Students and seasoned poets alike shared their works Monday in downtown Mount Pleasant.
More than 60 students and community members filled Art Reach, 111 E. Broadway St., as part of the fourth-annual Wellspring Literary Series, featuring Kalamazoo poet Glenn Shaheen.
Born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Shaheen received a master’s of fine arts degree in creative writing from the University of Houston and is now a doctoral candidate at Western Michigan University. His poetry tackled serious topics such as war and the inner conflict of being a soldier, which he counteracted with an adept use of humor.
“Comedy enhances the flavor or tragedy,” Shaheen said. “There are certain spices you can use.”
Shaheen said the performance at Wellspring has been a long time coming.
“I had heard about it through another writer,” Shaheen said. He then contacted assistant professor of English language and literature Robert Fanning, the founder and facilitator of the Wellspring Series, last year and was told that the series would be full until 2013.
Shaheen read several samples of his work, including poems from his published books, “Unchecked Savagery” and “Predatory,” and one poem that he read for the first time.
Fanning, Shaheen and student poet John Priest, an Elk Rapids senior, participated. (Editor’s note: Priest is a columnist at Central Michigan Life).
“Robert just asked if I wanted to read,” Priest said.
Priest, whose poems ranged from the thought-provoking to the reflective and dark, admitted that, early in his poetic career, much of his work seemed uniform and lacking a unique quality. He said Fanning was instrumental in providing the necessary help to improve his work.
“It was all Robert,” said Priest. “He’s such a great professor.”
One of the poems Priest showcased Monday night, “Good Vibrations,” has already been published in “Temenos,” a graduate student literary journal at CMU.
This was the third event in this year’s Wellspring Literary Series. Fanning said these events have been known to draw more than one hundred people to the Art Reach gallery.
“I just saw an opportunity to have readings in town,” Fanning said.
Most other creative writing events happen on campus, he said.
The Wellspring Literary Series is known for pairing more seasoned poets and writers throughout the state with local Central Michigan University students.
Fanning said he focuses on bringing in poets from Ann Arbor, Detroit and other areas around Michigan to pair with local Mount Pleasant students.
The musical group Ugly Broads also performed between readings, featuring both acoustic melodies and instrumental examples of talent, while local restaurant Max & Emily’s Eatery, 125 E. Broadway St., provided refreshments.
The next event in the series, scheduled for 7 p.m. March 18, features Jamie Thomas and Detroit graduate student Sonya Pouncy.