| 03.20.2018

Distinguished poet to visit campus


The University of Idaho hosts three distinguished visiting writers each year: a fiction writer, a poet and a non-fiction writer, said Doug Heckman, director of the MFA in Creative Writing program.

Tyehimba Jess is this year’s guest poetry writer.

Jess, a renowned poet and professor, will read his poetry, which will be followed by a Question and Answer session at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Law School Courtroom. The event is free and
open to the public.

“And we’re really excited for him to visit Moscow, he’s a well established and nationally recognized poet, and offers a bit different poetry than many of our students are familiar with here on an academic campus,” Heckman said. “He lives in New York City and so we like to bring some diverse poets to Moscow and we are thrilled (Jess) agreed to come out here for a visit.”

Jess graduated from New York University with an MFA and now teaches creative writing at the College of Staten Island.

“I kept on doing things … that I cared about,” Jess said. “That’s the critical thing, I mean everything else was not working for me right. So it’s the only thing I’ve been able to come to over and over again and it’s been reliable for me. That’s how, I would say, I’ve been successful. You’re just successful when you sit down to write at the page. That’s the major success. When you take a risk, set your pen to the page, every time you do that you’re being successful. But you know, some people don’t keep on doing it.”

Heckman said people who may not always be interested in poetry should attend the reading. Jess is entertaining to watch, and he will give a good show, Heckman said. He is a younger and successful poet and this is a unique opportunity,
Heckman said.

Jess said he used to be on a slam
poetry team.

“These days what I’m doing is I try to read with meaning, but I mean with feeling,” Jess said. “So, that’s what I do, you know. I think everybody who reads performs in some way or another– it’s just a question of what degree they want to labor in that performance. And, I wouldn’t say that I perform so much as I read these days but performance is in there.”

Jess said aspiring writers need to read and write as much as they can.

“You know, when you read, you’re learning how to write,” Jess said. “And try to explore. Find out the things you like, think about why you like them. Find out the things you don’t like and figure out why you don’t like them. And take it from there. Don’t give up, that’s the number one thing,”
Jess said.

Heckman said Jess has a certain grit and honesty to his poetry that makes the poetry intriguing.
“I’m particularly interested in history … I’m particularly interested in how race has affected people, and what can be made of the stories that are left when that happens,” Jess said. “I guarantee they have never seen poetry like this before.”

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