the past year, the Creative Writing Department has undergone many
changes. A visiting writers' program was formed last spring bringing
a variety of well-known writers to share their artistic talents
and abilities with students and faculty members through workshops
and readings. Also, the annual Literary Festival has developed into
an anticipated attraction not only to the college community, but
also to many outside of ODU.
Peggy Shumaker is from outside of
ODU; she was born outside of San Diego as a matter of fact and raised
in Tucson, Arizona where her undergraduate years were spent at the
University of Arizona. After taking two years off, she returned
to the same university to continue her creative writing studies
on a graduate level. After receiving her master in fine arts, Shumaker
worked in various jobs. She started by working in a publishing house
then she moved on to the Arizona Commission of the Arts to do residencies
throughout the state. Her residencies included teaching creative
writing in a women's prison, working with deaf adults, and working
with Navajo children.
After these adventures, Shumaker taught at Arizona State in Tempe
then moved on to teach for a year at the University of Alaska where
she worked with graduate students for the most part.
These tremendous changes in scenery from Arizona to Alaska to Virginia
have been an advantage for her and her writing since, as Shumaker
says, she is susceptible to landscapes.
Recently Shumaker sent off her second
collection of poetry for publication. It contains a section on Alaska
ranging from short meditative pieces that are more than what she
normally writes to a long piece triggered by her observation of
a collection of almost fifty totem poles that "rise up over the
mist of the island."
Her first book, Esperanza's Hair,
was published in 1985 while she was at Arizona State. She describes
the poems in this collection as being more raw edged emotionally.
The book's development is based around the theme of women helping
and waiting for change (The word "Esperar" means to hope or to wait
in Spanish.) Norman Dubie commented on this book as follows: "The
craft and vision of these poems are extraordinary but what is shocking
about this book is the poet's understanding of the order of things."
The poems are clearly written in
a voice that transforms common everyday experiences into conquests
connecting trivial events to our entire entity and stabilization.
They give an understanding of our own being.
When asked about her move here to
ODU, Shumaker says it is an exciting place to be right now because
there are many possibilities within the new center for the fine
arts and the program in the stage that it is in now.
"There's a lot of room for growth and molding for the patterns that
the creative writing program should follow," she says. "I would
like to see the graduate program establish a more complex kind of
support and bolster programs such as the visiting writers' series."
Ideally, Shumaker would like to have a reading each month for students
all year to maintain the program and motivation throughout the department.
Presently, Shumaker instructs English
composition, first level creative writing, and a graduate and undergraduate
poetry workshop. When asked how she would like to influence her
students, Peggy said, "the most important thing I can do is give
my students permission to do their best work. Sometimes that's a
matter of exposing them to work they haven't read, sometimes a matter
of saying you can try this strategy, or this is something that maybe
hasn't occured to you. In most cases, it's a matter of motivating
the student and then getting out of their way."
Shumaker likes to give her students
permission to use the voice that is most exciting to each individual
person -- the most profound and vulnerable for them.
As young writers, it is fortunate that we have this chance to train
under such a crisp, developed writer as Shumaker. As a teacher,
she is patient and willing; as a poet, her voice is natural and
her writing frighteningly precise.
a Man I Wasn't Married To
was only for a moment
in a town I didn't live in
with a man I wasn't married to
and a car I didn't own.
The young man frying onions
in his hidden kitchen
behind the counter of the pension
recommended this little place
on Washington Square
They made their own noodles.
racks of fresh pasta
dry in measured heaps, tangled
neatly. The barkeep handles
the raw steaming swoosh
of the cappuccino machine
like some ship's captain,
sure and direct.
Fettucini al Basta-
a religious experience-
herbs and butter,
pasta al dente,
one moment complete.
double-parked in the tow-away zone
is just asking for it. I know
that blond waiter
working this summer job
keeps track of everything
in his long black book.
Of course, we'll pay.
But not yet.
Bracing for the fog-wind
whipping through the spires,
lights splash on
across the bay.
Meters tick. Every minute
lovers' talk charges the wires.
Through the mist, lights pierce
their small holes, half-remembered
scenes from blurry-edged dreams.
was only for a moment
and I was far away and ready.
I can't speak for everyone.
But I know in my shyness
that I can endure
small doses of heaven.
6 8 p.m.
NONFICTION READING Maxine Hong Kingston Batten Arts and Letters
7 12:30 p.m.
ON WRITING NONFICTION Maxine Hong Kingston 148-150 Webb Center
8 p.m. FICTION READING Edna O'Brien Batten Arts and Letter3
October 8 11 a.m.
SMALL PRESS EDITING Discussion led by Ed Ochester 148-150
12:30 p.m. POETRY READING Ellen Bryant Voigt and Ed Ochester
148-150 Webb Center
2 p.m. IRISH FICTIONS Edna O'Brien 148-150 Webb Center
8 p.m. POETRY READING Robert Bly Mills Godwin Life Sciences
9 11 a.m.
POETRY AS A DANCE FLOOR -- Robert Bly 148-150 Webb Center
12:30p.m. ON PLAYWRITING-- Ntozake Shange 148-150 Webb Center
2 p.m. POETRY READING Linda Pastan and Jonathan Holden 148-150
8 p.m. READING Ntozake Shange Mills Godwin Life Science Building