On Thursday, September 22nd, two University of Wyoming Creative Writing alumni poets, Katie Schmid and Brock Jones, visited campus for a lunch with current MFA students and a public reading at Night Heron Books and Coffeehouse. Both poets read to a full house, with audience members sitting on the floor next to shelves of used books, and even a few folks listening from the stairwell.
Brock read from his acclaimed chapbook, Cenotaph, a series of poems that are part memory, part inquiry into the aftermath of war.The chapbook won the Miller Williams Poetry Prize, selected by poet Billy Collins.
Katie read from sections of her chapbook, Forget Me/Hit Me/Let Me Drink Great Quantities of Clear, Evil Liquor, which won Split Lip Press‘s Chapbook Prize.
She stunned us with sections that explore the intensity of childhood, missing fathers, and masculinity. A review of her chapbook can be found at The Rumpus.
Current MFA students were impressed and heartened by the successes Katie and Brock have experienced since their tenure in the program.
Last week it seventy degrees, sunny, and we were picnicking in the park. This week we’re shoveling sidewalks, scraping windshields, and making new friends for ourselves out of fresh snow. Spring in Wyoming is never uninteresting.
One of the downsides of living and voting in Wyoming is that the state doesn’t have much pull in presidential elections and what pull it does have always goes to the GOP. (Not passing political judgment here, just saying that the outcome is more or less guaranteed.) The silver lining is that for smaller-scale politics, our individual votes count for a lot more. This includes party primaries. A few left-leaning members of our cohort gathered at the Laramie Ice Recreation Center on Saturday for the Democratic Caucus. Leading up to the part of the caucus where citizens spoke on behalf of the candidates, the atmosphere was decidedly festive.
In the end, Albany County (where Laramie is located; for some insane reason, it’s not located in Laramie County) sided with Bernie Sanders, with Sanders getting 75% of the vote. Below, you can see Sanders supporters on the right and Clinton supporters on the left.
Last Thursday, we had the pleasure of reading at the Laramie County Public Library in Cheyenne. Lilly, Alec, Ammon, Liz, and Kat all read from their work. The LCPL is pretty swank and includes this weird device where you insert a coin and it spins round and round in a wide bowl. We also enjoyed some dope teppanyaki on the program’s dime at Wasabi.
Over the past several months, several conversations have taken place here at the University of Wyoming regarding the way that the Creative Writing program supports (or fails to support) its people of color and other marginalized minorities. Some of these conversations have been difficult and have forced us to confront the realities of life in Laramie and at UW. Kristine Sloane, who contributes to the blog “The MFA Years,” recently published a post titled “Challenging the Whiteness of MFA Programs: A Year in Confrontations at UW.” It’s an important story to tell, not only for those of us here in Wyoming but for those in MFA programs across the country.
We’ve had some exciting student publications and awards recently. Check them out here:
Liz Kulze won the Tennessee Williams Fiction Contest for her short story, “Widow.”
In the last few months, Jess White has published several great essays in Feministing.
Randall Tyrone is featured in the second issue of Oversound. He also published three poems in (and was interviewed for) Electric Literature‘s Okey-Panky.
Khalym Kari Burke-Thomas’ THUGBAIT was a finalist in the New Delta Review’s annual chapbook contest.
Trey Williams’ short story “Darling, Keith, the Subway Girl, and Jumping Joe Henry” was published in the Winter 2016 issue of Glimmer Train. His story “Twelve in the Black” was a finalist for storySouth’s Million Writers Award.
Bethann Merkle published an article, “Drawn to Caribou,” in American Scientist.
Congratulations to all these fine writers!
Though you couldn’t call Laramie a big city and it can be a little remote (especially in winter), it’s still home to a lively music scene. One of our favorite troubadours, David Dondero, makes regular stops here to play the Buckhorn Bar. Dondero was named one of NPRs Top 10 Living American Songwriters in 2006 and, though doesn’t have the name recognition of some of the other songwriters on that list, he absolutely deserves it.
He also wrote a really fantastic song about Laramie called “It’s Peaceful Here,” whose lyrics are as good an argument as any as to why Laramie is great.