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College to celebrate National Poetry Month

Barry McNamara
MONMOUTH, Ill. – Monmouth College is going the virtual route to celebrate National Poetry Month in April.

The celebration will include daily poetry readings by students, faculty, staff, administrators and alumni, plus a discussion with English professor David Wright, whose third collection of poetry, Local Talent, was published last fall.

Wright said the activities are a collaboration between his department and the College’s Hewes Library.

“Hewes Library staff are a bit in mourning without the celebrations of daily successes with our students,” said Public Services Librarian Anne Giffey. “To that end, we can find solace in sharing the things we love, including the words we love. While our library is a physical space, the library’s staff is pleased to be a part of sharing words of poetry in a digital space. It really has been a pleasure to participate and learn from each other.”

Wright said: “I think the library does social media as well as any department on campus, so I’m excited Anne and (library director) Sarah Henderson suggested partnering with us.”

Giffey will be the first member of the campus community to share poetry through social media and on the Hewes Library portal she helped to create at

“Anne’s going to read a couple of silly Ogden Nash poems that she does a great job of reading,” said Wright. “We have a good range and mix of staff and faculty, women and men, varied disciplines, and other important areas of campus life. And the poems they offer should also be a diverse representation.”

Giffey will be followed by students in Wright’s “Advance Creative Writing” course, by President Clarence Wyatt and by Dean of the Faculty Mark Willhardt – a former English professor – to name a few.

“We plan to have a couple new videos each day through the end of the month,” said Wright. “My students will either be reading poems they’ve written or some of their favorite poems. One of the things I stress in my class is a responsibility for literary citizenship, and a way to promote that is to highlight the work of other people.”

Last up in the series will be snippets of an interview of Wright by Willhardt, who Wright says “has seen me work my way through at least eight or nine different forms of Local Talent” over the past few years.

Wright had intended to promote the book this spring at several public venues, but the COVID-19 pandemic shut down those plans. The interview video, which will also include Wright reading some of his works, is the next best thing.

“Poetry is like wrestling – it’s best done hand-to-hand,” Wright said of the importance of hearing poetry as opposed to simply reading it.

In Local Talent, Wright deepens his poetic engagement with the physical and spiritual terrain of the Midwest.

One reviewer wrote: “Whether we grieve and mourn our losses, or celebrate fleeting moments of connection to others, this collection offers an honest and imperfect vision of discerning how our varied talents root and sustain us in whatever landscape we inhabit if we can, how Wright phrases it, ‘stand, bare-eyed and loving this place’ as we struggle to embrace ‘a nearly open-ended sky.’”

Wright said the title comes from a phrase he heard in his youth from his father on evening drives around the town square in Washington, Ill.

“We’d drive around the public square and see the same crowd sitting around. He’d say, ‘Oh, look, the local talent’s out tonight.’ He meant it as a negative comment, but I’ve turned it on its head to kind of embrace the Midwest – that’s what we have, that’s who we are.”