Poet visits campus as part of Poets and Writers Series


Maddy Hermon/The Simpsonian

Sam Ross inspired many students and faculty, including CoryAnne Harrigan, a professor of English. Harrigan has known Ross since she was in graduate school and babysat Ross.

by Kylee Mullen, Flipside Editor

INDIANOLA, Iowa — A contemporary poet traveled from New York to Simpson College’s campus Monday night to read a collection of his poetic work.

Standing at the front of the dimly lit Jordan Lecture Hall, Sam Ross read aloud several of his favorite poems to a small crowd of students, faculty and the Simpson community.

Ross serves as the first of a series of writers visiting campus as part of the Poets and Writers Series.

The Poets and Writers Series, according to Simpson’s website, was established in 1985 and has a long tradition of inviting three to five writers to read original work on Simpson’s campus each year. The series is sponsored by the English department.

Ross was born in Indiana and currently works in New York. His poetry has appeared in Tin House, Gulf Coast, Indiana Review and other journals.

According to Ross’ website, he has also received support from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, Columbia University and Robert Wilson’s Watermill Center. Also, Ross will be a 2016-2017 poetry fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts.

Cory Ann Harrigan, professor of English who introduced Ross, said this achievement is “a pretty significant thing” for the writer.

While providing an introduction, Harrigan explained her history with the writer. She explained that she had babysat Ross when she was attending graduate school in Indiana.

“I still remember when I met Sam and his sister,” Harrigan said. “Now things have come full circle.”

She then welcomed Ross to the podium, where he discussed his work and influences.

“Visual art, queerness, political narrative and the relationship between human and animal inspires my work,” he said. “Many of my poems are quietly influenced by the generational loss created by AIDS. I think it can be a birthright of a queer artist to reckon with history pushed to the margins by social and economic forces.”

After reading several poems, Ross encouraged questions and discussion. During this time, he explained his writing process, his journey from student to professional and his inspirations.

Senior Kat McCaffery enjoyed the reading and said she was impressed with his work.

“He is a brilliant writer,” she said. “I wish I had that skill.”

McCaffery enjoyed Ross’ unique style and form used throughout the poetic work.

“As a poet myself, it’s hard to judge,” she said. “We have very different writing styles, but I have a huge admiration for writers who are so concise and who can make so many obscure connections while still having an entirely cohesive piece. I think that is a huge indication of talent.”

Junior Shelby Minnmann said she enjoyed the reading and has attended several other events in the series in past years.

“I was inspired,” Minnmann said. “I think he is not your average poet, and he is very humble. I really like that in a person. I think it is really neat that we get the opportunity to meet people who are doing things that we want to do with our lives.”