Culture | McGill poets read at Thomson House

This Thursday, November 26, a late fall reading will be happening at Thomson House. Simon Lewsen, a Master’s student in English literature and former Daily editor, and Holly Luhning, a poet and novelist who is currently a postdoctoral fellow at McGill in the Burney Centre, are organizing the event. Both will be reading original works, as will Thomas Heise, a poet who teaches in the English literature department at McGill, and Alain Farah, a novelist and poet who teaches creative writing and contemporary french literature. Farah will be reading in French, while Lewsen, Luhning, and Heise will be reading in English. Ian Whittington will accompany the reading with live music.

The reading came about due to an assignment for Lewsen’s creative writing course, which Luhning is supervising; one of the course requirements was to participate in a public reading of original work. Lewsen was looking for a venue to read at when he and Luhning just decided to organize an event themselves.

Both Luhning and Lewsen are big believers in the public reading of creative writing. “There’s performative potential in every type of literature,” explains Lewsen. “[There are] things you’re missing if a piece is not read out loud.”

Luhning agrees; she sees readings as a great opportunity to connect with the audience in a social and dynamic way that is just not possible to achieve through written work.

“[Readings are] especially important for mediums like poetry. [They] are a great way to celebrate literature and the authors’ audiences,” notes Luhning. She will be reading some unpublished poems and a small excerpt from her forthcoming novel, Quiver.

The event is taking place at McGill despite the fact that the University does not have a creative writing program, perhaps due to a hesitancy to combine critical and creative approaches to literature.

“It is remarkable how few graduate students admit to being creative writers,” says Lewsen. “There is a discomfort with creative writing [in academia] and this public reading will signal that [creative writing] is here [at McGill].”

Luhning did not wholly agree with this point of view, stating that her creative work is hugely informed by the work she does in the critical field of English literature.

“There are lots of examples where there is a crossover, people writing both [creative and critical work],” says Luhning. But she did agree that she hopes the event will encourage students and academics to at least try creative writing or attend readings.

“[The reading] will make students aware of another way of writing and thinking critically,” Luhning explains. “Having exposure to the largest number of ways of thinking and expressing oneself is a good thing.”

The public reading is an opportunity for students and faculty alike to come together and share in a night of literature and music. It is a rare opportunity to hear members of the McGill community read their work at an event on campus, and students should take advantage of this night.

Lewsen will be reading some short stories that he has been working on. Even though he organized the event, he has some misgivings about actually reading his work in public.

“I write with an audience in mind, but I’m not comfortable with the idea of [the audience] actually reading [my work],” Lewsen explains ruefully. The public reading will be an opportunity for Lewsen to face his fear, and perhaps inspire some closeted writers to do the same.

The reading will take place in the Thompson House (3650 McTavish) basement on November 26 at 8 p.m. The event is free of charge, and all are welcome.


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