On Monday, April 30, An Evening of Poetry with Anne Barngrover was held at the Wriston Art Center. The event began at 7 p.m. in the Wriston Art Galleries and lasted until 8:30 p.m. It was organized by Melissa Range, Assistant Professor of English at Lawrence University. The event was part of a series of poetry readings throughout the year supported by the Mia Paul Poetry Fund. The poetry readings are free and open to the general public.
Anne Barngrover is a published poet and Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing at Saint Leo University near Tampa, Fla. She also works in the summer at the Reynolds Young Writers Workshop for high schoolers at Denison University in Ohio. She earned her Bachelor of Arts from Denison University, her Master of Fine Arts from Florida State, and her Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Missouri. Her published works include “Yell Hound Blues” (2013) and “Brazen Creature” (2016), and her poems have appeared in journals such as “The North American Review” and “Copper Nickel.”
The evening began with an introduction by Range. Following the introduction, Barngrover read a selection of her poems. She chose several poems based on requests from students in Range’s Spring Term Poetry Writing class. Barngrover said of the reading selection, “I wanted to hit different notes in my reading and have a mix of poems that could be supplemented with a little backstory along with those that could stand on their own.”
Barngrover told backstories about many of her poems between readings. She shared a story about a haunted apartment in London which informed her poem, “Still Haunted.” She detailed her experience living in a spider-infested apartment which informed her poem, “Self-Portrait with Brown Recluse.” She highlighted how curses and wild creatures were featured in her poems, “Your Name in My Boot,” and “Hypochondria.”
The poetry reading was followed by a brief question and answer session. Many of the questions asked in the session centered on the writing process and advice to aspiring poets. Barngrover noted, “All writers, but especially aspiring ones, should read five times more than they write.”
Afterwards, attendees were invited to a reception outside of the gallery. The reception featured light refreshments and book signings with Barngrover. Barngrover’s two poetry books “Yell Hound Blues” and “Brazen Creature” were also available for purchase.
The event was well-attended, and included members of the Appleton community, Lawrence faculty, and students. Sophomore Willa Dworschack, a physics major at Lawrence, attended the event after hearing about it in her American Writers class. She said, “It was great to see such a crowd from various corners of the campus.”
She also noted how events, including poetry readings, support her curiosity and college experience. “I feel that having a variety of different events such as poetry reading really enriches my education and my experience here at Lawrence.” She went on to say, “I hope that other students take advantage of these opportunities too! It is important for us all to branch out and try new things.”
Curiosity is also a theme that Barngrover emphasizes for writing. She said, “The most successful writers that I know also maintain a blend of curiosity and humility (you can’t have one without the other).”
When asked about the relevance of poetry in the 21st century, Barngrover said, “Poets have always been the rebels and the rabble-rousers. In a world that feels chaotic, dangerous, and uncertain, we need poetry to remind us of the truth and beauty of language and the common humanity that we share.”
Barngrover said of the event, “I hope that [attendees] were inspired to go home and tell their own stories and know that their voices matter.”