Upcoming Reading: Erica Bernheim and Hai-Dang Phan

Need an excuse to get out of the cold? Enjoy an afternoon of poetry next week in the Perrine Gallery (Stewart Memorial Library, Second Floor) with two fantastic poets: Erica Bernheim and Hai-Dang Phan. The reading will be held on Tuesday, March 3rd at 4:30pm.


Erica Bernheim grew up in Ohio and Italy, and received her MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and her PhD from the University of Chicago. Her first collection of poems, The Mimic Sea, was published by 42 Miles Press in 2012. She is also the author of a chapbook called Between the Room and the City.

Bernheim’s love for writing began with the books she read on long car rides with her family: “I learned to read quickly and would think about whatever I read for a long time afterwards, trying to remember sentences verbatim, and puzzling over whatever I had forgotten to remember, hoping I could try something like whatever I had read in a book of my own at some point. I wanted to make other people feel the way I did when I read something I loved”(Source). She currently teaches at Florida Southern University.

You can read some of Bernheim’s poems here and here.


Hai-Dang Phan was born in Vietnam and raised in Wisconsin. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in The New Yorker, Lana Turner, Diagram, The Volta, and elsewhere. His forthcoming chapbook, Small Wars, will be available through Convulsive Editions in 2015. Phan currently teaches at Grinell college, with a focus on ethinic American literature, poetry, translation, and the legacy of the Vietnam War in literature.

You can read his poem “Small Wars” here, and his translation of the poem “Morning at O’hare Airport” here.

Both poets will read from their work before participating in a Q&A session about poetry, translation, and the writing life. As always, this reading is free and open to the public. We hope to see you there!


Upcoming Talk: Bryan Mangano on the Enduring Oddity of Tristram Shandy


Lawrence Sterne’s 18th century novel The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, caused an uproar from critics and readers alike because of its lewd humor and inherent “oddness.” Learn what all the fuss was about next Tuesday, February 24th at 4pm in Kesler Auditorium, when Assistant Professor of English Bryan Mangano will give a talk called: “Enduring Oddity: Why we Still Read Tristram Shandy.”

Mangano has long been interested in the origins of the novel as a form, but he didn’t get a chance to read Tristram Shandy until he took a graduate course in 18th century fiction. “By the end of the first chapter,” he said, “I knew I would love it.” His talk will explore ideals of male friendship within the novel as well as Sterne’s contributions to first-person narrative techniques. Mangano also hopes that “some of what makes Sterne amusing will come across, too, because I want more people to read the novel and more 18th century novels generally, which are often neglected–in extra-curricular reading at least–in favor of 19th century novels by Austen and Dickens.” Tristram Shandy was one of the first serialized novels, a form that became a media sensation and pervaded into the 19th century as well.

Whether the audiences of Sterne’s novel hailed it as the “pocket-companion of the nation” or criticized it for its bawdy humor, Mangano believes that it still holds meaning for the readers of today: “I think most of all it continues to teach us about the doubleness of reading novels: that pleasure resides in immersing ourselves in the illusion of the story and also in stepping back to recognize the constructed artificiality of that illusion.”

This talk is a unique opportunity to form your own opinions about the novel, participate in discussion with a Coe professor, and satiate your curiosity about Tristram Shandy’s “enduring oddity.” We hope to see you there!

With Hammer in Hand: An Original Docudrama

What do you get when you mix power tools with a docudrama class?

With Hammer in Hand, apparently: a production created by Professor Kate Aspengren’s “Topics: Writing the Docudrama” class in conjunction with Habitat for Humanity.

The collaborative project includes snippets of live interviews with Habitat for Humanity volunteers, staff, and homeowners. In order to write the docudrama, the class conducted research on Habitat for Humanity’s history and mission. They even spent an afternoon in the Cedar Valley ReStore, Habitat for Humanity’s nonprofit home improvement store and donation center.  Class member Jackie Duden says, “I think the most intriguing part about our interviews was the fact that everyone had one thing in common: they all told us that once they got involved with Habitat once, they were hooked. It made me want to learn more about Habitat for Humanity.” Duden is thrilled to have the opportunity to get others hooked on Habitat through With Hammer in Hand.

Habitat for Humanity is an international non-profit organization that strives to build safe, decent, and affordable housing for those in need. They have built or repaired over 800,000 houses and have provided for over 4 million people. The class worked with Cedar Valley Habitat for Humanity, a local affiliate of the organization.

The show will debut Friday, December 5th at 6 PM in Dows Theater. It is free to Coe College students, staff, and the general public.

Who Writes this Stuff?

Calling all writers! In this economic climate we all know how difficult it can be for writers and English majors to find a position after graduation. Luckily, career services is offering a great opportunity for students to learn about the field of technical communication. On November 11, career services will be offering rides to Cornell College for those students who are interested in hearing from four veteran technical communication professionals about how they got started in the business, as well as answer any questions you have about the field.

Still on the fence? Here are some reasons you might want to attend:

  • If you’re interested in technical communications, this is a way to get advice from professionals in the field
  • If you’re unsure about where your interests lie, this is an opportunity to find out if technical writing is for you
  • This is a great networking opportunity! (Career services will even provide students with business cards)
  • Career services is offering $5 off of each student’s meal

Buses leave at 5:20pm on November 11 and return no later than 9pm. The registration deadline fore Coe students is November 6! To register call career services (319-399-8844), e-mail jdirks@coe.edu, or stop by upper Gage Union.


Paul Engle Reading: Nathaniel Mackey

Each year the Coe English Department sponsors a reading from a distinguished poet in honor of Paul Engle, a Coe graduate and past director of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. This year we are hosting poet, fiction writer, and critic Nathaniel Mackey, who will be on campus for a reading on October 30th. The reading will be held in Kesler Auditorium at 7:30pm.

Nate Mackey is the author of several volumes of poetry, including the National Book Award-winning Splay Anthem, Whatsaid Serif, and his most recent book, Nod House. He has also published four volumes of an ongoing prose project entitled From a Broken Bottle Traces of Perfume Still Emanate. When he’s not writing he can be found broadcasting jazz and world music on local radio stations.


Hear Nate Mackey read and discuss his poem “On Antiphon Island” here.

Mackey is constantly experimenting with language, using rhythms and different qualities of sound to create poetry and prose that reads like music. In a piece for Jacket Magazine, Luke Harely writes of Mackey: “He thinks like an experimental jazz musician, forever pondering ways to reinvent the art form in which he operates. By closely examining the similarities and differences between words and tones, he seeks to occupy a poetic realm populated by what I will call word-tones, a realm as free as possible from denotation.”

Mackey also experiments with point of view in his work, moving deftly from first person to first person plural and back again, blurring the identity of the speaker. In an interview for Publishers Weekly, Mackey tells an anecdote in which “the question of the “we” came up, and one of the students said something that was quite resonant for me, which was that he didn’t experience the “we” as presumptuous or as an imposition; he experienced it as an invitation. I guess that’s what it is—an invitation to the reader to identify, to include him or herself.”

At the upcoming reading, Mackey will read from his work and participate in a question and answer discussion exploring his writing, musical influences, and any questions you might have about the writing life. Mackey will close by signing books for any who are interested, and desserts will be served in Hickok lobby after the reading. As always this event is free and open to the public. We hope to see you there!

Last Chance: Submit to the T-Shirt Contest!

Attention English and Creative Writing Students!

Our t-shirt contest is quickly coming to a close, so it’s time to submit the fantastic ideas you have spiraling through your literary minds.

There are printed templates on which to draw your design in Office Suite 303. Pick one up, let those creative juices flow, and submit it to the file folder in Office Suite 303 by this Friday, October 10, at 1 PM. Make sure to write your name on the template so we can lavish you with praise when all is said and done.

You can also print your own template here.

One entry per student, please. (If you get more than one mind-blowing idea, have a friend submit your second idea for you…and then secretly take credit for it.)

Get excited for some truly novel shirts! (Pun, of course, intended.)

Participate in the Seven Rivers Undergraduate Research Symposium!

Vertibo Unversity in La Crosse, Wisconsin is hosting the 12th Annual Seven Rivers Undergraduate Research Symposium and has sent out a call for submissions of research/creative work from English and Creative Writing Majors at Coe. This is a fantastic opportunity for those who are interested to present and receive recognition for their work, as well as meet students and faculty from other schools.

There is no fee for participating, and the symposium is also open to students who do not have anything to present but are be interested in engaging in research in the future.

It is important that anyone who is interested register and submit an abstract (300 words or less) by Friday, October 31, 2014. The registration/submissioin form can be found here.

More information regarding the symposium, including their tentative event schedule and numerous resources from previous years, can be found on their website, and you can direct any outstanding questions to sevenrivers@vertibo.edu.

The symposium will take place at Vertibo University on November 14, 2014. We hope you will consider presenting your work!

First Annual T-Shirt Design Contest

This year, we want Coe College’s English and Creative Writing students to show off their literary pride with our first annual custom-made t-shirts.

We know that between writing papers and reading for classes, you will need a little study break — so help us design our new shirts! Use your knowledge of literature to come up with a witty slogan or picture that perfectly captures the joys and struggles of the English and Creative Writing student’s life.

Here is a template with a picture of a blank t-shirt. Just print the PDF, draw your design, and submit it in the “T-Shirt Designs” submission box in office suite 303. If your design uses various colors, the colors will not be considered in order to keep the price of the shirt down. All submissions due by 1 PM on Friday 10/10 (right before Fall Break).

We will open t-shirt designs to voting after Fall Break. We will also give information about how to order your shirt at that time.

Happy designing!

Upcoming Reading: Linh Dinh

If you’ve been waiting with baited breath for the English Department’s reading series to begin, wait no longer! We are kicking off the semester with a visit from distinguished fiction writer, poet, translator, and photographer Linh Dinh, who will be coming to Coe’s campus for a reading next Wednesday, September 24. The reading will be held in Kesler Auditorium at 4:30pm.

 Linh Dinh on 9-4-14--Philadelphia

Linh Dinh was born in Vietnam and immigrated to the United States in 1975, narrowly escaping the fall of Saigon. He has two collections of short stories, five books of poetry, and a novel to his name, and his short story collection Blood and Soap was chosen by the Village Voice as one of the best books of 2004. His most recent work of translation is Night, Fish and Charlie Parker, the poetry of Phan Nhien Hao. Dinh’s work walks cultural boundaries between America and Vietnam, and he often mixes grotesque imagery with sharp political commentary.

In an interview with the Pacific Rim Review of Books, Dinh talks about a major theme of his work, which is lifting the cracked facade of both American and Vietnamese society: “The two cultures I’m most familiar with, the U.S. and Vietnam, are tremendously fake, but in different ways. During the Vietnam War, the Hanoi government also called the South Vietnamese “nguy,” or “fake” (This term “nguy” is frequently translated into English as “puppet,” but it actually means “fake.”) One of my favorite lines of all time is Elias Canetti’s “She saw behind everything. Behind that, she saw nothing.” So my motto is, “You’ve got to see behind what’s behind,” you’ve got to see beyond the so-called authenticity behind the fakeness.”

Dinh’s current project is Postcards from the End of America, a blog featuring haunting photographs of America’s homeless in cities across the US. It is set to be released as a book in 2015.

At the upcoming reading, Dinh will read from his work and participate in a question and answer discussion exploring his writing, translation work, editing, and much more with Assistant Professor of English, Nick Twemlow. The reading is free and open to the public. Hope to see you there!

-Laura Mills, English Department Student Blogger

Midwest Undergraduate Conference in the Humanities

Simpson College will host the 4th Midwest Undergraduate Conference in the Humanities on November 8, 2014. We invite submissions focusing on any area of original research-based scholarship in the humanities, including creative work, from colleges and universities in the Midwest.  Presentations may take the form of 10-15 minute papers, readings, displays, or lecture-recitals. Please direct questions to J.J. Butts (jj.butts@simpson.edu). The deadline for submissions is October 1, 2014.