Poetry Reading Series Enlightens Future Poets

Jennie Roth

The first poetry reading in the “Arts at Night” series debuted on Thursday, September 16 in Dodds Theater. Phillip Memmer and Ching-In Chen, both published poets, presented poems from their manuscripts Lucifer and The Heart’s Traffic, respectively.

The night began with an open-microphone session. Emily Mendoza, along with other Creative Writing students, read poems, including those written in Dr. Randall Horton’s Creative Writing I class. The class has been specifically working on Chen and Memmer’s poetry.

Memmer’s manuscript, a satirical yet serious spin on Lucifer and his place in Biblical stories, was inspired by his “strict religious upbringing,” and his “personal opinion” of the Bible. Chen’s collection, a persona piece of an Asian girl’s immigration to America, was stirred up by a past teacher’s assignment and her own personal experiences.

Throughout the reading, the poets offered advice and explanation. “Poetry is about the people that you meet,” Chen explained. “It’s about the environment that you’re in.”

Memmer also pulled poems from a previous book, Threat of Pleasure. He explained these poems in terms of past life experiences. He noted that “Knowledge,” a poem about his drunk, Austrian neighbor, taught him two things: “Austrians are drunk a lot and philosophy professors are drunk a lot.”

Chen read various “riddles” from her “novel in poems,” explaining to the audience that the idea for riddles came from a family tradition.

“We used to make up riddles for each other during long car rides,” Chen said. “We would all try to solve them. I brought that to my poetry.”

After the poets spoke and performed, they allowed a question and answer session. Dr. Horton and students had the chance to ask the poets anything they wanted. Questions varied from what they detested about a career in writing to why they chose the forms of poetry they wrote in. Memmer explained his love and hate of the “poetry business” in terms of politics.

“Sometimes you find people who are only interested in getting published,” Memmer said. “That isn’t what [writing is] about but I’ve met some vicious people.”
Chen agreed.

“Writing takes you many places,” Chen said. “It gives me a chance to relax and let go.”

The poets signed books, answered questions, and offered advice to students after the reading.

The Arts at Night poetry reading series will continue through the semester in Dodd’s Theater and the Alumni Lounge in Bartels. For more information, contact Dr. Randall Horton in Harugari 301.