“The new epoch of total war / is upon us, once again. / We sit down and feast /on a stiff peak / of mashed potatoes, / sides cascading with gravy, / watermelon, rice pudding, / buttered noodles, corn. / It’s buffet-style,” reads Virginia Konchan’s moving poem Golden Corral. The author of three books since 2015, as well as a multitude of poems, fiction works and essays, Konchan is an acclaimed writer and will be visiting Vassar’s campus on Thursday, April 26, at 6 p.m. to perform a reading of some of her recent works.
Associate Professor of English Zoltán Márkus has known Konchan for around 10 years, and, last year, he proposed to the department that they bring her to campus. Konchan began to be active in the region a few years ago, working at Marist College last year as well as holding the position of an editor at Sheep Meadow Press in Rhinebeck.
Márkus expressed an interest in the author’s work: “Konchan has published two exciting books recently: Her ‘Anatomical Gift,’ a collection of short stories, came out in 2017, while her book of poetry, ‘The End of Spectacle,’ was published this year by Carnegie University Press.
In addition, she has published her works in The New Yorker, The New Republic, Boston Review and Best New Poets.” Lauded by many other writers, Konchan has an undeniable presence in modern artistic media. In addition to the reading, which is open to the campus, Konchan will also be attending a creative writing class on Friday, April 27, taught by Associate Professor of English and Native American Studies Molly McGlennen. McGlennen, who is interested in collaboration with the guest artist, commented in an emailed statement, “She will be reading a small selection of her poetry and then talking with my students about creative process and revision. She will also be leaving my students with a writing prompt for the next class session.”
McGlennen’s Intro to Creative Writing students have worked hard all semester to improve their writing skills, and having Konchan visit the class will offer a valuable perspective from someone who was once in their position.
As McGlennen explained, “Ms. Konchan’s work is undeniably relevant to what my class has been thinking through all semester long. As poetry that is attentive to the senses and to the ear, Ms. Konchan’s works reveal all of the characteristics my students have been working through in their own work, whether in process or content.”
Like Markus, McGlennen is a supporter of Konchan’s work and presence: “It think it’s always a gift to have poets and artists willing to visit with students in the classroom setting. That generosity of time and of spirit is part of what makes the interaction and engagement with young, aspiring writers so gratifying. I’m especially excited to hear Ms. Konchan read her work aloud!”
The writer herself is enthusiastic about attending McGlennen’s class. Konchan wrote in an emailed statement, “I will be reading from and discussing my work, and doing an exercise with the students on working with found text. I’m very excited to meet Professor McGlennen’s students and hear about their own experiences with creative writing, particularly poetry, as well as their familiarity with and interest in the interstices between art and appropriation.”
Visits like this from working professionals enrich the experiences of any student who has the opportunity for interaction, as well as harkening back to the age-old saying of “Go to the Source.”
Konchan’s material itself for the reading contains an eclectic mix of genres and styles, with excerpts from both her poetry and her fiction: “For the fiction, I’ll be reading an excerpt of a story about war and trauma, and for the poetry, the prevailing themes are modern art, the contemporary love poem and the ethics and politics of representation.”’
Konchan expressed enthusiasm to revisit Vassar, having set foot on the campus in past given her proximity to it when she was teaching at Marist last year. As she explained, “I was a scholar in a National Endowment for the Humanities seminar on Elizabeth Bishop last July in the Vassar archives.” She also noted that she is excited to see some new faces, as well as those of familiar colleagues.
With a great deal of appreciation from Konchan’s style, Markus illuminated, “Virginia Konchan speaks a great number of idioms; she talks in a great variety of genres, voices and subject positions. Her art is kaleidoscopic and protean.” The artist’s presence on campus this week will allow students and faculty to experience that very art.