Poet, former PSU professor, reads from her work

  Tuesday, October 20, 2015 2:00 AM

Pittsburg, KS

Poet, former PSU professor, reads from her work

Former Pittsburg State University Professor Jo McDougall will read from her own work at 8 p.m., on Thursday, October 29, in the Governors Room of PSU’s Overman Student Center. The public event is free and is sponsored by the Distinguished Visiting Writers series and Student Fees Council. A reception will follow.

Jo McDougallMcDougall said her poetry is inspired by small things, like “the world and the people in it; traveling out of my familiar world; the surprise of small things, such as the glint of a button on a dress; overheard conversations; reading poets whose writing style and subjects are very different from mine.”

These small things have led to big things for McDougall. The North American Review calls McDougall “the reigning virtuoso of the small lyric in English, able to capture deep emotion and knowledge in very few words.”

McDougall, who is the author of two chapbooks, five full-length books of poetry, and a memoir, said she plans to read from her newest collection of poetry, “Home of the Famous Dead,” and also from a manuscript of poetry that will be published later this year.

McDougall hails from the Arkansas Delta and writes poetry that evokes small-town life. In her writing, McDougall paints subtle portraits of the struggles and tragedies of rural people. She explained that she writes about rural life because she grew up on a farm.

Recurring themes in McDougall’s writing include “memory, loss, death, surprise, joy, the surreal and the whimsical and absurd.” She said she likes to write stories in poetic form.

From 1987 to 1998, McDougall taught English and creative writing at PSU, where she co-directed the creative writing program and directed the Distinguished Visiting Writers Series. She said she has very good memories of working at PSU. “I came to teaching late in life, so I had a lot to learn when I came. I learned from my colleagues and the department chairs present during my tenure: Victor Emmett and Stephen Meats. My best memories center around them and their friendship and support. I also remember fondly the writers, the famous and not-so-famous, whom I brought in for the Visiting Writers Series.”

PSU Professor Kathleen DeGrave said she’s looking forward to McDougall’s reading.

“Having Jo McDougall come back to PSU to read her new poetry is an opportunity our students won't want to miss,” DeGrave said. “Jo was an outstanding teacher and poet while she was here, and for me she was a mentor and friend. I am happy that she has received the recognition she's deserved with her new collected poems. I tell my students that she will be a delight to listen to, given her warmth and wit. Her poetry is moving, dark, beautiful, and tight. We are lucky to have her as our visiting writer.”

McDougall is an inductee into the Arkansas Writers Hall of Fame. Her honors include a DeWitt Wallace/Reader’s Digest award, fellowships from the MacDowell Colony and the Arkansas Arts Council, Teacher of the Year, and Academy of American Poets award.



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