7 December 2016: Yale-NUS Writers’ Centre hosts Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Vijay Seshadri and eminent essayist Nicole Walker

By Daryl Yang | Image provided by the Writers’ Centre

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Mr Vijay Seshadri reading from his Pulitzer-winning poetry collection

On 11 November 2016, the Yale-NUS Writers’ Centre hosted two eminent writers, Vijay Seshadri and Nicole Walker, for the final instalment in this semester’s reading series. The two literary luminaries were invited as guests of the Writers’ Centre Reading Series, and each held a writing workshop with a small group of Yale-NUS students while here. Mr Seshadri held a poetry workshop while Dr Walker focused on non-fiction writing.

“It was an immense honour to attend a workshop by someone who won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry,” shared Paul Jerusalem (Class of 2019), one of the students who attended Mr Seshadri’s poetry workshop.

“He had such an immense wealth of knowledge regarding the craft, and so much to share about every poem we went through, to the point the session overran. I was really intrigued by his attention to detail and his intuition, and I certainly learnt a lot at the workshop.”

Mr Vijay Seshadri is the winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for his poetry collection, 3 Sections. He teaches poetry and non-fiction writing at Sarah Lawrence College, where he is the Michele Tolela Myers Chair, and has also won the James Laughlin Award for his poetry collection, The Long Meadow.

One of the takeaways that Paul took from the workshop was an affirmation about poetry he had realised previously. “Contrary to popular belief, poetry isn’t just about feeling and intuition. A lot of logic and thinking goes into play as you’re making sure your tools (i.e. grammar) are sharp, and that your metaphors are sound.”

As a young poet, Paul’s poetry has been published by the Quarterly Literary Review Singapore and SingPoWriMo so far. He will also be published later this year in Likhaan: The Journal of Contemporary Philippine Literature.

Another student who attended the Mr Seshadri’s workshop is Ritika Biswa (Class of 2018). A major in Literature, she creatively heads Storybook Me, a non-profit publishing house and will also be interning with Penguin/Random House India in early 2017.

“His workshop yielded a sharper criticism of the sort I think we need more of at Yale-NUS. He was highly critical, but kindly so. We could do more with such incisive and direct comments,” Ritika shared on what she enjoyed from the workshop.

Dr Nicole Walker is the author of the nonfiction book, Quench Your Thirst with Salt, which won the Zone 3 creative non-fiction prize. She has also published a collection of poems, This Noisy Egg, and co-edited a collection of essays, Bending Genre: Essays on Nonfiction. A graduate of the University of Utah’s doctoral program, Dr Walker is currently Assistant Professor of Poetry and Creative Nonfiction at Northern Arizona University.

Apart from organising such events, the Writers’ Centre provides regular individual writing consultations and group workshops on rhetorical skills, revision strategies, and the conventions of format and structure appropriate to different genres. Previous guests of the Reading Series include Edmund Wee, CEO of Epigram Books and Divya Victor, winner of the Bob Kaufman Award.

The Yale-NUS Writers’ Centre, helmed by Professor of Humanities Robin Hemley, Director of the Writing Programme, was very pleased with the strong interest in the workshops and reading as students and faculty filled the sessions. He was especially delighted to see staff members such as Dean of Faculty Steven Bernasek attending the reading as well, attesting to the interdisciplinary spirit of Yale-NUS College.

In addition to such readings with literary luminaries, the Writers’ Centre also organises a reading for all the writing classes at the end of the semester.

“There were five different courses represented at the reading [this past semester]. Our creative writing courses are quite popular; we often have waiting lists,” Professor Hemley noted on the student interest in such classes.

“Someday, I’d love to host a writing conference here as well, and I wish we could hire someone who could teach playwriting on a regular basis,” Professor Hemley said, expanding on future plans for the Writers’ Centre. While he has “a long wish list”, he says that he has been “really grateful to the administration for being so supportive of the Writers’ Centre”.

“I think we’re different from any writing centre anywhere in the world in that we’re a hybrid of a traditional academic writing centre and a literary centre. This combination really seems to fit the ethos of Yale-NUS,” he added, referring to the creativity and innovation that is encouraged and flourishes at the College.

Find out more about the Writers’ Centre at writerscentre.yale-nus.edu.sg.