Noah Isherwood, Campus Carrier asst. arts and living editor
Will Herrington, Campus Carrier staff writer
On Jan. 23, Sandra Meek, professor of English, rhetoric and writing was featured in a reading in the College Chapel to mark the release of her new book of poetry, “Still.” This reading was the culmination of a day full of events to celebrate Meek’s new book, including several alumni gatherings.
“Still” features poems discussing environmental issues that Meek has encountered in her travels over the years. The book itself is structured in a nonlinear fashion, though a theme of coming to terms with environmental issues becomes evident towards the end. As to the poems themselves, Meek said that their themes are combinations of several ideas.
“I intended to kind of braid subjects together within poems,” Meek said.
The poems of “Still” are meant to evoke an emotional response to environmental issues.
“I think what poems can do is make you feel an idea,” Meek said.
Rather than rehash concepts intellectually, Meek’s poetry calls upon the reader to view environmental issues from a different perspective. That is the purpose of the collection, to bring into view connections between various issues that may seem unrelated and create an emotional reaction to them. Meek says that the book does not have an overall message, other than to show this grappling with seemingly contrary ideas to better show the relation between them.
This idea of using creative writing as a way of calling attention to new and unseen connections between issues is something that came up several times at an alumni question and answer event at noon on Thursday before the reading that evening. At this event, 23 English and creative writing alumni came together to speak with current students about the study of English and creative writing, and how their studies at Berry have since impacted them. Spanning 20 years of graduating classes from 1999 to 2019, this alumni group had nothing but good things to say about the interdisciplinary nature of creative writing.
These graduates have gone on to pursue many different careers, from attorney to stay at home mom, but one thing for which they all expressed gratitude was the desire of Berry faculty, specifically Meek, to paint in vivid colors the connections between seemingly independent branches of academia. These connections, evident in both the daily teaching and publications of Meek and others, helped these alumni to create meaning in their subsequent studies and work.
Meek has always been an example to students of connecting different branches of study and work. While her last book, “An Ecology of Elsewhere” was being published in 2016, she was in the process of creating “Still.”
“The last book I published was four years ago, but the writing between the books overlapped,” Meek said.
These collections of poetry were created while Meek carried a full teaching load, on top of serving as director for the Georgia Poetry Circuit and cofounding editor of Ninebark Press. Her dedication to her craft, in its many forms and stages, is something for which her students, new and old, expressed admiration.
Prior to the reading on Thursday evening, current students and the aforementioned alumni sat down to a meal together to further discuss English, and life at Berry and how it has changed over the years. Through conversations about changing residence halls and programs new and old, these Berry students, though separated by time, found that what makes Berry special is not the beauty of our campus or the numerous programs and activities that occur here on a daily basis. Instead, it is the dedication of students and faculty alike to seek out connections between areas of study, different vocations and most importantly with one another that makes Berry unique. Sandra Meek exemplifies this dedication, and the events of last Thursday only served to confirm that fact.