A large crowd comprised of students, faculty, and townspeople, gathered on October 10 at Thomas Auditorium of the University of Maine at Farmington (UMF) to listen to John Poch, a famous American poet and critic, read aloud from his collected works of poetry.
Poch, who is a Professor at Texas Tech University, read from his collections of poetry, focusing on the two themes of Texas and love. The event lasted about an hour, and Poch read from short and long poems alike.
Professor Jeffrey Thomson of UMF, the director of the Visiting Writers Series, said he chose to have Poch visit because of his work with style and his good nature. “He’s a poet that I’ve admired for a number of years,” said Thomson, “I think he’s a really talented writer with a real sense of vivid language. He works interestingly with form, too. Also, he’s a really good guy! I like to bring people who are going to be engaging, who aren’t just going to stick a book in front of our faces and read from it.”
During the question and answer portion, Poch told the audience that sometimes Texas Tech is able to send him away on vacation through grant money. Poch said that during these trips, he tends to focus more on his writing. “It doesn’t happen often, but one time, when I was on a trip with my friend, I wrote a poem a day for three weeks.” Poch said keeping a notebook is an important step for him. “Mostly, I write down cool things people say in a notebook. I use those lines in my poems, when I think they fit.”
Nathanial Duggan, a student in attendance, described Poch’s style as “Very abstract, but it had a very modern twist too with all the references to Texas politics and current events. All that was compounded by his vivid imagery and quirky metaphors.”
As a closing comment, Poch encouraged struggling writers to overcome whatever hurdles stand in their way from writing. “If you want to be a writer, that’s what you got to do. If you want to write, then write…make it happen.”
Poch is the author of five books of poetry. He earned an MFA from the University of Florida and a PhD from the University of North Texas. Poch has received several awards, such as the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Prize, the Colgate Creative Writing Fellowship, and The Nation/Discovery Prize.
During the event, Poch, on several occasions, expressed his desire to return to the Northeast. “Maybe one day I’ll convince my family to come with me to this part of the country.”
The event, sponsored by the Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) program and the Writers Guild, was part of the Visiting Writers Series, an ongoing program where UMF gets to host various authors from around the country.Thomson said the program is very important on campus. “The faculty, the writing program – all of us – believe that it’s really important for writing, as an art form, as a creative medium, to be supportive and be represented on campus,” said Thomson. “We also want to give students models – especially BFA students – that they can aspire to as writers and artists as they go forward and graduate.”
Thomson, who has been the director of the Visiting Writers Series since 2006, said the program generally has a great turn out. “We average 70-80 people. There are times when we fill up the landing and have to turn people away!” Thomson also said that students are not the only ones who enjoy the series. “It’s definitely a whole mix of people who show up, usually. Townspeople show up, so does faculty – this is really open to everybody – but the majority of those in attendence are students.”
Thomson also encouraged attendance to the upcoming Visiting Writers Series in November, featuring an American author and columnist. More information about the Visiting Writers Series can be found online at http://creativewriting.umf.maine.edu/general-information/umf-visiting-writers/.