Writers at Rutgers series features esteemed poet and professor, Evie Shockley


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At Wednesday’s event, Professor Evie Shockley performed a reading from her new poetry collection, “Semi-automatic,” with about 100 audience members in attendance.


Evie Shockley, an author, poet and associate professor in the Department of English read excerpts from her newest poetry collection on Wednesday at the Writers at Rutgers Reading Series.

The program was held in the multipurpose room in the College Avenue Student Center and featured members of the Department of English. Students, as well as faculty, attended the event and about 100 people were there in total.

Writers at the Rutgers Reading Series is meant to showcase various writers that are currently active in the Rutgers community. This event was created to showcase Shockley’s highly anticipated collection of poems, entitled “Semi-automatic."

With a Bachelor of Arts degree from Northwestern University, a Juris Doctorate from the University of Michigan and a Doctorate in English from Duke University, Shockley is now teaching at Rutgers. Her specializations include African American and African diaspora literature, twentieth century and contemporary poetry and poetics, and gender and sexuality.

“Reading, visual art, music and living. What always makes me want to write is having a new feeling. What keeps me interested is finding a new way to deal with it,” Shockley said in response to a question from the audience. 

Shakur Mozelle, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, attended the event and was impressed by Shockley. 

“I think she is one of the few artists that had that special gift of striking you in numerous ways. You think of a lot of curators, artists, rappers, singers, poets, you know a lot of times they strike you in one way, but the measure of a true great is when it strikes you in numerous ways," he said. "She speaks the truth”

Daniel Parks, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, said that he believed the experience at the event was sublime.

"I read her poetry before, whenever they present her own work like she did up on that podium it’s hard to crystallize the feeling in a single statement," Parks said. "I really wanted to ask her question, but I was struggling to because it’s hard to boil it down after such a moving act.”

Parks was particularly moved by Shockley's poem about police brutality. 

“Her book is informed by violence and her perception of violence," he said. "These things are so complex and I believe her work captures those complexities.”

Harriet Davidson, an associate professor in the Department of English, attended the event to support her colleague. 

“(Shockley) is an amazing reader, she’s amazing in the way she writes poems in both emotionally moving and intellectually challenging ways," Davidson said. "So, we get lots of social injustice issues, we get lots of issues of grief and trauma. I find her work very stunning and moving.”

Shockley's readings focused mostly on social injustice and issues in that particular realm. 

Her individual poems have been featured in anthologies and journals ranging from the Boston Review to the Tri-Quarterly Online and Callaloo.

“The piece that stuck in my mind is 'a lyrical ballad' in which (Shockley is) playing off of the lyrical tradition of poetry," Davidson said. "It’s a discussion of all the injustices that have happened to black men. There is history and language and an incredible sense of grief and trauma.”


Emre Ugurlu

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