Poets Draw Inspiration from History at Poets Out Loud


Daneen Wardrop and Terrence Chiusano’s books can be found in FCLC’s bookstore. (Jessica Hanley/ The Observer)


At Poets Out Loud (POL) readings at Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) on March 23, audiences will takeaway a piece of history through poetry. The winner of this year’s POL Prize, Daneen Wardrop, and the winner of the POL Editor’s Prize, Terrence Chiusano, will be reading excerpts from their books. Each of their books were selected from over 300 manuscripts to be published by the Fordham University Press (FUP).

Wardrop, a professor at Western Michigan University, takes free verse poetry to another level with her book, “Cyclorama,” which was inspired from Civil War period artwork. “I wanted emphatically not to write a ‘patriotic’ book, but a testimony about people of different classes, ages and races who were caught up in the conflagration through loss, financial difficulties and other factors,” Wardrop said.

Wardrop has been teaching nineteenth-century American literature, but wanted to dig further into research and learn more about the Civil War. “The Civil War was such a broad conflict that affected civilians and soldiers alike, and I wanted to take into account some of the populace who are often not represented, to create voices that came from many parts of the country,” she said.

She included characters, such as college students, a cross dressing spy, a prostitute, a Native American officer and many more unique personae into her poems; the book is written in the voices of these characters instead of the writer. According to Wardrop, she would love for readers to also feel as if they are stepping into someone else’s shoes when they experience her work. “It feels incredibly freeing to write in another person’s voice—your boundaries dissolve and you find a self that’s strange and fresh,”  she said.

Like Wardrop, Chiusano also drew from a piece of history for his book, “On Generation & Corruption.”  Chiusano’s book shares similarities with Aristotle’s book which is also titled, “On Generation and Corruption;” they both consider the question of permanence and change. “It’s based on the idea of story-telling, without ever actually recounting a story,” Elisabeth Frost, professor of English and creator of the POL prize, said. “It’s a strange and wonderful book that deconstructs a kind of ‘Americana’ type landscape of a small town, a county fair, a missed meeting between two characters who remain mysterious throughout the book.”

Chiusano said that studying Aristotle’s works many years ago was the beginning to the creation on his new book. He found a section that sparked his interest to dig further into research. Chiusano said, “[The section] struck me as odd, but somehow perfectly sensible.” He then co-opted both Aristotle’s quote from that section and the title into his own work. “It made sense. It fit. And that, as they say, was all she wrote,” said Chiusano.

Wardrop is thrilled to be a part of POL, and to be accepting the award that was selected for her by Kimiko Hahn. “The process of being involved with Fordham University Press has been amazing. The editors are creative, smart and remarkable for getting things done—and done with panache,” Wardrop said.

Similarly, Chiusano is proud to be a part of POL and to have worked with Fordham University Press. “I learned a great deal working with FUP. The feeling, when I found out I’d won, was a mixture of elation and relief,” he said.