Ink, Insight and Inspiration: Poet Maggie Graber Lectures at UIndy

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Award-winning poet and teacher Maggie Graber spoke to students, faculty and the wider community at the University of Indianapolis about her craft and debut poetry collection, as part of the Kellogg’s Writers Series at UIndy. 

According to Associate Professor of English Barney Haney, the Kellogg Writers Series was created in the 1990s, and the aim of the series is to bring different and diverse writers to campus to speak to students. Students and the wider community get the opportunity to meet authors, ask them questions and listen to them lecture. Haney also teaches a Kellogg Writers Series class, where students can interview authors as part of a podcast.

“I started teaching a class that’s like a Kellogg Writers Series class, and it teaches the students how to run the series,” Haney said. “They’re also doing the podcasts and writing the podcast questions.”

According to Graber’s website, she is a queer millennial poet born and raised in the greater Chicago area in Valparaiso, Indiana. Graber’s website states her debut poetry collection, “Swan Hammer: An Instructor’s Guide” was published in 2022. Graber has a diverse background, as she has been a wilderness therapy field guide, an English teacher, an outdoor educator, a farmhand and a radio DJ. 

Haney said he invited Graber to speak at UIndy due to a recommendation from a colleague. Haney said Graber’s perspective as a young, queer Midwesterner would speak to a lot of people in the UIndy community. Describing the themes in “Swan Lake,” Haney said Graber explores the way time, place and friendship interact. Haney described that Graber’s work focuses on the past, present and future in a way which leaves the reader feeling that they are experiencing those moments themselves.

“In her work, and when you read it, like there’s a plainspokeness to it that feels like a friend is talking with you,” Haney said. “And it’s [the collection] are super intimate … It’s almost like we’re eavesdropping on something.”

In Graber’s public lecture, she said the earliest poem in the collection was written in 2007 and the latest in 2020. According to Graber the collection chronicles her coming of age and grappling with the world around her. Graber said the body of poems means something different to her now that they have been published for others to read. 

“I have a different relationship with the book now that it’s out in the world and people can read it and form their own relationships with it that are outside of the material being that I am,” Graber said.

According to Haney, the Writers Series is valuable to students because they get to talk to authors about topics that are deeply human, and they are getting to the kinds of truths about life that can only be experienced through art. Haney said that through the Writers Series, people can hear something that could change the way they understand themselves in the world.

“And I have seen it happen for students in there,” Haney said. “And it’s absolutely—it sounds magical, but it’s really like a profound experience that can happen, for the audience coming to these events.”

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