out, but if I feel strongly led to something familiar, I don’t always hold back.