A week of literature: 'Journey' hosts 'Wordsfair!,' visiting authors
Journey, the driving force behind Cape Girardeau’s literary community and the organization responsible for Southeast’s annual literary magazine of the same name, are working to strengthen and encourage appreciation of the written word.
Professional author Nathan Graziano read his latest work of prose and was among other writers honoring the art throughout the week of March 19-23 as Journey literary magazine held their Wordsfair! and monthly Cup ‘n’ Cork reading.
Several student authors presented their poetry, flash-fiction and creative essay to peers and mentors, in an effort to improve a written culture on campus and in Cape Girardeau.
The event took place from noon to 3 p.m. on Wednesday, March 21, and featured a line-up of eight members of the Journey organization, which publishes a collection of student-written pieces annually.
The day’s events rounded off with a reading from established author Nathan Graziano, who read poetry and fiction at the event.
Manchester writer Graziano said he became active writing when he was encouraged by professors and peers in the college setting.
“Some of it comes from experiences, some of it comes from current events, really; reading news stories. Some of it’s just largely imaginative,” Graziano said. “A lot of times what you write about is almost a reflection of what’s happening in your life at that time.”
He teaches high school English and writing in his home state of New Hampshire as well. He also pens a reoccurring column on one of his life's passions: the Boston Red Sox.
He said his writing can be cathartic.
“It’s often times to disentangle yourself from conflict,” he said.
Graziano’s most books include “Almost Christmas,” from which he read at the event, “My Next Bad Decision,” and “Teaching Metaphors.”
Journey faculty advisor Dan Crocker said he has known Graziano for roughly 20 years. He said the Journey organization has existed at least since the 1970s.
When they first began writing, Crocker and Graziano had the same publisher and learned of each other in that way.
He was assigned as the advisor as part of his role as professor at Southeast.
“I wanted to work with a student literary journal, and I was lucky enough to get assigned to it by my boss,” he said. “Sponsoring this student organization was something I really wanted to do, so I was glad I got a chance to do it.”
'Wordsfair!' provided an opportunity for students to read their work in front of accomplished writers, he said, and it allows the authors in turn to read to the Journey members who are in a similar field.
Journey’s president Liam Ohlendorf read his work at the event, improvising a lot of actions and couple poems. He said he usually writes from his own experiences and is inspired by prominent writers as well as peers.
Ohlendorf said he tries to maintain a conversational tone when communicating his poetry to the audience.
“I'd say I just try to talk to people like they're there when I read,” he said.
Genres among students were diverse, ranging from fantasy with Wes Smith, to creative nonfiction and poetry with Amanda O’Loughlin.
The current budget only allows for the event to be held every other year.
A second event hosted by Journey that week was a poetry reading on March 23 at Cup ‘n’ Cork.
Graziano was still in town to read for the audience there; he featured stories with themes of drug use and current affairs.
Jason Ryberg of Kansas City was another reader and the author of recent books “A Secret History of the Nighttime World” and more recently, “Zeus-X-Mechanica,” both of which feature his poetry. He is an artist-in-residence at the Osage Arts Community and the Prospero Institute of Disquieted P/o/e/t/i/c/s.
Introducing current poet laureate John Dorsey of Belle, Missouri, Crocker said, “To call him prolific is an understatement.”
Dorsey read several poems, some of which centered on the loss of loved ones. Others featured his self-described “pessimistic” attitudes. One such poem spoke about his sorrow over the fact scientists confirmed an asteroid is not going to destroy the world in 2040.
The poem went on to describe his anxiety of hence having to go on making plans and preparing for the future.
Some of his work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, which is an annual given honoring short fiction, poetry and essays.
The reading was followed by a poetry slam where the audience of students was invited to participate.
The Journey student magazine will be published this summer.