Amy Hassinger reads for Poetry and Prose series

by Kylee Sibilia | 10/21/16 12:00am

Last Thursday in the Wren Room at Sanborn House, rain pattered against the windows and chairs creaked softly as students and faculty settled into their seats to hear Amy Hassinger read from her newest novel, “After the Dam.” Following an introduction by English professor Thomas O’Malley, Hassinger read several sections from her novel — the third work she has published — and then responded to a brief Q&A session.

Hassinger is one of two writers the English department has brought in as part of its termly Poetry and Prose series. The department brings between two and four writers each term, with past notable writers including Pulitzer Prize-nominated poet Cyrus Cassels and winner of the National Book Award Phil Klay ’05. The department equally invites poets and writers of prose.

The selection process for choosing these visiting writers involves collaboration throughout the English department. According to Arts & Sciences department administrator Bruch Lehmann, fiction-writing professors typically schedule fiction readings, poetry professors typically schedule poetry readings and creative nonfiction professors typically schedule creative nonfiction readings. In addition, the department invites many alumni to read their works as part of the series.

Sarah Khatry ’17 noted the strong alumni presence in the series.

“They try and bring in people connected with Dartmouth,” Khatry said. “Two of the ones I’ve been to, including [Phil Klay], are alums.”

Sofia Carbonell Realme ’20 noted Hassinger’s effective intonation during the reading.

“Somehow she conveyed the characters,’ I don’t want to say their voices, but their personalities,” Carbonell Realme said.

The discussion of Hassinger’s work that followed immediately after the reading, during which both students and faculty asked questions about the author’s research, writing process and motivations.

The quality of the discussion driven the professors present impressed Carbonell.

“Especially because of the questions [the professors] asked, they were coming from different perspectives,” Carbonell Realme said. “This one professor asked in relation to his own work and to the creative process and the other one was talking about how the author writes from the Native American point of view and the ethics of that, and I thought it was really interesting and something I had never thought of.”

Only five to 10 students and a smattering of faculty attended the reading. In his introduction, O’Malley attributed this lesser showing to impending midterms.

Khatry said she thinks more students could benefit from attending the readings, especially due to the quality of the speakers. Klay’s book, which was the subject of the last reading she attended, won the National Book Award right afterwards.

“I wish they were more highly advertised and attended,” Khatry said. “I feel like that’s something that people here should be more aware of.”

While there is much to be said for increasing awareness of these readings, there is also a certain beauty in the intimacy and fervent discussion that occurred in the Wren Room last Thursday. Khatry encapsulated this close learning.

“The room was mostly other people interested in writing, and it was a quiet, rainy day, so it was just very good to hear everything,” Khatry said.

The next reading will occur in the Wren Room in Sanborn House on Thursday, Nov. 3 at 4:30 p.m. and will exhibit the work of Gregory Pardlo, winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.