On certain Thursday nights, students and community members gather to fall under the storyteller’s spell. The Visiting Writers Reading Series was created to bring writers and poets to the college. These authors, like Carmen Giménez Smith, coming to campus on Thursday, Oct. 20, are the cream of the literary crop.
Whitman’s Schwabacher Professor of English Katrina Roberts spoke through email on the series’ luminary guests.
“Carmen’s won several terrific awards: the Poetry Society of America’s New American Poets Series, and the Juniper Prize recently for her third book of poems ‘Goodbye, Flicker.’ She’s pretty much on fire!” said Roberts. “It’s actually really satisfying to have invited the writers I invited back when I did, because after I had them contracted, Carmen won the American Book Award in nonfiction for ‘Bring Down the Little Birds,’ Terrance Hayes won the National Book Award in poetry, and Camille Dungy won the American Book Award in poetry . . . so it feels as though I was able to catch some rising stars.”
Despite the quality of the visiting talent, the task of raising student awareness and enthusiasm for the events has demonstrated certain challenges.
“It seems like most of what they do in terms of advertising for that is they just have those flyers that you kind of see around campus,” said junior and English major Julian Hayward. “Whether there’s a website, I don’t even really know, but most of the time, all you have to judge on whether you want to go or not is, ‘Well, that person’s head looks kind of cool.’ If I knew a little bit more about a writer, I would be more interested in going.”
With that in mind, The Pioneer set out to get acquainted with Giménez Smith. Speaking through email, the author discussed her busy lifestyle. In addition to her own writing and touring schedule, Giménez Smith balances roles as a professor at New Mexico State University, publisher at Noemi Press, editor-in-chief at the literary magazine “Puerto del Sol” and wife and mother to her family.
“I don’t do anything by myself,” said Giménez Smith. “I have a supportive family and the magazine and press are staffed by amazing people who are dedicated to the work we do. l’m very lucky, inspired really, by the people I work with on Noemi and ‘Puerto del Sol.’ I do prioritize in chunks. Sometimes, for a few days or a couple of weeks, I really focus my energy on one project and then move on to another one. I like to listen to music when I write, and I always carry a notebook around, so I have tons of notes to review. In a way, I’m always writing. I’m constantly thinking about writing, and directions for my writing to go so that when I start writing, I’m already in the head space.”
“Though I’ve never (yet!) met Carmen, I do feel as though we’ve become friends in the last couple of years––in part through the work we’ve shared (on the page) and in part through a list-serve of working poet-moms,” said Roberts. “There’s really no limit to what we all discuss on list––pedagogy, kid things, poems, grant applications, insecurities, successes––it’s really a remarkable sisterhood in the literary world. I’m excited to have the chance to welcome her in person to campus next week.”