By: Sherry Shi, Staff Writer
UMF Professors Kristen Case and Jeffrey Thomson recently each published an independent piece of literature, holding a poetry reading and book signing to promote their new works at the DDG Bookstore in downtown Farmington.
At the event, Professor Jeffrey Thomson started the evening with his new chapbook, The New Faces Of Belfast, accounting for the year of suffrage in Ireland. Associate Professor Kristen Case followed, with selected poems from her new book Little Arias.
The reading culminated with Case’s collaboration with voices from the audience, inviting five people to read along with her. “Having other people join reading the poem was, I thought, more true to the poem itself,” she said.
Thomson seemed confident in reading and discussing his ninth published work of writing since his journey to publication had been a long and challenging one.
“We [had] rejected his works, and that was a very delicate and difficult,” said John Rosenwald, Senior Editor of Beloit Poetry Journal. “But we’re publishing his poems now and I’m really deeply impressed by Jeff’s growth and change. If we didn’t publish the first poems we saw from him, I’m absolutely delighted that we’re publishing new ones that he has in this book. He’s done extraordinarily well.”
For Case, this is her first publication. “The book is very short,” she said. “But it’s something that has taken me 20 years to write. So though some years I wasn’t writing at all, it’s a very interesting thing to have it in the world now, and it’s very nice.”
“I love [Kristen] because she brings together the past and the present, the spoken and the written, the part of the community and the absence of the community,” said Rosenwald, as he talked about the themes in Case’s poetry over the years.
Drawing her inspiration from the poet, Emily Dickinson, Case expressed her love for Dickinson’s style but mentioned that she wasn’t trying too hard to imitate her style. “Dickinson is always pushing language to try to get at the boundary of what language can say,” Case said. “Her poems take you all the way to the edge of what can be said, and then kind of point over to the abyss of what can’t be said.”
Thomson had another person in mind when considering his favorite poet who inspired him greatly. “Kevin Stein was the person who opened the door that I didn’t really know was there,” Thompson explained. “He was the first one to show me that there was contemporary stuff happening. It’s a way for me to express my life in poems.”
Thomson also pointed out that writing as a practice has changed him over the years. “For the writing to be good, I need to look at things carefully, I need to look at them as individual people that are deserving of their own autonomy, their own agency, and they’re not just little chess pieces that I move around to make everything in the end.”
Both Case and Thompson were greatly impressed with the turnout at the book signing event. “We had people standing because there wasn’t enough space,” said Case. “It’s nice to see so many people out there. It’s a great little town for poetry.”