Friday, April 13, 2012

Pilgrimages and Caduceus: A Poetry Reading for the Princemere Writer’s Series

Story by Hilary Sherratt ’12

On Thursday, April 12, the Barrington Cinema classroom was filled with students and faculty, chatting amiably to each other and shrugging off their coats. Mark Stevick, associate professor of English, introduced the evening’s two featured Gordon College alumni writers: Joshua Scott-Fishburn ’99 and Sørina Higgins ’02. The event, a part of the Princemere Writers Series, showcased these up-and-coming writers, both near the beginning of their promising careers. 

Joshua, who earned his MFA in creative writing from Seattle Pacific University, read first. He served for several years with the College’s Gordon IN Orvieto program, and the small shrines that line the streets in that Italian hillside town inspired his poem, “Our Lady of Perpetual Neglect.” 


“I was thinking about how the shrines remember or reflect an event,” Joshua said, “how they fill a spiritual need and memory.” He read the poem slowly and carefully, and the audience lingered over images of shrines buried beneath plastic, lovers in alleyways. The poem takes on a pleading tone, a prayer that Our Lady of Perpetual Neglect would pray for the people, “we who rarely think of you.”

Sørina Higgins earned her MA in English from the Breadloaf School of English at Middlebury College. Her most recent book of poetry, Caduceus, was published in February of this year. She read several poems from the different sections of the volume, sonnets and pantoums and a few poems of free verse. Inspired by poets like Gerard Manley Hopkins, John Donne, and the ideas in epic poets like John Milton and Dante, Sørina’s poetry plays with words, turning the sounds around and building off one sound into a greater rhythm—“into lonely, lovely, into now.” Her enthusiasm for words was evident as she read. 

Both Joshua and Sørina are inspiring writers to listen to, and honest about both their vision and the process. “Revision takes time,” Joshua shared with the group. “It took me a couple of years to be sure I had the system of the essay down, so don’t be scared by revision.” Sørina shared that she was most inspired by the “Inklings”—C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien and Charles Williams. “They see a greater reality that’s around us,” she said. To show that greater reality is her hope in writing poetry. 

In the warm chatter that filled the room when the reading concluded, they encouraged encouraging young writers at Gordon to imagine where writing might take them.

Photo: After the reading concludes, Joshua Scott-Fishburn ’99 (left) catches up with Gordon IN Orvieto administrator and Associate Dean of European Programs John Skillen (right).

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