The busses rolled in to the College of St. Scholastica at 9 a.m. Filling the busses were nearly 100 high school students from the surrounding area. The students made their way to the Mitchell Auditorium for the 6th annual Warner Reading Series on Feb. 5.
“The Lee and Rose Warner Foundation gives us a grant every year and it's essentially a marketing tool,” said Ryan Vine, assistant professor of English at CSS. “We blanket our marketing materials over a two-hour radius from Duluth, about 90 high schools. Every year we get about five schools that show up, and for the past five years we've had repeat schools. It’s a recruitment tool to get students interested in a liberal arts education.”
Vine has been putting together the conference for six years now. “I am a poet so I know their work and love their work,” Vine said. “I consider myself lucky because I get to invite these poets whom I love.”
This year, it was the award winning poet Andrew Hudgins chosen as the keynote speaker. Hudgins’s accomplishments include the Witter Bynner Award for Poetry, the Ingram Merrill Foundation, and the Hans Poetry Prize to name a few. He currently teaches at the Ohio State University.
At his morning lecture, Hudgins spoke of how he came into the poetry world. “I was one of those people that fell in love with books,” said Hudgins, “because I couldn't play guitar, I can't sing, and I can't dance.”
Hudgins continued to elicit laughter from the crowd of high school students. Using Robert Frost's “Out, Out “ as an example, Hudgins taught the students about the process involved with writing poetry. In particular, he focused on how changing just a few words or phrases in a poem can completely change the meaning of the poem itself.
Hudgins is not the only important name to come through the CSS campus. Other past guests include Michael Ryan, Yale Younger Series; Thomas Lux, Kingley Tufts Award Winner; Denise Duhmal, author of 14 collections of poems; and Steven Dobyns, author of more than 20 books.
“Some of the poets I've brought in the past are preeminent American poets, publishing in the most prestigious magazines and with the most prestigious presses,” Vine said. “In my modest opinion, these are some of the best poets currently writing.”
Following the lecture and a day of touring the CSS campus, Hudgins continued his work at the college with a reading in Somers Hall. This time, he would be reading to the audience selections from his own writing.
“We had one of the best turnouts we've had in years,” Vine said. “There were nearly 100 people there.”
Hudgins kept the audience at full attention as he presented a performance more than a reading of poems. He focused mainly on his most recent collection of poetry.