Local poets visit and share their work


Tai Pham photo

Madison local Rita Mae Reese performed some of her own poetry as well as a few poems from Flannery O’Connor at the Visiting Writers Reading Series on Oct. 4.


The University of Wisconsin-Platteville Department of Humanities held a Visiting Writers Reading Series event in Nohr Gallery on Wednesday, Oct. 4. This event featured poets Rita Mae Reese and Matthew Guenette. From 4:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., the poets read from their personal collection as well as from other poets that inspired them and held a question and answer session with the audience. Kara Candito, assistant professor in English, teaches creative writing on campus and was the primary coordinator for this event. Candito knows Reese and Guenette from participating in the Madison Poetry Community.

“The area is close and the community has made it easy to connect with other poets in Wisconsin, including people from Platteville and Madison,” Candito said.

Reese read first at the event and shared her admiration for Flannery O’Connor. O’Connor was an American writer and wrote novels and short stories about morality and ethics in the 20th century. Her writing inspired Reese to write The Book of Hulga, a series of poems that portray a character that O’Connor envisioned before she died in 1964. Reese featured some works by her, as well as Simone Weil.

Guenette followed Reese and shared a number of poems from his recently published book, Vasectomania. Guenette grew up in New Hampshire with his mother and two brothers before coming to the Midwest just over 20 years ago. Guenette shared his poems but also a story behind the poem, which gave listeners at the event a more complete understanding of Guenette’s art. Vasectomania shares many of life’s harsh realities.

“I hope if nothing else, my poems serve all of you as a safe sex reminder and that this book is for any adults that want kids, who don’t want kids. It doesn’t matter,” Guenette says about Vasectomania.

Prior to reading his poem, “Communion,” Guenette shared a story of his mother who would request that her boys follow two rules if they went out on Friday night. These rules simply consist of not ending up in jail and not getting anyone pregnant. His stories made the reading more enjoyable for the audience and shared ideas that aspiring poets can explore. Vasectomania grabs from many different time frames of Guenette’s life, such as his early adulthood and now as he is going through parenthood. “Dear Kids” is a poem that he presented that compared how different life is for children growing up today.

The question and answer session sparked conversation between the approximately 40-member audience and the poets. A key question that was asked was, “When did you discover poetry and how is it rewarding you today?”

“I realized in college there were still living poets and my professor inspired me to be like them. It rewards me today because it is my lifestyle,” Reese said.

“It started in high school. I thought girls would begin to like me. I think it is a valuable reason to turn to the arts but poetry has given me the opportunity to love the classroom. I love how these [being a poet and a professor] work in my life together. Working with students has made me a better writer,” Guenette said.

Reese and Guenette are two examples of how following a passion in the arts and that it can lead to success. The next one in the series is not currently scheduled but Candito would like to invite those interested in the Spring 2018 Humanities Department Creative Writing Festival. Students will be able to submit their own creative works for judging and potential awards. This event is on April 25 and will exhibit some of UW-Platteville’s best student writers.