Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

River Readings start the year with a visiting poet

On Tuesday, Oct. 1 at 7 p.m., River Readings hosted its fall 2019 speaker, Carolyn Forché, in Wallenberg Hall to read from her new memoir “What You Have Heard Is True: A Memoir of Witness and Resistance.”

River Readings, a reading series sponsored by Augustana Academic Affairs and the English and Creative Writing departments, features authors from around the country working in a variety of genres.

Dr. Meg Gillette from Augustana’s english department has been running the River Reading’s program for the last several terms.

The program has hosted authors such as Kai Carlson-Wee and Anders Carlson-Wee who visited Augustana for the 2018 Fall River Readings as well as Steve Almond who visited for the 2019 Spring River Readings.

Each semester, students and members of the Quad Cities community get the chance to listen to an author read their own original work as well as ask questions and meet with the author.

Professor Rebecca Wee, an Augustana english professor and coordinator of the Fall 2019 reading, is excited that acclaimed poet and human rights activist Carolyn Forché, Wee’s former mentor, was able to visit campus to read from her newest work.

Wee and her student intern, sophomore Eva Schmitt, expressed how excited they were for Augustana students and the Quad Cities community to participate in the River Readings program throughout the 2019 -2020 school year.

Schmitt also commented that people should stay “after the readings, [because] the audience will have time to meet with the author.”

Before Wee became a creative writing professor, and before she thought about publishing her poetry, she worked as a production editor at a legal publisher.

When she realized she wanted to make a change and follow a more creative career path, she looked to the people she admired for inspiration.

Though she hadn’t read Forché’s poetry in years, her name came to Wee’s mind.

She admired Forché for what Wee states was a “politically smart, but not preachy” tone to the poetry.

Even at a young age, Wee connected with Forché’s poetry and felt the importance of her subject matter.

Wee researched Forché and learned she was a professor of poetry at George Mason University, which prompted her to apply for the school’s poetry graduate program.

During Wee’s time at George Mason, Forché not only became her professor, but a mentor.

Wee worked with her on “Against Forgetting: Twentieth Century Poetry of Witness,” which Wee said was a “fabulous but exhausting project.”

She also taught her first poetry class to undergraduate students, where she found her passion for teaching.

Carolyn Forché is known for writing poetry of witness, which she based on her own experiences in El Salvador, and her brutally honest recounts of the human rights violations she witnessed.

Wee recalled Forché telling her about the day a stranger knocked on her door and invited her to visit and learn about his country.

“She said she was not a brave person. [Forché] wouldn’t have just headed off to what [she] was told was a war zone, but someone showed up at [her] door and said ‘You’re a poet, you need to come.’”

The next River Readings program will take place in the Spring 2020 semester.

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River Readings start the year with a visiting poet