Three award-winning poets visited Shippensburg University on Thursday to share their insight about the art of writing and to share their poems at a reading at Old Main Chapel.
Mark Leidner, Michelle Taransky and Anna Moschovakis come from diverse backgrounds and they all have wildly different, yet oddly complimentary, styles.
Leidner has published multiple works and received critical acclaim for his humorous approach to poetry, which drew many laughs at the poetry reading.
“When you’re in the zone of writing, for me, it gives this illusion that you’re in a conversation that is eternal,” Leidner said when asked about the rewards of writing.
Moschovakis is known for her writing as well as translations. Her awards include fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts and the Fund for Poetry, and a translation fellowship from The National Book Centre. She teaches at the Pratt Institute and at Milton Avery Graduate School for the Arts at Bard College. She is also an editor with Ugly Duckling Press.
“Be more interested in what you think about other people’s work than what they think about yours. I think that is what pushes you to keep looking for the thing that excites you,” Moschovakis advises to aspiring poets.
Taransky works at Kelly Writers House at the University of Pennsylvania. Her first book was selected by Marjorie Welish as winner of the 2008 Omnidawn Poetry Contest.
“Like a color-blind painter, it’s more about interest,” Taransky said about writers, pointing out that an expertise is not required to write poetry and blind spots could actually produce unique and innovative poetry.
In the afternoon the poets spoke for over an hour with students in a panel discussion about writing and poetry among other topics.
Many students showed great interest in what the poets had to say and stayed afterward to talk about poetry, comedy and language translation; a good example of the writers’ interesting variety.
Thursday night a crowd of students filed into Old Main Chapel to hear the poets read from their books, “Beauty was the Case They Gave Me,” by Leidner, “You and Three Others are Approaching a Lake,” by Moschovakis and “Barn Burned, Then,” by Taransky.
Professor Zachary Savich hosted the event. His students Sara Brett, Michael D’Ambrosio and Amy Iacono introduced Leidner, Taransky and Moschovakis, respectively.
Over the next 60 minutes, students heard Leidner’s witty comedic poetry, Taransky’s bombardment of deep ideas and imagery and Moschovakis’s incorporation of research and information in poetry. Society, politics, sexuality, religion, coolness and lameness were all touched upon evoking laughter and applause from the audience.
All three writers have been focused on poetry for 10–20 years. They all approach the art differently, but they have much wisdom to share with aspiring students. SU student and writer Robert DiCarlo, who read the poets’ books, was inspired by the free spirit of their art and learned there is no specific way to approach poetry.
The poets had much to share besides their writing, leaving many students with a better understand of poetry, writing and success in general. Leidner’s most important piece of advice to students served to help students and writers not be discouraged and become stronger from setbacks.
“I would say that being unafraid to make mistakes is a really important thing,” he said. “Never make the same mistake twice, but mistakes are how you learn.”