On Wednesday, Sept. 28, over 40 students, faculty and staff, and community members gathered to listen and learn from Indiana Poet Laureate Shari Wagner.The Goshen College alum returned to campus to teach a workshop and read her award-winning poetry.
“I love Goshen College, so coming back is always a treat, but it was especially nice this time,” said Wagner. “I hope those who attended my workshop and reading had as much fun as I did. It was a perfect day, down to the delicious tamales and ice cream at the English department supper.”
Ann Hostetler, a professor of English, said inviting Wagner to share her reading to the Goshen College community was “a tribute to our long tradition of strong writing and creative writing coming out of Goshen College.”
Hostetler and Wagner are longtime friends. The two first met at a Mennonite writing conference. They then began trading poems and learning from each other.
Wagner started out Wednesday with a poetry workshop, which Hostetler estimates had around 20 in attendance. Helena Neufeld, a senior English major, was one of the students at the workshop.
“I was pleasantly surprised at how intergenerational the group was,” Neufeld said. “There was a mix of students, faculty, and community members, which gave it a dynamic feeling.”
When planning the event, the English department made sure to invite community members of Goshen. Hostetler mentioned that some of the people from the community happened to be Goshen College alumni who had majored in writing.
“We wanted to open it up because [Wagner] is the Indiana Poet Laureate,” Hostetler said. “[Wagner] is really trying to bring poetry to the community.”
Wagner led the workshop in many different exercises using the theme of Poetry as Memoir: Exploring an Inheritance.
“We were considering what objects, traits, advice, and inclinations we have inherited from our families or ancestors,” Neufeld said. “We all went around and shared one example, and it was really interesting to hear people with lots of different ages and experiences express their memories… The stories people told about them were often equally, if not more, about the person than the ‘inheritance’ itself. It was great having the discussion before we started writing. There were so many ideas and lots of energy in the room.”
Much of Wagner’s works focus on her life – memoir style. During the reading she read poems about the beloved card game, Rook, and the city of Indianapolis. Wagner also read poetry that connects places in Indiana with poets, as well as poetry that redefines Indiana’s landscape.