A packed room of students welcomed poet Mark Jarman to campus both Monday and Tuesday night.
Jarman is the most recent visiting writer to come to Hillsdale; the Visiting Writer Program brings poets and fiction authors to campus twice a semester. He has published eleven collections of poetry, won many awards including the Lenore Marshall Prize from the Academy of American Poets, and teaches at Vanderbilt University. Jarman read poems from his books “Unholy Sonnets” and “Questions for Ecclesiastes” on Monday, and lectured about his career and gave writing advice on Tuesday.
“The connection with the personal and private activity of writing poetry seems to me obvious,” Jarman said. “Especially if one writes daily or nightly and believes the activity of writing a poem is a form of communication with God.”
Jarman advised students to write consistently and use their poetry to glorify God.
The poet told many stories throughout his lectures, but one that particularly stood out was a story from his childhood about his mother. Jarman recalled how he asked his mother about her prayer life. In response, she described her routine of praying while doing the dishes. “She’s praying though her eyes are open wide,” Jarman read. “She’s doing three things: watching a cloud pass, talking to God, drying a drinking glass.”
Attendees of the lectures reveled in Jarman’s artistry.
“Mark Jarman brought wisdom, insight, and an eye for the soul in relation to God,” said sophomore Morgan Billingsley, who attended the talk to learn from the successful poet. “His visit to Hillsdale was enriching and his words were inspiring.”
During his visit, Jarman also met with and advised multiple students on their writing.
“A lot of students were able to have meals with him, do a workshop with him, and do a question and answer series,” said Dutton Kearney, director of the Visiting Writer Program and a professor of English. “It’s been great.”
As the new director of the program, Kearney said he was worried about how many people were going to attend the Jarman lectures.
“The room was packed both nights and he was very well received,” he said.
Kearney said that the Visiting Writers program is important because it allows students to engage with the brightest minds in literature.
“To have students here who live the life of a solid classical education and then having a conversation with writers like Mark Jarman really enriches the education,” he said.
Students and faculty were very engaged with Jarman, asking him questions after his speech and getting their books signed during the reception.
“I look forward to the next writer to come to our campus,” Billingsley said. “The program always provides rich intellectual material to sift through what we might not otherwise wrestle with in our daily life.”
Jarman took note of the engagement and eagerness of the student body.
“It’s a pleasure to be around students who are so well informed,” he said. “Especially about literature.”