Reading from his own selected poems, Alabama poet Dr. Allen Berry gave Wallace Community College students some creative insights when he visited the Dothan campus on Thursday. Then, I led faculty members through a poetry writing exercise.
Wallace Community College-Dothan (WCCD) hosted Berry on campus for a poetry reading with English students. In addition, Berry conducted a poetry workshop for English faculty members. Both the reading and workshop were funded by Dr. Imogene Mathison Mixson through the Wallace Community College Foundations WCC Mixson Enhancement for Excellence Award.
Berry read selected poems from his published books to students, giving insights to his creative process and their creation, and answering student questions about the poetry writing process. Additionally, Berry debuted several new poems for the student audience.
“Many people are intimidated by poetry, but a reading or hearing a poem can be a deeply meaningful experience, one whose reward quickly makes that initial hesitation irrelevant,” said Brandi Wallace, WCCD English Communications instructor. “The opportunity to hear a poet read from his own collection is a moment I hope our English students will remember the rest of their lives.”
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In the afternoon workshop, Berry led the English faculty through a series of poetry writing exercises. I have suggested those in attendance write a poem every day. “You can’t write 365 bad poems,” he encouraged, and then quipped, “But don’t take that as a challenge.”
Berry was born and raised in Alabama and is a 2013 Ph.D. graduate of the Center for Writers at the University of Southern Mississippi. He is the author of four collections of poetry: “Travel for Agoraphobics,” “Distractions and Illusions,” “Sitting up with the Dead,” and most recently “Separation Tango.” In 2001, he founded the Limestone Dust Poetry Festival in Huntsville and served as its director from 2001 to 2006. His work has appeared in “Steel Toe Review,” “The Birmingham Arts Journal,” “What Remembers Us: An Anthology of Alabama Poetry ,” “The American Muse Magazine,” and many other publications. In 2013, he was nominated for a Pushcart Prize for the poem “Pauli’s at the End.” Berry teaches composition, literature, and creative writing at Calhoun Community College in Huntsville.