by Jordan Jacob, Elan Editor-in-Chief
Elan is an international student literary magazine. In this feature, students who are members of the staff will share their experiences with the Douglas Anderson Writers’ Festival.
When I went to Writers’ Fest my sophomore year, I didn’t expect it to change my writing, or that I would be affected by the writers themselves. Craft wasn’t yet a big focus of mine, and I knew little about how I wrote or wanted to write. Still, I knew I was better at poetry than at prose, and after hearing Patricia Smith’s poetry in the introductory Festival Panel, I decided to go to her workshop.
She began by reading a poem she had dedicated to children at an elementary school she’d visited, showing how poetry could connect the poet to people with different backgrounds, different personalities, and different experiences. I wanted to do that–I wanted to be able to connect with at least one person with my writing.
Smith pushed us–every writer that teaches at the Festival pushes the festival-goers–to challenge ourselves both in craft and in our own emotions. We explored word choice and hurricanes, distance and death. We imagined dressing our loved ones for burial. “If you can get through this,” said Smith, “you can get through anything.”
Since the workshop with Patricia Smith, I’ve spent more time with other poets and with poetry itself. I’ve been to the Dodge Poetry Festival and met poets who, like Patricia Smith and our Festival authors, challenge their readers to explore themselves as they explore writing. I’ve written about intimate thoughts and experiences, and pushed my work to be the best it could be. It was my experience in the Douglas Anderson Writers’ Festival that made me try my hardest to be a good poet, to live a life of poetry.