“And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. And God said, ‘Let there be corn,’ and there was Indiana,” Poet Bruce Snider said.
Snider kicked off the Kellogg Writers Series on Sept. 29 at 7:30 p.m. in the Trustees Dining Room in the Schwitzer Student Center. Associate Professor of English Kevin McKelvey opened the event by introducing Snider and mentioning that the Hoosier native got his undergraduate degree at Indiana University. Snider went on to get a fellowship at Stanford University and is now an assistant professor at the University of San Francisco.
Recipient of the Lena-Miles Wever Todd Poetry Prize and Felix Pollak Prize in poetry, Snider began by reading the couplet “Map,” from his novel “Paradise Indiana.”
Snider confessed that while writing “Paradise Indiana,” he thought it would turn out to be one long poem, but he soon discovered he had far too much to say. Instead, he wrote a series of stand-alone poems that developed into a collection of poems.
Snider emphasized how using specific titles helps to define the poem.
“Using a title develops a context to the poems,” Snider said. “The title sets a scene just enough to keep the readers going.”
During the question-and-answer section, a student asked Snider why he chose to write about Indiana. Snider explained that when he first started writing, Indiana was actually the last place he thought about.
Snider reminisced about growing up in a small town and how his town dealt with a drowning, along with his own love drama. He also spoke about discovering his passion during a writing workshop class in college, where he began writing about Indiana.
“You write poetry not to communicate, but to discover something,” Snider said. “When writing if you make no discovery, then there is no discovery to the readers.”
Senior professional writing major Monique Parent praised Snider’s use of imagery throughout “Paradise Indiana.”
“His imagery and contrast in his poetry really struck me,” Parent said, “especially with the name ‘Paradise Indiana’ versus the cheapness you got from his poetry and the bitter cold of winter in Indiana. I really enjoyed the imagery over his poem about the bear and the innocence of the bear over the tyranny of man.”
Sophomore Earth-space science major Sarah Hoffmeier said that she enjoyed learning about Snider’s experiences and his thought process during his writing.
“I got a new view from it [the reading] and lots more visuals from it, instead of reading it [the poetry] by myself,” Hoffmeier said. “His voicing of it, like how he probably wrote it to sound, was fantastic.”
Hoffmeier said she was particularly interested in Snider’s experiences growing up in Indiana.
“It was almost nostalgic for me,” Hofmeier said. “I had my own experiences growing up in a small town, and our town even had a drowning. And when he [Snider] started talking about his lover, Nick, [it] only made me more interested in his work.”
Snider is currently working on a new, science-based book called “Human Origins,” which includes poems such as “Average Human” and “Black River Shivering.”