No matter how difficult selecting the perfect string of words is, junior Ashley Sims tries to take time daily to lift her thoughts from her mind and place them onto paper.
"A lot of the time I don't sit down thinking, 'Hmm, I'm going to write a poem today,'" Sims said. "I just write, and then I'll go back and find a poem in the journals I write."
Sims is one of a number of students presenting poetry pieces at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in McKibbin Recital Hall. Taking place in April to honor National Poetry Month, the event is part of the Sesquicentennial Reading Series established by Instructor of English Marti Mihalyi two years ago.
The reading is composed of students involved in the language and literature department who have completed advanced work in creative writing and poetry.
"A number of people will read, but we will take a few moments to recognize our graduating seniors," Mihalyi said. "This will probably be their last public reading at Baker."
Sims will read at least two poems: "Scale Song" and "To the Woman in L'Absinthe" by Degas. The time Sims spent on each piece varies. She hammered out "To the Woman in L'Absinthe" in an hour. But later on, the piece required a couple of revisions. It took several hours for the "Scale Song" to take shape, but Sims found, once done, there was no need to revise.
Sims wrote both poems in last semester's Advanced Poetry Workshop. Inspiration for the "Degas" piece was slightly unusual. Students in the workshop had to write a poem about a piece of artwork, and after studying Degas, Sims selected "To the Woman in L'Absinthe" because of the story hidden behind it. At the time Degas produced the piece, critics refused to consider it art because of the subjects in the painting: prostitutes and alcoholics.
Junior Brianna Lichtenauer will also present poems at the reading. Like Sims' pieces, Lichtenauer's poems are products of last fall's Advanced Poetry Workshop, but writing has captivated her since she was a young girl.
"I was writing some of the most awful stuff you've ever read when I was in junior high, so I think that's when I developed an interest in it," she said. "I didn't really think about why I liked it until I was in Marti's class. She helped me see all the little things you miss when you're busy writing bad poetry."
Last year, Lichtenauer received international recognition for a creative nonfiction piece.
"Most of the pieces I did for workshop took at least a day and a half of pure brooding time," she said. "I would get an idea in my head, but I'd have to leave it there to stew and roll around with all the other ideas in my head until I could put pen to paper. When I finally started writing, it probably took two hours to put the first draft together, and then anywhere from a day to two weeks to get some kinks worked out. Even then, I'm never really convinced my poems are done. I still take out a line here or there, or drop a word, add a new one, and then go back to the old."
After the poetry reading, participants are invited to partake in free refreshments distributed in the lobby outside McKibbin. Mihalyi said English students often work as hard as college athletes do but don't often receive the same amount of support; therefore, she encourages students and faculty to attend.
"The level of quality in the poetry will be notable," she said. "Never since I started teaching at Baker University has the English department had as many fine student writers at one time as we have this year."