Krysten Hill ’08 returned to Stephens on Oct. 17 as a guest of Writers on the Edge, a reading series hosted by the Stephens College English, Creative Writing and Women’s Studies program. Hill's visit was sponsored by Professor Emerita Judith Clark.
Hill read to a warm, enthusiastic crowd at Davis Gallery on Thursday evening, afterward signing copies of her chapbook, “How Her Spirit Got Out,” which received the 2017 Jean Pedrick Chapbook Prize.
“Claim Your Space”
Earlier in the day, Hill taught a master class featuring magical realism in poetry. She led a dozen creative writing students in reading and discussing examples, and gave them space to try new techniques and read their work.
Students responded to the prompt: “Write a poem made of questions to your phobia, or fear. If you could interview it, what would you ask it? If it could answer you back, what would it say?”
Hill encouraged students to be as blunt as they need to be in their writing, to develop habits to make time for themselves, and to write down how many times they apologize each day.
She also reflected on how her experience at Stephens shaped the writer and performer she is today. When asked about her writing process, she showed students a big sketchbook full of writings and drawings. She pointed up.
“You know that student lounge up there?” Hill asked. The students nodded. “I used to write and make art in a book just like this one, between classes.” She’s made seven similar journals since graduating, and said she always starts there when working on a new poem.
Hill closed the workshop by sharing something Dr. Kate Berneking Kogut told her as a student. “She told us, ‘Claim your space,’ whether on stage or in the world,” Hill said. “And that has always stayed with me. So, claim your space.”
Writer on the Edge
Meca Brown-Sanders ’19, a senior in creative writing and fashion communication who participated in the afternoon master class, introduced Hill at the evening reading.
“Today I was delighted to join Krysten’s class, where I got to see how powerful she is,” Brown-Sanders told the audience. “She’s an amazing teacher. I got to understand poetry a little bit better from meeting her this morning.”
Hill teaches at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, where she earned her M.F.A. in Poetry. In 2016, she received the St. Botolph Club Foundation’s Emerging Artist Award in literature. Her work has been published in numerous journals, including apt, B Body, Boiler Magazine, Up the Staircase Quarterly, Word Riot, PANK, Tinderbox Poetry Journal and Winter Tangerine Review.
“As an instructor today, I often reflect on how Stephens taught me that along with providing challenging and foundational material, educators should prioritize empowering students to prepare them to advocate for themselves outside of academia,” Hill said.
“Coming from my high school in Kansas City, I worried that I didn't have the skills it took to be successful. From day one, my community of professors and peer mentors made it their mission to talk me into my potential. I received the benefit of supportive community in the classroom, and also found it in the feminist community that I found through my involvement in student life.
“Stephens offered me a safe space where I could try on ideas that prepared me for the difficulties of the world outside of the college.”
Dr. Clark, a former teacher of Hill’s, commented on the meaning of the series’ name.
“The readers we bring to campus are ‘on the edge’ in that they may not burst into fame at this very moment, but they will soon, and also in that their work itself is on the edge, as in, experimental,” Clark said. “For example, performance poetry hadn’t really taken off yet when Hill was doing it at Stephens,” Clark continued. “She was ahead of her time.”
Clark hopes that Hill will be one of many alumnae who are invited back to Stephens as part of Writers on the Edge.
“It’s good for us,” she said. “And it’s good for them.”
Tags : Alumnae Achievement, School of Creative & Performing Arts, English/Creative Writing
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