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Local poet Judy Rock and Clarion University alumna Jamie Wyatt blew the stage away last Wednesday, March 23 when they read poetry and talked publishing in the University Art Gallery for students and the public.
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Rock grew up in a time when graduate programs were not as feasible or prevalent. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in English, Rock independently traveled to workshops and writing groups to help fuel and expand her passion for words.
A woman of many trades, Rock’s family homesteaded on the eastern shore of Maryland for many years. She also spent time traveling for the Poets-in-the-Schools program in the late 1970s and early 1980s and has worked as a nurse. For many years, Rock was the editor-in-chief of the state newsletter for the Pennsylvania Environmental Network, a citizen-group coalition dealing with toxic contamination, safe energy and public health.
Rock’s poems embody all of these aspects of her life with motivations varying from the enjoyment of a fine, spring day to the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, or the murder of peaceful activists Zarema Sadulayeva and Alik Dzhabrailov of Chechnya in 2009. This broad expanse of subject matter showcases Rock’s deep camaraderie with nature and her value of the human right to life, whether in our country or beyond.
When asked about her tendency to be drawn toward dark or tragic subject matter, Rock responded, “Sometimes I think your poem will sort of show you where you are, but sometimes your poems lead you on through, too…you have to let the poem or the story go where it has to go, which isn’t always a friendly place, or isn’t always a comfortable thing, or where you expect it.”
Wyatt is a 2012 graduate from Clarion, having received a bachelor’s degree in English with a concentration in creative writing. After her departure from Clarion, Wyatt earned her Master of Fine Arts in creative writing with a focus in poetry at Chatham University in Pittsburgh in 2014. She now works as an editor at a curriculum company while being able to stretch her creative muscles on the side.
During her stint in graduate school, Wyatt developed a passion for publishing after creating a poetry chapbook in one of her classes. She chose to publish the poetry of Clarion University English professor Philip Terman.
Wyatt said, “[Publishing] keeps me connected to the literary world. It’s hard once you graduate, you know? When I graduated with my master’s degree, you’re in it all the time, then it just goes away all the sudden, so this has kept me connected.”
With Wyatt’s talent and interests in mind, Terman approached her about publishing a book for local poet Rock. Rock’s book “Ark after Dove” is an embodiment of her expansive knowledge, experience and desire to learn and understand the world.
This event was sponsored by the English Department’s Spoken Art Series. Robin Becker will be the next visiting poet scheduled to visit Clarion University on Monday, April 18 at the University Art Gallery at 7 p.m.