English faculty salvage problematic poetry reading

by Samantha Starkey
Arts & Culture Editor

“As the wind rises,/your legs shake and you remember learning/that language has power. What need for fists,/in the face of such force?”  English professor Thom Caraway said in his original poem “Hard Wind, End of the Block,” which he presented as part of the English department poetry reading Monday, Oct. 6 in the HUB Multipurpose Room.

Award-winning poet B.H. Fairchild had been scheduled last spring to read his work at the event, but he cancelled his trip to Spokane a week before the reading on doctors’ orders.

“Mr. Fairchild sends his profuse apologies,” Caraway said. “We send him our best wishes and prayers.” Caraway opened the reading with the first part of Fairchild’s four-part poem about prejudice entitled “Beauty.”

In an effort to salvage the long-awaited and highly publicized evening, the English department gathered a handful of local poets to read in lieu of Fairchild. Nicole Sheets, an assistant professor of English and Cathy Bobb, the wife of English professor Vic Bobb joined Caraway in the presentation of their original creative works.

Students, faculty and community members filled rows of chairs and tables in the Multipurpose room to hear the poetry.

“These are brilliant writers, and they’re part of our Whitworth community. It’s wonderful to come together and listen to their work,” associate professor of English Fred Johnson said. All three of the substitute readers have extensive bibliographies.

In addition to teaching alongside Johnson in the English department, Caraway is also the poet-laureate of Spokane. He read several poems last Monday, including “Hard Wind, End of the Block,” which is set in his own neighborhood in west-central Spokane. The poem examines the struggles of a father who has been court-ordered away from his family, and who shows up once in a while, ghostlike, to curse at them from the street until the police chase him away.

Sheets has had work published in a variety of journals including “Image” and writes a blog called WanderChic about travel, fashion and everything in between. She presented a piece of autobiographical prose in six parts dealing with her relationship with her mother, her perceptions of salvation and an orange kitten.

Bobb (photo above) recently received the Violet Reed Haas Prize for Poetry for her book, “Among the Missing.” She read a series of poems from the collection. Her poetry focused on loss; the death of her daughter and her struggles with mental health were foremost in her subject matter. Near the end of her reading she made a point to say how blessed she felt, in spite of the hardships she had faced.

Though the evening did not go as planned, Spokane’s tight-knit literary community turned out to support the event anyway.

“Even when things don’t work out we can still pull something together,” junior English major Nick Avery said.

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