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Poets share work at final Wellspring Literary Series Monday night

Traci Brimhall and Leigh Jajuga shared their poetry at the final Wellspring Literary Series event of the semester Monday night at Art Reach of Mid Michigan, 111 E. Broadway St.

Brimhall, a Ph. D candidate at Western Michigan University, said she once thought all poetry was about fields and flowers.

“On some level, all our decisions are conscious,” Brimhall said. “...I decided to talk honestly in my poems.”

She said she always loved to write and studied creative writing as an undergraduate student but did not pursue graduate degrees until she later realized she was unhappy.

Brimhall moved to New York, took workshop classes and worked odd jobs. She said she loved poetry enough to change her life.

“Teaching keeps the light on and poetry keeps me alive,” Brimhall said.

Brimhall said she likes to remind her students at WMU she is a practicing writer too, but with more experience. She said she does not like an imbalance of power in the classroom.

Professor of English language and literature Jeffrey Bean said Monday's reading was the first time he heard Brimhall's and Jajuga's work.

“The whole event was moving,” Bean said. “I felt emotionally connected with the poems.”

Robert Fanning, assistant professor of English language and literature, introduced those who would perform: Brimhall, Jajuga and Jamie Fiste, associate professor of cello at the school of music.

Fanning said Brimhall's work was complimented by Jajuga's work by way of moods, tones and themes.

“There is a powerful voice in Leigh's poetry, a deep spark, a bravery with language and a traveling inward — into memory,” Fanning said. “She goes into the mines and works hard to chisel her gems.”

Jajuga is the president of Central Michigan University's Poets' Collective, an assistant editor of the Central Review, Open Palm Print and Greatest Lakes Review.

Fiste is an active recitalist, chamber musician, orchestral player and teacher.

Brimhall's first book, “Rookery,” won the 2010 Crab Orchard Series in Poetry's First Book Award, and her forthcoming book, “Our Lady in Ruins,” was selected by Carolyn Forche for the 2011 Barnard Women Poets Prize.

“It was terrific to hear great birds that are Traci's poems released from their cages and flying around the room,” Fanning said.