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Visiting poet kicks off series at Saint Mary’s

Kelly Konya | Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Saint Mary’s Poetry Club hosted Austin Segrest, poetry editor of “The Missouri Review” and the club’s first poet of its inaugural poet speaker series Wednesday.

Senior Susan Head, a member of the Poetry Club, introduced Segrest, who was chosen to speak in the series under the guidance of English professor Dionne Bremyer, one of Segrest’s friends who has encouraged students in the Saint Mary’s community to attend literary events and bring more speakers to campus.

Segrest, born in Birmingham, Alabama, said he studied classics at Emory University. Head said his poetry is influenced by many of the classical poets, such as Ovid and Virgil, and their use and creation of myth.

Segrest said he was also influenced by his study of language, his time studying abroad in Rome, his love of music and dance, and his mother, the subject of most of his elegies.

“I’m fascinated by the challenge of how we can approximate what music can do in words while still using sound,” Segrest said. “That whole adventure is endlessly fascinating to me.”

Segrest said he felt excited to be at Saint Mary’s, detailing how he believes he is “traveling east to west through his life,” a metaphor coined by poet John Donne.

“It is really great to be in a place where I can tell there is such a love and care for the written word, and it’s a real honor for my poetry and my writing to be a part of this.  It really means the world,” Segrest said.

Segrest said he has used psychoanalysis to revisit his personal and family past and to investigate the roots from which he sprung and the steps he has taken thus far in life.

“My mother died when I was first coming into my own as a writer, so it was very influential on me, and it’s no surprise that it’s something I explored a lot in psychoanalysis,” Segrest said.  

“There were just a few confluences that came together in my life, like I had just graduated from Emory University, I was working a research job, and actually living with my mother; I had moved in back home and so I think there were a lot of intersections coming together that then came up in the therapy that followed.”

Junior Elizabeth Kenney said she enjoyed Segrest’s reading and liked learning his background.

“As a writer, I thought it was really interesting to hear about his techniques and the subjects he chooses to use in his writing,” Kenney said. “I liked the rhythm in his poetry and the honesty and how it sounded just like a conversation.  I think he made an impression on many of the students in attendance, because he was so casual about his poetry but it reached very deep and touched on many topics people could relate to.

“I thought his use of classical references were breathtaking, and having studied abroad in Rome, also, I liked making these connections and thinking of what the allusions mean for myself and then within his poems.”

Founder of the poetry club, junior Claire Bleecker, said she began the club this year in order to learn more about poetry and to expose herself and other students to more types of this art.

“We were excited to have Segrest come to Saint Mary’s, because I think it’s so important for young writers to know that becoming a poet is a plausible thing,” Bleecker said. “Poets aren’t just these mythological creatures but very genuine and kind people.”

Contact Kelly Konya at kkonya01@saintmarys.edu