This Week: Poetry in the Pub

On Wednesday, the English Department will host its first annual Poetry in the Pub. The event will take place in Founders at 6:30 p.m. and feature an open mic, allowing students to read some of their own poetry.

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As always, English majors can earn colloquium credit, and free pizza will be provided.

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“‘Speak Your Truth, Sis!’: The Lived Experiences of Women of Color” Shades of Pearl Symposium Reflection

Last weekend, Shades of Pearl hosted the “‘Speak Your Truth, Sis!’: The Lived Experiences of Women of Color” symposium. Hear a recap of the event from one of the presenters, senior Atolani Ladipo.

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During the weekend of March 30th, I had the opportunity to be a part of Shades of Pearls’ “‘Speak Your Truth, Sis!’: The Lived Experiences of Women of Color” Race, Class, Gender & Sexuality Symposium. This is the first of its kind at Wittenberg; a one-day event that allowed women of color to share their truth. At least that’s how I took it.

I participated in this event by speaking on a panel about identity crisis/politics being a black woman of Nigerian descent, and also sharing three poems from a collection I’ve been working on titled “Ivory & Iron: Poems that Explore African Diasporic Womanhood.” It was a no-brainer for me to send in a proposal to perform at the symposium—this was something I wasn’t aware I had been waiting for during my four years at Wittenberg.

As this is my last semester at Wittenberg (unbelievable), I’ve been thinking long and hard about my future and what I want my next steps to be. It might be public knowledge now because of the symposium, but I have aspirations to be a published author of both novels and poetry. However, this was something I didn’t really share with a lot of people outside my friend groups. However, I’m taking an activism in poetry class with Dr. Kate Polak and it’s really allowed me to hone in on social justice issues important to me (not discounting the others), and write poems on them.

Playing with different forms and emulating other poets’ works birthed my “Princess of Yoruba” poem. For this poem I drew inspiration from the Yoruba oral tradition of Moremi Ajasoro, a Nigerian woman who had to sacrifice her son in order to save her people from the neighboring enemies. In this poem, I was working with motherhood, sacrifice, beauty and I wanted it to start a conversation about a black mother’s sacrifice.

My other two poems, “Ivory and Iron” and “The World Ended” dealt more with the black female body and the precarity of black childhood. I worked on these two poems outside of the class on my own and with a few others, my collection started forming itself. For the collection, I wanted the common focus to be the many complex issues that exist within the African diaspora and how they affect black people, especially black women. Colonialism, slavery, motherhood, and sacrifice are some of the major motifs (especially in the poems I presented) but my hope is to combat issues of colorism, animal abuse/degradation, poverty, and immigration—just to name a few.

Leading up to my performance, I was pretty nervous. I’m not one to shy away from standing in front of a crowd—I love the attention, I can’t lie—but this one was a whole ‘nother ballpark. For one, I’d never performed poems and two, I didn’t know what the outcome of speaking on things important to me (and which would affect me as well) would be. And I invited a lot of people to come out, even though I was jumpy. Working with Dr. Polak, Dr. Sha’Dawn Battle, and Dr. Kim Anderson and having run-throughs with other performers helped alleviate some of my anxiousness. Funnily enough, I think I had stressed so much about it that when the time came to get up in front of everyone, all I felt was composed and ready. My friend had helped design a beautiful pamphlet with my poems on it, my roommates sat through countless read-throughs, and my friends/family were relentless in their encouragement. The outpour of support was immense, and I was super grateful for it.

I didn’t just perform my poems, I was also a part of a roundtable discussion which was titled, “Where Does My Name Come From?: Identity Crises of People of Color” where we discussed our experiences being women of color from West Africa and having to mold our identities to the culture in America, starting with our names. This powerful conversation was thought up by my friend/roommate and I’m so glad—and honored—that I was able to discuss my own experiences having to grow up in America and not be called by my first name because it was “difficult” to pronounce. I love both my first and middle name, but I didn’t realize how much I preferred being called “Atolani” until my mom started calling me “Victoria” because everyone around us was. That’s when I knew I had to reclaim back my first name.

When our roundtable discussion ended, we actually had a few people from the audience (including a professor) share some experiences struggling with their cultural identity and that was the most moving part for me. We’re all facing some kind of battle and there’s healing in sharing your story with others, especially those who personally understand.

Needless to say, it was an amazing, important day; the symposium had received a warm reception from both students and faculty at Wittenberg and visitors alike. Wittenberg definitely made a turn for the better and I hold out hope that with more symposiums in the future to come, more people will be open to accepting that there is not one life to live and one story to tell. I don’t think I’m speaking for myself when it felt like us black women felt visible, and not in a bad way, even if it was just for one day. It’s not a feeling I’ll let go anytime soon.

Here are the three poems that Atolani read during the symposium.

“Ivory and Iron”

To poach the tusks from my face is to rid me of my worth.

To leave me in the stranded safari depleted of my crowns of glory,

is to ignore my hemorrhaging iron on this metal table. You see,

I’ve just given birth to another one of my kind’s own—no one

has cut my umbilical cord, yet there was no hesitation in taking

my ancestor’s ivory. My pain is immeasurable, yet they’ve been

taught to think unhinged pleasure is the thing arching my back

into a bridge, the promises of gold residing on the other end.

Ridden, I take many on a journey through the sands of time

but once again my story is neglected; the last one to be told.

Eternally silenced until a moan reverberates from deep inside my gut

because I can no longer take it anymore. Now they think

I’m mourning—I’m the one about to die! body temperature

dropping like the value of my stolen goods; I’m not so

limited anymore. Soon enough, you’ll be able to check the

Black market but only after I close my eyes and release a sigh

of essence into my newborn—only! because you decided to save

their life, instead of mine. Here I am, this is how

you’ll find me: ivory tusks and iron blood.

 

“The Princess of Yoruba”

My mother never would’ve been beautiful in peace

suitors amassing at her father’s door at the

peak of dawn

up until the remnants of light disappeared.

Yet the sun stayed on her skin

butter melting cocoa

caressing her silhouette like a lover.

Who was her king

in the realm of a fortress that exalted and believed

in her sacredness?

She mounts an onyx steed who molds himself

to fit her growing legs and they are formed,

an àkùré that is all black and equates

harmony

moving to one accord

each step sending tremors

and ripples through the earth

as they glide

until she is trapped in a monsoon

awakened by the moon.

She spoke life into

existence

wishes granted by a

burning star, invisible orisha

she was not vain

yet her father sang his gospels.

Mother stop screaming

Mother stop screaming

Mother stop screaming for I am your greatest sacrifice

a prince who descended from the heavenly caverns.

She is

crystal and ivory and dirt

made from minerals

of an earth that could not sustain

the naturality of her

treasure.

 

“The World Ended”

The world ended

the day the white man planted

his feet in our ivory dust, sword

refracting the inverse rainbow

forged in the sky. Tears of ice

shattering my mama’s ebony

cheeks, eyes sharp like stones

piercing my fetal heart—

I was just but a child. Mayhem

rolled in the forms of clouds

the color of iron, the scent of ire

a tasteless clash against the blue

which never ended but spanned

over the seas and the trees—

what corruption! Daddy whose

skin a shadow of the darkness

that just arrived, wrapped

his thick fingers around his war

spear tightly, the same way he

curled them around my mama’s

breasts and growled, predator

that he was. Prey that he is.

Splayed in ashes, deepred cascades

from the waterfall in his chest

the same way brightred trickles down

my legs—I was no longer a child.

Screams echoed by the birds

snakes lions never heard before

and visceral ragged coughs

choking on air-blood-helplessness

louder than the ticking bomb in

my chest; a sudden explosion in

the exterior followed by fire burning

water, sorcery. Black bodies floating

like feathers to the grains of our

abundant land and one after another—

my brethren never stood a chance.

I was just but a child when the world

ended.

The Winners of the 2019 Literary Awards

Yesterday evening, professor Dr. Lori Askeland announced the winners of the 2019 Literary Awards to a packed Founders Pub. Afterwards, SAGE Co-Presidents Lexi Gallion and Jenn Ryan presented English Department faculty with superlative awards.

Scroll below for a list of winners and superlatives. Congratulations to all of our winners!

Ostrom Expository Awards:
English 101 Prize: 1st Place – Katie Slyh
Sophomore Prize: 1st Place – Breann Webb, 2nd Place – Aliza Johnson, 3rd Place – Emily Schinker
Junior Prize: 1st Place – Samantha Reynolds, 2nd Place – Clay Waidelich
Senior Prize: 1st Place – Kim Estenson, 2nd Place – Sierra Sanchez, 3rd Place – Victoria Ladipo

Creative Writing Awards:
Poetry: 1st Place – Nikki Howard ’20, 2nd Place – Emily Schinker ’21, 3rd Place – Reese Harper ’20
The Sherwood Anderson Prize for Fiction: 1st Place – Kim Estenson ’19, 2nd Place – Jenny Larrick ’20, 3rd Place – Emily Schinker ’21
Non-Fiction Prose: 1st Place – Jenny Larrick ’20, 2nd Place – Hannah Reynolds ’19, 3rd Place – James Hagerman ’20
Playwriting/Screenwriting: Tie for 1st Place – Sophie Reutter ’20 & Sierra Sanchez ’19, 3rd Place – Reese Harper ’20
The Lester S. Crowl Creativity Award: Samantha Reynolds ’20

Professor Superlatives:

Dr. Kate Polak: Most Likely to Interrupt Class for a Meme

Dr. Lori Askland: Most Likely to Have a Cozy and Inviting Office

Dr. Sha’Dawn Battle: Most Likely to Have Her Students Face Off in A Rap Battle

Dr. Michael McClelland: Most Likely to Wear a Joutfit (Jean Outfit)

Dr. Robin Inboden: Most Likely to Rant About Keats

Dr. Cynthia Richards: Most Likely to Quote Love Poetry that You Wouldn’t Send to a Valentine

Dr. Scot Hinson: Most Likely to Throw His Office Phone Out His Window

Dr. Kim Anderson: Most Likely to Compare Tattoos with Her Students

Dr. Rick Incorvati: Most Likely to Be in a Kickin’ Rockband

Dr. Michael Mattison: Most Likely to Teach a Class that Counts as “Academic Hazing” (English 242)

Prof. D’Arcy Fallon: Most Likely to Hear Her Laugh Out in the Hallways

Christina Reynolds: Most Likely to Have Her Shit Together

Saying Goodbye: Courtney Eden, ’19

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When I first became an English major my freshman year, I only had the goal to become a bestselling author. As time progressed, I decided to pick up an education minor so I can be a middle school and/or high school English teacher. This major has shaped me to be an advocate of the Language Arts and to teach the one thing I am very passionate about.

The one professor I will always go to for advice, and who has shaped me, would be Dr. Scot Hinson. He was the first English professor that I had a pleasure of learning from. Each English professor has their topic that they are more interested in, and Dr. Hinson was the one professor I was able to connect more to.

I can’t choose a specific book, but I love the author Octavia E. Butler. I have always loved science fiction, but she has definitely changed my perspective of many different topics. I have read so many different alien sci-fi stories, but this one was very interesting with the interaction between humans and aliens. It makes me wonder if aliens are real and how they would interact with us. After reading Dawn, I couldn’t help but keep reading all that she has written to continue analyzing her works.

My advice to new students is: don’t be afraid to question your professors. They may be scholars in the area, but if you find a different meaning in a text that you can argue, go for it with passion; they have been in your shoes! Don’t be afraid to ask for advice! Your time here at Wittenberg will go too quickly, and as a senior, you won’t know where all your time has went.

I plan on going into work right away once I get my teaching license. I hope to be in a high school setting since that is where I seem to thrive more in, but I am applying for junior high positions as well.

Saying Goodbye: Atolani Victoria Ladipo, ’19

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As corny as it might sound, becoming an English major truly changed my life. When I declared the major, I was coming into the English Department with only two English classes under my belt, one of which was English 101. However, I am so glad I took the plunge because every English class I have taken has taught me something valuable that I will cherish for the rest of my life. The professors also really care about each and every one of us and it shows in their passion to spread the knowledge they have amassed onto us. I know so much more about myself, the world, and the craft of writing because I decided to pursue a degree in doing the things I love the most: reading and writing.

Picking an influential professors is so hard because every professor in the English Department is FANTASTIC and I love them all; however, Dr. Rick Incorvati was my first introduction to the English major and department, as he was my professor for English 101. The topic for the 101 class was Social Justice and Diversity and he really challenged us to think and reach outside of our comfort zones and the Witt Bubble. But besides this, he is a catalyst for social change in the real world and I admire that at any event that has to do with raising awareness on social justice issues, Dr. Incorvati is always there! Plus he’s my advisor and working with him these last two years has shown me how much he cares about seeing me succeed in every endeavor I embark on.

Beloved by Toni Morrison is my favorite novel, hands down! This book changed my life the moment I finished it—I even had nightmares about it that same night. Not only is Morrison an ICON (in my mind at least) but she has a way with words and her haunting fictionalized account of infanticide committed by a slave mother only reaffirms this; this book won a Pulitzer Prize and Morrison is a Nobel Prize winner, so don’t just take my word for it. Read it if you haven’t yet and if you have, go read it again.

I’ve learned so much in each English class I’ve taken but I think the most important thing I’ve taken away is that every individual’s experience is singular and remarkable and there’s a lesson that could be taught from it, no matter how similar it is to someone else’s. Each and every person has a story to tell.

Take classes in every subject taught by the English Department whether it’s a Creative Writing, African-American fiction, or Contemporary Women Writers course.  Even if it sounds like something you probably aren’t interested in, I promise that there is something you can learn from that particular class and you might just end up loving it. Also, participate in the class discussions. Not only will it help with public speaking but your opinion matters and it might spark up an interesting conversation.

I plan on teaching abroad either in the Middle East or Asia and traveling for a couple of years before going back to school to continue my studies by first earning a MFA in Creative Writing and later my Doctorate in English.

Submit to the English Department Literary Awards

Submissions for the Wittenberg English Department Literary Awards are now open! Submit your best work – whether it be academic essays, poetry, short stories, or more – to the English Office (Hollenbeck 102) by Tuesday, March 12th at 4:30 p.m. to be considered for a prize.

New this year, winners of all categories may receive awards for first, second, and third place. That’s three times the chances to win!

The first member of each graduating class to submit their work will also receive an English Department Mug. Refer to the photo below for submission guidelines (and this link!) for a description of each prize. If you don’t have a manilla envelope, stop by the English Office to grab one.

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Saying Goodbye: Harley Bakken, ’19

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I still remember when I declared my English Major, perhaps we all do. It was in the fall of my sophomore year and I brought the paperwork to Cynthia Dr. Richards and asked her to be my advisor. It was a special moment because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do or major in.

All through high school, I was focused on STEM subjects: what I was good at. I’ve always been a reader, but certainly not a writer. I can never get all my thoughts to coexist coherently on paper. But although my interests may differ, I always come back to English.

I love the connections between subjects that appear in English. It’s magical to think how each semester I could be taking a class in four different departments and still draw them all back to my English courses. That’s why it’s been essential to my Wittenberg experience – English is my epicenter.

I don’t think I can choose just one influential professor, but perhaps two. Dr. Scot Hinson and Dr. Richards were essential to my English major career. Dr. Hinson showed me nuanced perspectives of understanding literature as well as mentoring me to find my own voice in my writing. Dr. Richards I’ve been with since the start of my English career. She encouraged my argumentative tendency and championed by ideas. Truly I could not imagine my English career without her.

Oh, all the books! You only want me to choose one? A Chorus of Stones by Susan Griffin and Quicksand by Nella Larson are the two most impactful books I’ve read during my English career. They both hold different meanings to me. I read A Chorus of Stones in my English 101 course and I just finished Quicksand; you could say they bookended my English Career.

I’ve learned many “important” things in my time as an English major, but maybe the most important to me is to be curious. The intersectionality of English requires you to remain constantly curious of the world around you.

To all the underclassmen, I encourage you to WRITE. I know it’s not what anyone wants to hear, but write!!! I didn’t do nearly enough writing as I should have. So, bite the bullet and pull the all-nighter earlier than the night before and just get the “shitty first draft” done. Then edit; that’s how you get smarter.

I’m currently looking for a job right now without any prospects. I’m thinking something with community development or become a midwife or work on an oil rig. I like to keep my options open.

Saying Goodbye: Sierra Sanchez, ’19

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I never doubted for a minute that I would declare an English major, but I feel so grateful that I could be an English major at Witt. The faculty are incomparable in their expertise and willingness to aid students, and their commitment to their respective areas of focus as well as to their students is inspiring.

Dr. Bob Davis was the first English professor I had at Wittenberg, and his Literature and Madness class profoundly influenced my creative and analytical development. I was placed in that class first semester of freshman year, and Dr. Davis’ presentation of the material and the engaging class discussions affirmed that I had made the right decision choosing Witt and choosing to be an English major.

My English classes have all been full of incredible material, but if I had to choose one that impacted me the most, it would be The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz. It was the first time I had been assigned to read a novel by a Dominican-American author, and the questions Dr. Kate Polak asked and the discussions she facilitated prompted a line of intellectual inquiry for me that remains one of my main focuses today.

I think one of the most important things I’ve learned as an English major is the ability to make connections across disciplines in order to create meaningful interpretations.

To the underclassmen English majors: Enjoy every moment and take advantage of the opportunity to converse with professors who really know and care about what they’re teaching.

And seriously, do the reading.

Post-graduation, I’m planning to spend a year or two working as an English TA in Spain, and I’m hoping to eventually go to law school to study immigration law.

Recap of Dr. Robin Inboden’s Colloquium, “Editing ‘Agnes Grey'”

This past Tuesday, Dr. Robin Inboden presented a colloquium entitled “Editing ‘Agnes Grey.'” Here is a quick recap of the presentation:

Dr. Inboden’s talk about her process of rewriting Agnes Grey was very interesting and something special to listen to. I read the book last semester in her 371 class, Women in Literature II. I liked the book so much that I even wrote my final paper for the class over it.

Seeing the ways that Dr. Inboden is going to reanalyze and rewrite pieces of the book will be interesting. I would like to read her final project because I enjoyed the original book by Anne Bronte so much.

I thought that some of the history behind the book was interesting and the way she even gave her audience some background about the Bronte sisters. Some of the information about them, I knew, but some was new to me.

Dr. Inboden’s travels she had for her research were amazing and made for funny stories. I think that this book will be a great project once it is done.

Congrats to Dr. Inboden on the hard work and acceptance! I’m sure the final novel will be a sensation!

Written by Andy Elliott, ’19