By Meaghan Menzel
The Rose O’Neill Literary House is known for hosting visiting authors throughout the fall and spring semesters, but its job does not end with the school year. According to its website, the Literary House started hosting the Summer Poetry Salon in 2012 and has continued to do so ever since.
This salon consists of three events spread throughout the summer where poets and musicians visit Washington College for readings and performances. These events, like Literary House events during the school year, are free. Lindsay Lusby, the assistant director of the Rose O’Neill Literary House, said, “The Summer Poetry Salon series is a bit different from the reading series we host during the academic year because our aim is to bring in more of the local community to enjoy the literary life that the College brings to the Chestertown area.”
In addition to poets, the Literary House hosted performances by musicians James Dukenfield and Nevin Dawson and the Chestertown Ukulele Club. Musicians are rarely featured in Literary House events throughout the year. Lusby said, “The inclusion of local musicians at the events themselves is another way that we pull the Chestertown community into focus of the Salon series.”
Director of the Rose O’Neill Literary House and Associate Professor of English Dr. Jehanne Dubrow said, “Poetry and music go beautifully together. By featuring both poets and musical acts, the Literary House also encourages different kinds of audiences to interact with one another.”
This summer, the three events of the Salon were held June 2, June 23, and July 28.
The first of these events hosted the poets Hugh Martin and TJ Jarrett. Jarrett is the author of “Ain’t No Grave,” which “offers a great gift, poems in which adults talk to children about racial injustice,” according to the “Kenyon Review.” Jarret also published “Zion,” which won the Crab Orchard Open Competition in 2013.
Martin, a former Army National Guard member who spent 11 months in Iraq, authored “The Stick Soldiers,” and “So, How was the War?” According to Martin’s website, Poet Bruce Weigl said that Martin’s poems are “illustrative of the dullness that overcomes most soldiers in war; a necessary numbing of the senses that allows the temporary survival of trauma.”
For the second of the three events for the salon, poet Vandana Khanna and Cave Canem Fellow Kamilah Aisha Moon visited the Literary House. According to the “Los Angeles Review of Books,” Cave Canem is “the nation’s leading literary organization whose primary mission is to nurture emerging African-American poets.” Moon’s collection of poetry, “She Has a Name,” focuses on telling the story of her autistic younger sister.
Khanna has published two collections of poetry. According to her website, “Train to Agra,” her first collection and the winner of the “Crab Orchard Review” First Book Prize, “meditates on the effects of displacement and expatriation on the construction of a young Indian American woman’s identity.” Meanwhile, her second collection, “Afternoon Masala,” “describe[s] the struggle of finding a place in the world to call home.”
The third pair of poets to visit were Joelle Biele, the author of “Broom” and “White Summer,” and Aaron Smith, the author of “Appetite,” and “Blue on Blue Ground.”
According to Biele’s website, Poet David Baker said, “In ‘Broom’ Joelle Biele gives us poems that chronical the first years of two of her children,” and Poet Allison Joseph said that “White Summer,” is “a book full of gorgeous language, delicate yet enduring imagery, and a quiet lyric intensity that is far too rare in contemporary poetry. No life detail — a fly, a group of starlings, a festival of dolls — escapes Biele’s notice, and we are better for having seen the world through her eyes.”
Smith’s collection, “Appetite,” is broken into five sections, according to the Heavy Feather Review, and “the collection traces the relationship between desire and identity through a range of relationships.” “Appetite” is an NPR Best Book and a finalist for the Paterson Poetry Prize, the Lambda Literary Award, and the Publishing Triangle’s Thom Gunn Award while “Blue on Blue Ground” won the Agnes Lynch Starrett Prize.
While the Poetry Salon may have ended with the summer, the Literary House still has events planned throughout the year. This fall semester, it will host “The Verbal and the Visual” series, and it will host “Queer Voices” in the spring. Regarding what can be expected from “The Verbal and the Visual,” Dr. Dubrow said that it “focuses on the intersection between writing and the visual arts. The season will include the launch of the Literary House Press’s latest letterpress book, a presentation by a professional designer of topography, and a reading by a poet who incorporates her art into her poetry collections.”
For more information on these events, students and staff can visit the Literary House’s website at http://www.washcoll.edu/centers/lithouse/.