Spring time of most students’ senior year is filled with severe cases of senioritis, job hunting or receiving acceptance letters from graduate school. By the spring of UP alumna and poet Lilah Hegnauer’s senior year, she had published her first book of poetry.
Hegnauer will be reading her poetry at UP March 31 at 7:30 p.m. in BC 163. The reading is in honor of her second book, “Pantry,” which was published in February of this year and has already won the Hub City Press New Southern Voices Poetry Award.
Hegnauer’s poetry career began in English professor Herman Asarnow’s poetry workshop class during her junior year. Her first book of poetry was published soon after, on the first of January her senior year. “Dark Under Kiganda Stars” was written as her honors senior thesis and reflected on her experience doing service work in Africa the previous summer. Her love of poetry has since taken her in a variety of directions after graduating in 2005 as an English major, from teaching poetry at several universities to living in the house of another well-known poet.
Her work has been widely recognized, having been published in journals such as Poetry Northwest and The Kenyon Review, but that’s not the reason she continues to write poetry.
“I think that people who write poetry write it because they cannot not write it,” Hegnauer said. “But by the same token, it’s very nice to be recognized for the thing that is your lifeblood, the actual reason for your existence.”
Her most recent book’s publication came after six months spent being paid to live and write in the home of American poet Amy Clampitt, who passed away in 1994, as part of the Amy Clampitt Poet Residency in Lenox, Mass.
“It was the most amazing blessing ever because, not only were (my husband, new baby and I) able to live off of my residency for those six months, but it was just amazing to live in Amy Clampitt’s house. Her entire library was intact, and every book she wrote, every book she read had marginalia in it,” Hegnauer said. “Her sofas, her blankets, her great aunt’s china … it was really amazing to just sort of step into her household.”
Asarnow became close friends with Hegnauer during her time at UP, as they would often spend hours discussing poetry for her senior thesis. Her work at UP has come full circle, as Asarnow is currently teaching “Pantry” in his poetry workshop class. He said that one of the things that makes Hegnauer stand out as a poet is that her work is easily accessible and challenging all at the same time.
“Lilah’s a very powerful, risk-taking person,” Asarnow said. “She manages to use being absolutely present wherever the mind of the poem is, the mind of the speaker, and bringing together things you would never think of, to create this sense of being alive and of what it is to think through or feel through or live through various important things.”
Freshman English major Sara Coito is currently in the poetry workshop class, and agrees with Asarnow that the courage Hegnauer displays in her writing makes her especially unique. Additionally, Coito feels that she has somewhat of a special connection with Hegnauer, being that she’s in the same position Hegnauer was in several years ago.
“I think it’s really cool to see that (the students in the class) could be in (Hegnauer’s) position ten to fifteen years from now, which gives us something to look forward to,” Coito said. “I’m really looking forward to her reading… and to hearing how she perceives her own lines.”
Hegnauer, too, is looking forward to coming back to UP and reconnecting with the community and the students with whom she feels a close sense of identification. She’s also excited to enjoy some of the spring weather that, living in Boston, she’s not getting at home yet.
“I’ve been teaching at big state schools mostly, and their college experience is different than mine was (at UP),” Hegnauer said. “I’m excited to come back and feel that sense of recognition with the students there.”
Sourced from Beacon