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Husband and wife partner up for poetry

Poet Jennifer Atkinson gives a reading of her eco-poetry Wednesday night in the Cullom-Davis Library.
Photo by Cenn Hall

To mark the beginning of the 34th season of the Visiting Writers Series, poets Eric Pankey and Jennifer Atkinson were asked to read excerpts from their personal repertoire of poetry Wednesday night. Le e Newton, English department chair and associate professor, said the two poets were brought in to demonstrate a variety of writing styles.

Their artistic modes and philosophies differ from each other, so it is good for students to see and hear these different modes, Newton said. And, because they are a husband and wife team, we get the luxury of having two writers in the same evening.

In order to perform poetry at Bradley, authors must be willing to give time to assist and educate students during their classes, along with being able to read and perform their poetry to said students.

The first performance of the night was given by Atkinson, a winner of the Pushcart Prize and the University of Alabama Poetry Prize. She has taught creative writing and poetry in places such as Nepal, Japan, the University of Iowa, Washington University and is currently a part of the faculty at George Mason University.

Her poems display themes of what Atkinson described as eco-poetry. She described the aftermath various natural disasters through her descriptive writing.

Pankey followed his wifes performance with his own collection of poetry. Pankey is the winner of the Walt Whitman Award and his poetry has been published in journals, amongst others, like the Harvard Review, The New Yorker and The Yale Review.

[His poems] tell you about the quality and breadth of his work … his is a work of literary genius, Newton said.

According to Newton, Pankey is a poet and a visual artist.

His paintings, drawings, collages, and photographs have appeared in juried group shows around the country and in many literary and cultural journals online and in print, Newton said.

Students who attended the event said they were able to take away a fresh perspective on poetry from the night.

I thought it was really nice to hear a poet read their own work so you can get a new experience of poetry, said Becca Meier, a junior creative writing major.

Others in attendance said it was interesting to hear the experience of established creative writers.

It was so cool to have people that excel and know so much and are celebrated poets come out and talk to us and share their work with us, said Megan Landre, a freshmen creative writing major.

According to Newton, the event was about more than just appreciating creative writing.

The students will not only take away an appreciation for writing and the arts in general, but they will also learn that their own experiences​ transcend their lives and can make an impact on others, Newton said.

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