English professor Lois Harrod proved that one does not have to stray far from campus to find great creative talent. During the latest Professor Reading Series, students and faculty gathered in the Library Auditorium on Tuesday, April 3 to hear Harrod share her poetic works, hosted by the College’s creative writing organization, ink.
Harrod, who has had over 400 poems published online, read mainly from her latest book of poetry “Brief Term.” Inspired by her 22 years as a high school teacher — a time when she “wrote to keep (herself) sane” — Harrod explained the joys and difficulties of teaching.
Some poems featured the fictional character Ms. Finicky — a woman who gives amusing grammar lessons on the demonstrative pronoun and the dangling modifier. In “Lesson One: The Concrete Noun,” Harrod read in an Al Capone-like accent about how one must take a double-crosser to “dat oily trawler” and “stick dose shiny patent leather shoes of his in a bucketa wet cement.”
“A Little Poem” expressed why educators should use a shorter piece when first teaching poetry, advising the need to “avoid conflict and all its sticky dead. Be slick. Be quick.”
Harrod reached a heartfelt note with “Bread,” about the moment when a former student returns to visit. With the student’s voice now a “white loaf in the sand,” she read. “You wonder what crust you could have thrown him that made him come back to you today.”
The professor described her fascination with biological and scientific topics, selecting her poem “Photuris Lucicrescens”— the scientific name for butterflies — from her chapbook, a small booklet of works. “The Only Is.” This poem reflects on the tale of Odysseus and Penelope, where Harrod wonders, “Which is best — to roam or to remain?”
She also dealt with her father’s death in “His Mouth” and lightheartedly poked fun at overly optimistic people in “The Happy Heart.”
“A friend once told me that if I don’t know what to write, I should sing for something that cannot sing for itself,” Harrod said, explaining her decision to write about the importance of an elephant’s trunk in “What the Elephant Sings.”
During the question and answer session, Harrod — like any good teacher — counseled students on how to improve their work.
“It takes 10,000 hours to become good at anything,” she said, and Harrod encouraged the audience to not worry about rejection when looking to get published.
“She pushed me to write poems and stories outside my comfort zone,” said senior English major Jeff Harrison about his time in Harrod’s class.
Harrod stressed the importance of carving out time to write, saying that she tries to get up early every morning and write something.
She ended the night with one last piece of wisdom: “There is no such thing as writer’s block – just the refusal to write badly.”