Northeastern Illinois University students Kathryn Hudson and Natalia Rokita will join English Instructors Olivia Cronk and Larry O. Dean for a reading of various original pieces at the Poetry Foundation at 7 p.m. Dec. 18.
The free event is part of the Poetry Foundation’s Open Door series, which aims to showcase local writing programs and provide a space for new poets to share their work. Generally, a writing instructor and a current or former student share the stage. This is the first time Northeastern is featured for an entire evening of poetry.
Though the honor of reading at the Poetry Foundation means a lot to Dean and Cronk personally, both are thrilled they get to share the stage with students.
“I’m more excited for what it means for both of the students, especially the student whom I invited to read with me, because it’s an entry into the poetry reading scene that’s really dramatic and a big deal,” said Cronk, who released her second book of poetry last year.
“Their work is great,” Dean said. “Thinking about who has ultimately been picked—because I didn’t know who Olivia was going to choose—I think the balance of voices is going to be really interesting.”
Dean’s student, Rokita, said her poems reflect a juxtaposition of emotions on motherhood, mental health, millennialism and childhood memories.
“To me, writing poetry is like going to therapy,” Rokita said. “It's helped me process difficult emotions and experiences, but it's also helped me learn to be a better person and a better writer.”
Rokita is working on her Bachelor of Arts in English, Secondary Education, and is a Creative Writing minor. She took her first poetry class with Dean in the fall of 2017 and is thrilled to be part of the reading series.
“This whole experience means the world to me,” Rokita said. “I still can’t believe I’m going to be reading at the Poetry Foundation. I just saw one of my favorite poets, Solmaz Sharif, there in October, and I'll be reading on the same stage. I am extremely grateful to Professor Dean. He's taught me so much and he's believed in me even when I’ve doubted myself.”
Dean, who has read at the Poetry Foundation previously and has published several books, is hopeful this event will help bring attention to Northeastern and the Creative Writing program. “Chicago is a city that has a pretty solid literary reputation,” Dean said. “The diversity of Northeastern influences and enhances the work of everybody simply by being on campus and simply by absorbing what you hear as you walk around. I think that’s the kind of thing you just can’t plan for.”
This reading is an important milestone to Northeastern’s Creative Writing minor, which has been part of the University for three years, Cronk said.
“We’ve been really pushing to recruit people to consider the minor in addition to whatever their major is,” Cronk said. “As a result of that work, we developed—among the four of us who teach creative writing—an ethos where we want to have really intense community and support of one another.”