In honor of National Poetry Month and her affiliation with UW-Eau Claire, alumnus Elizabeth Willis is Returning to where it all started
Coming back to her roots, established poet and UW-Eau Claire alumna Elizabeth Willis will return to campus for a poetry reading. She will be reading selections of her poetry at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in the second floor breezeway of McIntyre Library.
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Place: Second floor breezeway McIntyre Library
Willis, who is teaching poetry at Wesleyan University in Connecticut said poetry always has been central in her life – an interest sparked by other poets.
“I guess it was reading poems by other poets who really moved me and wanting to be part of that culture,” she said. “I really love being involved with poetry and the university community in this way.”
Willis graduated from Eau Claire with a B.A. in English and Spanish in 1983. She has published three books and is a past winner of the National Poetry Series. She was also awarded the California Arts Council Fellowship for poetry in 2002 and the Howard Foundation Fellowship for poetry in 2004.
John Hildebrand, an English professor, said the English Department was contacted by the library, as it wanted to do a poetry reading in April for National Poetry month. It asked for a recommendation and Willis’ name came up as a good choice.
“She had three books of poetry out, she had won some prestigious awards, national awards, very competitive fellowships, and she was teaching poetry,” he said. “But the other reason was that here was an alumnus, someone who had graduated from Eau Claire and had become a poet, a very good poet.”
Junior Matt Murphy said he plans to attend, and his class is getting out early to see her.
“It’s probably one of the more interesting things to go to around here, and it is especially relevant because she is a graduate of the program,” he said.
It’s nice to have a poetry reading sponsored by the university, Hildebrand said, adding it’s nice to bring back someone who started off writing for NOTA.
Willis said she wants people to get a sense of the music and power of language in her poetry.
“One of the most important things of poetry is its relation to music,” she said.
The melodic sound is important to her, Willis said. But, poetry also can convey a certain depth of emotion or understanding that really can only be communicated through language.
“Language is something that we all use everyday where we don’t all paint or make sculptures,” she said. “In that sense, it’s a medium that is very familiar to everyone.”
Hildebrand said he agrees poetry causes people to think about language differently.
“We are forced to pay attention to it in a different way,” he said. “It’s not just about conveying information. The message is in some ways the language itself.”
Willis said poetry is an important medium for information.
“I think it’s a vehicle for those private and public thoughts that I think can connect people in really affirmative ways,” she said.
It’s a medium that has a rich cultural history, yet is available and relatively inexpensive, she said.
“I love the fact that poetry is so portable,” Willis said. “You can carry it in your back pocket.”
She said it is also different because many people can access it.
“Poetry has the capability of cutting across the lines of class and other barriers that can restrict the experience of culture,” she said. “It’s very contemporary and very ancient at the same time.”