Jake Skeets visits Bonaventure for poetry reading – The Bona Venture

BY TUCKER REILLY, EDITOR IN CHEIF

The St. Bonaventure University department of English hosted visiting poet Jake Skeets, a Navajo-born author and university instructor, in the Hall of Fame Room of the Reilly Center. At an hour-long event held Wednesday night, Skeets read a selection of poems taken from several of his collections by him, including the award-winning “Eyes Bottle Dark with a Mouthful of Flowers.”

Dr. Sara Nicholson, an assistant professor of English at the university and organizer of the event, described the process of bringing Skeets to Bonaventure.

“The department invited Skeets to visit our campus community this week,” said Nicholson. “He flew all the way from Albuquerque, New Mexico to visit us at Bonaventure and we were fortunate to get to speak with him and hear him read.”

Skeets is currently an assistant professor of English at Diné College and will be an assistant professor at Oklahoma University in fall 2022. Prior to the reading, he visited Nicholson’s Creative Writing: Poetry II class, answering questions and leading a lesson. Kristyn Johnson, a junior English major, was present for the class and described the unique experience of Skeets’ instruction.

“It was really exciting to have him visit our class because I’ve never experienced that before. He came to our class and we all got to ask him multiple questions about his book by him, the publishing process of poetry and some other things about himself… being able to hear from a published poet was very insightful and inspiring, ”said Johnson. “With a few minutes left of class, he gave us a prompt inspired by Michael McGriff’s poem, ‘Why I am Obsessed with Horses.’ He had us write a list of about 50 objects and then had us write a separate list of objects in nature, ie clouds, dirt, flowers, etc. I have [then] had us choose an animal we really liked – and we constructed the poem by using the objects and things in nature we had previously listed. It was really fun to try a new way of writing poetry.”

While the English department has hosted poetry readings in the past, this event marked the first time since the outbreak of COVID-19 that a reading could be held in the Hall of Fame. Dr. Matt King, an associate professor of English and chair of the department, described the joy that came with restarting this practice in his introduction to the event.

“St. Bonaventure has long hosted world-class poets,” said King. “That tradition was put on hold due to the pandemic and we’re excited to begin it again.”

Sophomore English major Isabelle Gaffney had never been to a poetry reading before Wednesday.

“This was my first live poetry event, it was interesting,” said Gaffney. “I have [Skeets] used a lot of homophones so I think I personally would have preferred to read [the poetry] before listening. Nonetheless, I thought the event was great. It’s so impressive to see such profound meaning delivered in a few words.”

Skeets’ reading may be the first since the pandemic but Nicholson stressed the importance of not making it the last.

“Events like Jake’s reading enrich student experience and showcase the enduring value of the arts,” she said. “It’s important for young creative writers to meet working artists, to see that what we do together in class reaches far beyond the classroom.”

Reillyt19@bonaventure.edu

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