By Chelsea Weeks, News Editor
Oklahoma Baptist University hosts the fourth annual Visiting Writer Seminars with Mark Jarman next Thursday, September 27th and Friday, September 28th.
Mark Jarman will conduct a poetry reading Thursday, September 27th at 7:00p.m. in the Tulsa Royalties Auditorium in Bailey Business Center.
Jarman is also the keynote speaker for the 2018 Southwest Conference on Christianity & Literature and will be giving the keynote address Friday, September 28th, at 7:15 in GC 219-220.
“We do the Visiting Writers Seminar every year and the conference we happen to be doing this year,” Crouch-Mathis Professor of Literature Dr. Benjamin Myers said. “We’re combining them to get the most out of both, but they don’t normally go together.”
The Southwest Conference is an annual event that takes place in a different regional location every year; this year OBU is hosting the Southwest Conference here on Bison Hill. The theme for this year’s conference is “Gathering in the Strange: Literary Vision in a Disenchanted World.”
“The conference is looking at the ways that enchantment, or the idea of there being magical or transcendent, or strange, in our experience and in literature might be important and valuable in a world that has largely eschewed the supernatural in a secular age that sees the world as purely material,” associate professor of English, Dr. Brent Newsom said.
In 2013, Myers and Newsom approached the OBU advancement office with the idea of creating a seminar that invited renown writers to OBU.
They had the first Visiting Writers Seminar in the spring of 2016.
“We try to alternate a poet and a prose writer because within our creative writing major we offer both of those specializations of poetry and fiction,” Newsom said. “Last year we had novelist Gina Ochsne, this year we’re having a poet, Mark Jarman.”
Mark Jarman’s published collections of poetry include ‘Bone Fires: New and Selected Poems,’ ‘Epistles,’ ‘To the Green Man’ and ‘Unholy Sonnets,’ to name a few.
He received the Joseph Henry Jackson Award, the Balcones Poetry Prize for “Bone Fires: New and Selected Poems,” the 1998 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize for “Questions for Ecclesiastes” and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.
“Mark Jarman is a contemporary poet who takes faith very seriously and over the course of his career he’s been a leader in that direction,” Myers said. “In some of his early work, he took on issues of faith in a complicated and artistically sophisticated way. He opened up possibilities for other writers.”
Mark Jarman was a leader in the poetic movement known as New Formalism which brought back traditional techniques within poetry like rhyme and meter.
“It was kind of edgy and exciting when he was first doing this in the 80’s,” Myers said. “To write a sonnet was kind of punk rock. He’s an important figure in the recent history of American poetry.”
Newsom said his poetry often grapples with faith and doubt and believes that the OBU community and all students can relate to.
“One thing poetry does is help us see the everyday in a new light,” Newsom said. “Poets use the imagination to open up the world of our own experience. Students don’t have to be writers themselves, or be familiar with poetry, to find a poetry reading meaningful, and I hope engaging.”
Myers said bringing writers to campus builds intellectual excitement and energy that you can’t receive from watching the authors YouTube video or buying their book.
“We have writers to campus to help our student understand that literature isn’t just a thing that happened a long time ago,” Myers said. “It’s a thing still happening today, and we can have the excitement and pleasure of watching it before our eyes.”
These events are free for all OBU students, staff and faculty. The funds available to make this event happen are raised through donations. The planning process has already begun for the 2019 Visiting Writer Seminars.