Visiting Writer Series presents environmentally aware poetry

BY HOLLY LANE | Evergreen reporter

“People should be able to read something twice,” said Brenda Hillman, poet and professor of poetry at St. Mary’s College in California.

Hillman said her work is layered and contains more than what someone might simply get out of a first read. It is not just straight forward, she said.

Hillman will visit at 5 p.m. today in the WSU Museum of Art as a part of the department of English Visiting Writer Series to read and discuss her work.

“I always say that I write for friends and strangers,” she said. “I even feel that I write for the non-human world, not that they can read.”

Hillman said she will consult with WSU professors to get a feel for what kinds of pieces will best connect with the students. The reading will contain both poems and excerpts from her books.

“I can’t wait to meet the students,” she said.

The Visiting Writer Series features four to six writers throughout the school year.

“Our goal is to reach a wide audience of students of all disciplines,” said Debbie Lee, professor in the English department at WSU and co-director of the series.

The authors cover a vast range of subjects and genres; the series hopes to connect to different groups and different people across campus, Lee said.

“She is one the superstars of the poetry world right now,” Lee said. “She is also very passionate about environmental issues.”

Lee said Hillman’s reading will go well with this year’s common reading book, “Garbology.”

Students can attend as part of the common reading series, said Linda Russo, clinical associate professor in the department of English at WSU and co-director for the Visiting Writer Series.

“Her book picks up on environmental themes in terms of safeguarding local landscapes,” she said.

Hillman is an environmentalist on a local level, but also addresses broader issues like climate change, Russo said.

Hillman said much of the politics in her writing includes a lot of environmental poetry, which she calls “ecopoetry.”

“I feel it’s a good subject for poets,” Hillman said. “Environmentally, we are in a lot of trouble.”

“My poetry is environmental, but it’s also spiritual,” she said.

Russo said Hillman’s work is concerned with the wellbeing of all.

“You can tell from her poetry that she is a person that cares very deeply about life,” she said. “She’s someone who’s very attuned to her immediate environment.”

Hillman said she will read a variety of poems on Monday.

“I really love poetry and hope that people will be inspired by my words,” Hillman said.

To Hillman poetry is much more efficient than other types of writing because it tries to get a lot into a small space and is compact.

Regarding her own work, Hillman said, “My poetry has spirit and nature and politics.”