Visting Writers Series opens with Addonizio

Multifaceted writer Kim Addonizio said that she was “hit by lightning, metaphorically speaking,” and she simply fell into writing poetry. Addonizio spoke to a crowded Edison-Duckwall Memorial Hall Thursday in the first installment of Butler University’s 2010-11 Visiting Writers Series.

Addonizio is the author of five books of poetry, two novels and one anthology of writers and their tattoos.

Addonizio has also received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Chris Forhan, an assistant professor in the English Department and poet, is on the five-person committee that decides who to bring to campus as part of the series.

He said the committee decided on Addonizio because of her direct, conversational, and often, very funny poetry.

“Her work is a good example of how poetry can be immediately accessible,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be unnecessarily obscure or private.”

Lauren Cavers, a junior who attended the event, said she understood Addonizio’s accessibility.

“Even though I was sitting in a room filled with other people, I felt like she was reading the poem directly to me,” she said. “It was as if I was talking to her one-on-one.”

Freshman Shannon Campe said she also felt an emotional connection to Addonizio’s work.

“I felt like when she was reading her poems, I understood who she really was,” Campe said.

“I appreciated that she could share herself so fully and openly with us.”

Addonizio said that poetry is her way of processing life, and she uses many outlets to express herself.

Nonie Vonnegut-Gabovitch, coordinator for the visiting writers series, said Addonizio was a great way to kick off the series because she touches on a few different genres.

“She is a pretty amazing person because poetry is really only one of her art forms,” she said.

Craig Parker, a student in the Butler University Master of Arts program, introduced Addonizio at the event.

He said Addonizio “has a musical sensibility that has the ability to strip her words off the page.”

Addonizio also incorporated music into her poetry reading Thursday.

She said it was poetry in the form of blues, featuring the harmonica.

“I think we’re all kind of weird and we have little things that we do on the side,” freshman Kate Newman said. “But you don’t usually hear harmonica at a poetry reading.

“I thought it was cool that she revealed that side of herself.”

Newman said she also loved the way Addonizio put life into her poetry.

“I love words and when you put rhythm to it, it’s just mesmerizing to me,” Newman said. “So I think it’s especially effective when it’s read.”

Vonnegut-Gabovitch said there is something that everyone can connect to, but students are often skeptical of the series because they are unfamiliar with the visiting writers.

“Unfortunately, students in this age tend to go for things they’re familiar with,” she said. “With the Visiting Writers Series, they don’t necessarily know what they are going to get.”

Forhan also encourages students to attend the events.

“Much of college life is about succeeding at a series of small tasks on the path toward some larger accomplishment: a degree, a job,” he said. “But poetry is about being intensely sensitive to your experience of the moment.”

Forhan also said the writers series is, “astonishingly good” and that students are lucky to have the opportunity to experience these writers.

“I have never seen a series of anything close to this quality at a school of Butler’s size,” he said. “Rarely have I seen it at any university.”

Yusef Komunyakaa is the next visiting writer in the series. He will speak at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday in the Krannert Room of Clowes Memorial Hall.


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