Dixie State University’s Visiting Writers Program showcased another Utah native’s written works Thursday.
Every fall semester, DSU’s English department invites a visiting writer to share their pieces with the community. Cindy King, an assistant English professor, said while this event gives writers a chance to publicly share their stories, it is ultimately there to serve students and the community.
“It’s designed for the students to help them see a professional writer in action,” King said. “Many of the writers I’ve seen both here at [DSU] and as a graduate student are professional, self-sustaining writers who don’t even teach [because] they’re actually making a living off their work.”
This year Kimberly Johnson, an award-winning poet and professor at Brigham Young University, performed her poetry series “Uncommon Prayers.”
The series focuses on storytelling through an inanimate object or animal’s perspective. From replicating the thoughts of a bug zapper to every minute detail of someone castrating sheep using his or her teeth, Johnson’s poetry explores the inner workings of everyday things people may not stop to think twice about.
“It is not just about being in the presence of art, [but] it is also about sitting yourself down for 60 minutes and giving your brain over to somebody else’s thinking,” Johnson said.
Associate English professor Susan Ertel, who has attended almost all of the Visiting Writer Program events at DSU, said she was impressed by Johnson’s word choice and ability to convey her poetry to the public.
“She does use words that kind of stretch your imagination and think, ‘Oh I wish I had a dictionary,’ but there’s so much other stuff that is really appealing that you don’t feel shut out because of the vocabulary,” Ertel said. “You feel like she’s opening a door saying, ‘Come on in play with these words with me for a minute.'”
While poetic pieces can be read silently, Johnson said performing her poetry for an audience brings another dimension to her work.
“Poems love to have sound effects happening [because] the voice is such an expressive instrument,” Johnson said. “Poetry, unlike other literary art forms, relies upon sound in order to communicate its ideas either through rhyme or rhythm so a poem that is read aloud is a poem that is living its full life.”
Before Johnson returns home, she will also be hosting a Craft Talk at 2 p.m. in the Jeffrey R. Holland Centennial Commons Building in room 471 on Dec. 1.
During the spring semester, a visiting fiction writer will also visit DSU for a live reading, which anyone can attend free of charge.