Students choose Shaughnessy for first VWS

At this year’s first event in the Visiting Writer’s Series (VWS), held by ‘ink’ and the English Department, Brenda Shaughnessy will be reading at the College on Thursday, Sept. 28.

She’ll be reading from her book of poems “Interior with Sudden Joy” at 7:30 p.m. in the New Library auditorium.

Shaughnessy was chosen through assistant professor of English Catie Rosemurgy’s Writing Communities class.

The students in the class study authors’ works while organizing the VWS.

The Signal got the chance to interview Shaughnessy before her visit.

Have you ever been to the College before?

BS: Never; I’m looking forward to my first visit.

Have you done readings at colleges before? How do you compare college audiences to those at other readings?

BS: I’ve read at many colleges: Harvard, Dartmouth, Williams, Bennington, Columbia, University of Indiana, Bloomington, University of California-Santa Cruz and many other wonderful places. I love reading at colleges because audiences tend to be interested, inquisitive, invested and passionate about intellectual and artistic pursuits.

What’s your greatest memory of college?

BS: My college career was a blur of nonstop greatest memories. Majoring in women’s studies may have seemed illogical at the time, but that education in feminism serves me very well in life.

Having been born in Japan, which do you believe has had more of an influence on your writing: Japanese culture or that of the United States?

BS: I am almost entirely a product of American culture, especially if we understand that American culture is immigrant culture.

I grew up speaking English but with an acute awareness, but not complete understanding, of my Japanese ethnicity.

When I was grown up and had the chance to visit and live in Japan, I feel that experience opened the door to an awareness of what “being half-Japanese” meant, that is, a door to a room in my psyche that hadn’t always been open.

Do you have a new book of poetry being published?

BS: My second collection, “Human Dark with Sugar,” will be coming out with Copper Canyon Press in 2008.

What do you find is your favorite part of the writing process? Do you get more enjoyment out of writing your work or reading it to others?

BS: I like the “having written” part of writing. I forget who said that great line.

I get very nervous before readings so I can’t say I like that part much.

Who is your greatest literary influence, and are there any contemporaries that you would recommend reading? Classics?

BS: Great literary influences: Virginia Woolf, e.e. cummings, Marguerite Duras, Roland Barthes and Charlotte Bronte.

Contemporaries I am really into right now: Timothy Donnelly, Olena Kalytiak Davis, Peter Gizzi (and) Marie Howe, to name a few. Great new poet just out with his first book: Alex Lemon.

How long have you been writing poetry, and when did you decide to make it a serious endeavor?

BS: I’ve written since I was a child; it became serious in high school.

Do you need a specific environment in order to write? Are you a laptop-in-a-caf? person or a jot-down-on-a-napkin person?

BS: I need to have my entire environment erased – no papers, cups, books in sight and no music playing, no traffic sounds.

This requirement ensures I write very rarely. Otherwise I just jot things down on a napkin!