On Wednesday, Nov. 7, Loras College welcomed poet Austin Smith for a reading in the ARC. Smith is a published poet, with his work found in the New Yorker, Poetry Magazine, among many other publications. He has another collection of poetry, which was published through Princeton Series of Contemporary Poets. He is currently a professor from Stanford, and was generous enough to visit the college while he was back in the Midwest.
During his reading, chairs filled quickly and more were brought out as students and teachers alike came to listen to Smith read from his collection of poems “Flyover Country”. This collection features many political poems, but he focused on the humorous and serious poems for this reading.
Smith is originally from the northwest area of Illinois, which inspired many of the poems from “Flyover Country”. From his keen sense of observation to his “bottomless well” of inspiration from his home, Smith captured many hearts during his reading. The collection of poems he read from sold quickly after the reading, and he signed many before he left.
Professor Auge opened the reading with some kind words and a brief introduction, and when Smith went up he commented that “I feel like I’m at my own wake.” His humor helped ease his way into the readings, and everyone eagerly waited for him to start reading. Some of the favorites from the crowd were “Ode to Flour” and “Into the Corn”. Both poems brought humor to the reading, and showed the strong voice Smith shows.
During a Q&A session at the end of the reading, Smith was asked why he came to Loras.
“I’ve gotten to know a lot of the teachers here.” Smith said. Professors Kevin Koch and Andy Auge were introduced to Smith, and due to mutual love of poetry, he was asked to read at the college.
“They’ve been good and new friends that I’ve made this summer and they invited me to read from this new book.” Smith said about the connections he’s made in Dubuque.
Smith also gave a lot of advice to new writers. From the usual “never give up” to “you’re going to fail a hundred times,” he didn’t sugar coat anything.
“To not worry about the genre you’re working in,” Smith also said. “I think whatever you’re writing is going to pay off for you as long as you’re writing a lot.” He spoke of writing taking many different directions, and to not confine yourself to one genre.
“It’s okay to imitate the writers you really admire,” Smith said on more advice for young writers. “It’s the best way to learn. I mean that’s how musicians learn.” So never be afraid to imitate your favorites, because they could show the way to the next great piece.
Smith wrapped up his reading with a comment on the Midwest, and how even though the Midwest may not be ideal, people love where they’re from and there’s nothing quite like it anywhere else.