Canadian poet encourages expression during Loras visit

carmineLast week, Loras had the privilege of hosting Canadian poet Carmine Starnino. He held a reading on Thursday, April 7, in the Mary Alexis room in the Alumni Campus Center and visited a variety of English classes throughout the day on Friday, April 8.

Starnino has published five volumes of poetry, which have been nominated for a variety of awards, including the Governor General’s Award, the Canadian Author’s Association Prize for Poetry and the A.M. Klein Prize for Poetry. His poetry has been included in “Best American Poetry 2007” and was additionally nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

Thursday night’s reading was well attended by students, members of the English faculty, and even a few alumni. Starnino began by reading from his new book of poetry, “Leviathan”, which was released a few days before his visit to Loras. He explained the importance of “trigger warnings” — writing down a word or phrase when he feels a certain emotion.

“Poems are pressured by need,” Starnino said. “I have to write down a word when I feel an emotion because, when I go back to it, I remember what the feeling was.”

During the reading, Starnino read a variety of poems, ranging from topics such as a meat butcher to a poem written about his newborn baby and his father’s death. His poems are written in a narrative style, which tells a particular story using description. Because of this, Starnino focuses on tying his poems together loosely instead of writing in a specific format.

“A lot of my life has been about giving myself permission to do certain things,” Starnino stated about his poem “San Pellegrino”. The majority of the lines end with a word ending in -er, which gives the poem structure.

In addition to writing poetry, Starnino is known for giving literary criticism to other writers. He is the author of two collections of literary essays, “A Lover’s Quarrel” and “Lazy Bastardism”, and is the editor and compiler of “The New Canon: An Anthology of Canadian Poetry”. At his reading, Starnino was asked about censorship in literary criticism, a topic many of the participants seemed interested in. He encouraged the point of writing and publishing criticism.

“I’m less enthusiastic when certain works can’t be talked about,” Starnino said. “Giving criticism gives more voices to the different themes in literature.”

Starnino had one piece of advice for the English classes.

“Learn a language,” Starnino stressed. “If you can learn another language, you will understand a larger variety of not just poetry and criticism, but the stylistic elements of it. It opens an entirely new world.”

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