9th Annual Literary Festival
Lit Fest Home

The Mace & Crown, Thursday, October 2, 1986
Writing attracts outsiders

By Marina Lazzara
Assistant Style Editor

     In 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.

With a Man I Wasn't Married To

It 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.

Cafeteria 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,
fragrant, tender,
pasta al dente,
one moment complete.

Sure, our rent-a-Mustang
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.

It 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.

By Peggy Shumaker


Literary Festival

Monday, October 6 8 p.m.
NONFICTION READING Maxine Hong Kingston Batten Arts and Letters Auditorium

Tuesday, October 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 Auditorium

Wednesday, October 8 11 a.m.
SMALL PRESS EDITING Discussion led by Ed Ochester 148-150 Webb Center
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 Auditorium

Thursday, October 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 Webb Center
8 p.m. READING Ntozake Shange Mills Godwin Life Science Building