Tag Archives: alumni

Artistic community and collaboration: Joy Sullivan, Artist-in-Residence at the Wexner

Miami MA alum Joy Sullivan is the 2015 Artist-in-Residence at the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, OH. She shares her experience:

In 2012, I attended Miami University’s MA program in Creative Writing and spent two years growing into the identity of “poet.” This year, at age twenty-nine, I inhabited the role of artist-in-residence for the Wexner Center Pages Program and found poetry to be just as expansive as I always hoped it would be in the world outside of a graduate program.

The Wexner Center Pages Program is a multidisciplinary program that fosters creativity, arts-integration and writing projects inside the classroom. Foremost, it is a unique collaboration between the Wexner Center, local high schools, and teaching-artists. As the 2015 artist-in-residence for Pages, I had the pleasure of visiting high schools and helping students cultivate interest, craft responses, and engage in vibrant conversation surrounding art.

One of the highlights of my experience was working with Pages students on collaborative poetry. This exercise was originally inspired by an activity done in one of my graduate workshops at Miami. I asked students to view a similar object and then together build a poem, line by line. I often asked students to generate questions in this process. Then, we listened to the conversation that was being built as we circled the room offering our responses. I loved watching the sense of ownership and authorship bloom as students took time to ask, listen, answer, and then ask better. The investment students felt in this communal experience became palpable.

Through these activities, I’ve witnessed a change come over each classroom’s attitude towards the experience of poetry. It became meaningful, exciting, and relevant to their shared experience. Asia, a student from Westerville North, said, “This feels just like an awesome mash-up between Beyoncé and Nicki Minaj. We’re good at this.” Another student undid me with herunspecified-7 gorgeous line, “I have no simplicity.” Time and time again, through Pages, I watched words win. This experience showed me how deeply essential arts-integration, creative writing, and personal expression remain in education and in the lives of our young people. Simply put, my work this year has been transformative, hearty, life-giving.

I believe in the spirit of Pages and how much I feel revitalized by my experience. How I know it will shape and propel me towards seeking points of entry in my future endeavors that are risky, beautiful, unexpected. Arts-integration is good work. Moreover, it is necessary. For all of us.

 

You can visit pages at http://www.wexarts.org or find their blog here.

Miami Alumni Return for National Poetry Day

Sitting in the audience of the Alumni Poets Reading this past Thursday evening, I had the honor of listening to two very different poets read their original works. Listening to a poet read their own work is a wonderful way to begin to understand their writing – the movement is particular, and the exquisiteness of images, metaphors, and chosen words is communicated best by their creator.

The first alum to read w10-8 Hardyas Lesley Hardy, reading from her first book of poetry, Dreaming of Zeus. Hardy completed her undergraduate studies at Miami and went on to live in Tokyo for several years where she taught English and consulted for senior management in a large Japanese communications group company and in a Swiss luxury brand operating in Tokyo. Her past with
writing has been extensive and vast in range. She has written scripts, historical fiction, and short stories, some set in a university town in Ohio during various decades of the 20th and early 21st centuries. Dreaming of Zeus was published by Isobar Press, a Japanese press that specializes in English writing.

The first poems Hardy read were set in present day Ohio, but as her mythological title implies, the poems progressed into poems of Greek myth. She recites a poem that tells the story of Persephone, and another about her in a different light. Hardy’s choice of words was emphasized by her raspy voice; the combination is what made her poetry come to life. Hardy is a petite woman, but when she recited her poems her presence took up the entire room and captivated her audience.

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copyright Tasha Golden

The second poet was Tasha Golden, another alum who did her graduate work at Miami. She is more commonly recognized as the front woman and songwriter for the critically acclaimed band Ellery. Their songs have been heard in several movies and TV shows such as No Strings Attached and The Lying Game. She is currently pursuing her PhD at the University of Louisville where she researches the impact of the arts on stigmatized issues and leads creative writing workshops for incarcerated female teens – this alum does it all and more.

Golden read from her new and first book of poetry, Once You Had Hands which explores violence and sexuality in both intimate relationships and religion. Her poetry was whimsical in nature, but dealt with such harsh subject matter that the juxtaposition of the two opposites made for a great reading. Golden also had a very distinct voice; when talking before reciting her poems she was spunky and extroverted, bright-eyed and engaging the crowd. But when reading, she became quiet spoke in a tone filled with deep emotion. The most impactful moment was when Golden read a poem about dealing with her feelings towards God and then left a pause of stillness before going into another emotional poem. By pausing and going into another poem without stopping to speak or explain, her poetry spoke for itself and was so much louder and clearer than anything Golden could have said instead.

Maggie Ark
Professional Writing ’16

Say “Yes!”: Career Advice from Beth Harrison

Last week, we welcomed Beth Harrison to Miami’s campus for this year’s Gutsche lecture. The Gutsche lecture series allows us to bring back highly successful Miami English Department alumni each year to speak about their experiences in the professional sphere and offer advice to Miami students who are on the brink of entering that sphere. Beth Harrison graduated from Miami in 1992 with a B.A. in Creative Writing. A handful of her most notable job titles include: Interim Executive Director of the Academy of American Poets, Director of Development & External Relations at the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, publishing editor at Oxford University Press and Princeton Architectural Press, Managing Director of the Discover Outdoors Foundation, and founding editor of literary magazine Spinning Jenny.

beth harrison

Beth Harrison is a prominent figure in the literary world nowadays, but during her talk she made sure to emphasize that she used to be just as clueless as anybody else. When she graduated, she had no idea what her future looked like. When asked if she still considers herself to be somewhat clueless she said yes, and that she hopes to stay that way. For Harrison, it is the process of figuring things out, day by day, that keeps life interesting.

Harrison was gracious enough to lay down advice in bulk. These tokens were taken from her treasure trove of knowledge and experience, as well as her colleagues’. Here is a simplified list of the top 10 points she made:

  1. Say “Yes!” to opportunities, big and small. A willingness to learn new things, even things that don’t seem immediately relevant, is imperative for developing a broad arsenal of skills. Plus, one thing tends to lead to another, and that initial “Yes!” was the first step on the road to something greater.
  2. Determine what you’re passionate about, and then write to your heroes/heroines in that field. You’d be surprised by how many of them will take the time to write you back and do their parts to help you achieve your goals.
  3. English skills are incredibly versatile, so don’t pigeonhole yourself! Just because you’ve graduated with a degree in Creative Writing doesn’t mean you must become a writer. Strong writing skills are important in any line of work. Jobs for good writers, in a variety of industries, are more abundant than you might think.
  4. Keep in touch with your professors and mentors. If these people have been influential in your life, there’s no reason their influence should cease merely because a semester has ended or you’ve graduated.
  5. Don’t be afraid to take a job because it’s not your dream job. If it’s a good job and you need it, then take it.
  6. Read. A lot. Here a few of the websites she recommended specifically:
  1. Manage your online image. If you don’t think potential employers are actually going to peruse your profiles, think again.
  2. Write thank-you notes. For every interview. For every favor. For every connection or name or idea someone gives you related to your career search.
  3. Learn to code. In this day and age, knowing how to create a basic website or blog is a huge asset. Having even just an elementary understanding of code will make you an attractive candidate in our digitizing world.
  4. Do things one step at a time. The greatest works of literature ever written were all written the same way – one word at a time. Try not to get too overwhelmed by what’s coming, and focus on what’s right here, right now.

Harrison is extremely charismatic. After the conclusion of her talk, students waited around for nearly 45 minutes to speak with her one-on-one. She shared with us that some of her favorite poetry at the moment is anything written by Robert Creeley, Citizen by Claudia Rankine, and Void and Compensation by Michael Morse.

Beth Harrison gave a room full of English majors the glimmer of hope they needed, especially at this pivotal point in a long semester, to have faith in their education and have faith in themselves. Graduating from college is daunting, and hearing Beth Harrison talk about going through the same things they’re going through now was a much-needed boost of motivation.