Visiting Writers Series brings chapbook contest winners to Northwest
I wrote this article for a class final in December 2018. It has been edited and improved after being graded.
MARYVILLE, Mo.—Northwest Missouri State University’s Department of Language, Literature and Writing has brought award-winning authors and poets to campus through the Visiting Writers Series for more than 15 years. Two writers who visited this semester were Frank Montesonti and C.D. DyVanc.
Montesonti and DyVanc were co-winners of Northwest’s 2017 GreenTower Press Midwest Chapbook Contest. Prizes for winning the contest included publication of their chapbook—a collection of 25-40 poems revolving around a theme—and invitations to read their work on campus.
Director of the Visiting Writers Series Daniel Biegelson explained sharing the writers’ work through publication and readings is important to show the value of literature at Northwest.
“I think being invited to read anywhere is a rewarding and beautiful thing,” Biegelson said. “What we’re saying when we publish it is essentially that this is something others should read and there should be a space for this in the universe. This is something we value so much that we particularly want to share it with our community here.”
The contest winners weren’t the only writers who visited Northwest. Peter Mishler, author of “Fludde”, read his poetry with Montesonti in September at the first reading of the semester. Diana Joseph, a short story author and a creative nonfiction writer, read her work with DyVanc in November.
Some writers come to campus after expressing their interest to the Visiting Writers Series committee. The committee members also invite writers they admire.
Biegelson keeps track of writers who are visiting colleges nearby to see if he should invite someone already traveling to the Midwest to Northwest.
“We also keep in mind writers who we think appeal to our student body and have interesting things and insights to share with our audiences,” Biegelson said. “I think going to a reading and being in that common space is an incredibly powerful thing because it’s about coming together as a community. It’s a way for readers and the people in the audience to step outside of themselves and inhabit and understand the meaning of different experiences they wouldn’t normally have.”
The events were held in the J.W. Jones Student Union Living Room. Chairs were brought from surrounding rooms to accommodate the students present.
DyVanc, a Northwest alumnus, was surprised by the number of students because fewer people attended readings when he was a student.
“I was ecstatic about the turnout,” DyVanc said. “That’s very heartening that this is something that has grown to a level that it has. It’s nice for people to be able to experience this sort of thing.”
DyVanc said he is proud to read his work at his alma mater because it shows students what they can accomplish with their education.
“This is something that wouldn’t be a fun or accessible thing for all students,” DyVanc said. “I think we all need to push our boundaries a little bit because we won’t know if we enjoy something unless we actually experience it.”
DyVanc’s chapbook “rhi(n.)oceros” is a collection of poems that he wrote during October Poetry Writing Month 2016. He wrote the poems to cope with the death of a friend.
“The book goes through my process of grief and the idea that good things leave us,” DyVanc said. “When they go, we have to remember the good parts of when they were here.”
Montesonti’s chapbook “Arts Grant” contains a variety of humorous art proposals he wants the Los Angeles Regional Arts and Festivals Council to consider. He wrote the poems because he always had ideas for art projects, but he wasn’t a visual artist who could physically create them.
“I enjoy sharing my work,” Montesonti said. “Funny poems have decent reception.”
Biegelson described Montesonti’s work as surreal and existential yet timely.
“Sometimes it’s that resonance that can be powerful and helpful to sort of jar us out of our ruts and routines and get us to see things in a different light,” Biegelson said.
The Visiting Writers Series continues next semester with three writers: author Jennifer Latham Feb. 20 and poets Gary Jackson and Sean Thomas Dougherty April 10.
“Each writer brings their own specific vision of the world,” Biegelson said. “No matter who the writer is, I just hope that people come and experience and listen. In that act of attention and act of listening, we get to experience something beyond ourselves.”
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