Renowned poet Brenda Shaughnessy visits school

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Renowned poet Brenda Shaughnessy visits school

Julia Isko

Julia Isko

Julia Isko

John Mauro, Staff Writer

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Last Tuesday at the biennial poetry assembly, keynote speaker and renowned poet Brenda Shaughnessy read and discussed several of her poems.

The assembly attempts to showcase poets from every part of the writing spectrum, Chair of the Library Department Caroline Bartels said. Shaughnessy is the first female Asian American poet to be featured at the event.

“We try to feature poets from various backgrounds because they all had different experiences throughout their lives,” Bartels said. “Shaughnessy is also openly lesbian, and that adds to the mix of voices we’d like students to hear.

“I was talking to a historian about Book Day and visiting poets and he called [Shaughnessy] over and we started talking,” Bartels said.

“When Mr. Wilson reached out about what poet we might want for this year, Mr. Bauld had a list of poets he would love to bring in and Brenda Shaughnessy was first on his list,” Bartels said.

English Department Chair Vernon Wilson assigned his 11th grade classes several of Shaughnessy’s poems before the assemblies, pulling works from her books So Much Synth and Andromeda, he said.

“The language is beautiful and the emotion is alive and raw. There’s a lot of complexity in her work, and the way she structures her poems intentionally make it tangible,” Wilson said. “Her language itself often challenges our expectations of logic and linear progression. It made discussions with my students exciting, but also challenging because it made unpacking the emotionally dense poems difficult,” he said.

English teacher Dr. Adam Casdin thought many of Shaughnessy’s poems were self-explorational, he said. “Many of her poems are reflective and have a double narrative. They exist in two time frames; past experience and current reflection. Reflecting the experience often gives the poem critical awareness,” he said.

Ben Hu (12) found Shaughnessy’s explanations of her writing and editing processes useful, he said.

“It’s refreshing and helpful for students who write poetry to see that she’s human too,” Wilson said. “Her talking about failure and not knowing the impact of her poems was really good for students to hear,” he said.   

“It was interesting to hear how her poetry and her writing process are so intimately connected to her interests outside poetry and how the two heavily influence each other,” English teacher Sarah McIntyre said.“During the assembly she talked about her past and her ongoing work, and what she called her ‘obsessions.’”

“Her poems are very powerful, but I feel the assembly didn’t do her works justice” said Ashley Dai (11). “I wish she talked more about the meanings behind them,” she said.

Rachel Zhu (10) felt Shaughnessy was different than the speakers usually featured in assemblies because she was less scripted, she said. “It made her feel more connected to the audience,” Zhu said.