A Gathering of Poets and Authors

River Lee 11 Ars Poetica

Image by grahamc99 via Flickr

This past Thursday, April 21, I was fortunate enough to take part in the Visiting Authors Series at Warren County Community College. While every year the Visiting Author Series strives to bring one or two authors to the campus for a public reading of their work to wide audience (attendance is always free of charge), once a year the evening is filled with literally dozens of talented authors and poets presenting their works. Among these contributing authors was yours truly, who was given the chance to read two short works of creative nonfiction to the assembled crowd, Fireside Chat and A Little Hike.

Once a year, the event also acts as a release party for the school’s Art and Literary Magazine, Ars Poetica. Hosted by Professors B.J. Ward and Brian Bradford, and Ars Poetica Editors-in-Chief Angela Chiu and Peace Mazelis, this meeting of the Visiting Authors Series included appearances by WCCC students and winners of the Warren County High School Fiction Contest, whose work appears in the 2011 issue of Ars Poetica.

The event began with a reading by poet and Manhattanville College professor Sally Bliumis-Dunn, who read from her two books of poetry, Talking Underwater and Second Skin. She read a number of selections from both of these volumes, vulnerable yet piercing works that explored nature, family, and the human spirit with an unwavering fearlessness.

She was then followed by the winners of the Warren County High School Fiction Contest: Hannah Morris (1st Place — Homeschooled), Jordan McHaffie (2nd place — Homeschooled), and Whitney Kowski (3rd Place —Warren Hills Regional High School), and of the 2011 Warren County High School Poetry Contest: Gabriella Shriner (1st place —Warren Hills Regional High School), Carmella Penna (2nd place — North Warren Regional High School), and, tied for 3rd place, Adam Hendrickson (Belvidere High School) and Juliana Schicho (North Warren Regional High School). These exceptional high school students each read from their winning pieces, which were also included in the 2011 issue of Ars Poetica.

Finally, after a brief intermission, a selection of WCCC students and Ars Poetica contributors read as well, a variety of poetry and prose ranging from touching and poignant to irreverent and humorous. Highlights included: Lorraine Hunt’s touching story of childhood neglect and abuse, Throw Away Child; Peace Mazelis’ poem related a frozen moment on the side of the road, “(Un)stuck”; Nick Heacock’s reflections on motivation and self-determination in the poem “Nothing Held Back”; Phillip A Siska’s story of in-laws and relationships, Suckling Pig; and the eerie tale of invasive clowns in Brandon Vogel’s Clown in the House. Many others also contributed to the evening, entertaining the audience with a wide variety of artistic styles and talents.

I consider myself lucky to have been counted among these artistic voices, both young and seasoned alike. An untraditional student at WCCC (like so many others these days, playing catchup on my scholastic career), and part of their Associate of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, the first and only degree of its kind in New Jersey, I have had the opportunity to write, read, and learn alongside some great literary minds, and standing up with and before them to read some of my own work was not only a pleasure, but an honor.

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