This week, the Walker’s community welcomed Brooklyn Poet Laureate and author Tina Chang as our Fall 2021 Visiting Writer. During Wednesday’s assembly, the entire school community convened in the chapel for remarks and a reading by Ms. Chang. Throughout the fall semester, students in the Visiting Writer Seminar, an upper school English elective, read a critical mass of texts by Ms. Chang and they developed a deep and abiding knowledge of her style, form, and ideas. Lily Ridgley ‘22, a student in the Visiting Writer Seminar, introduced Ms. Chang and shared that Ms. Chang is the author of three books of poetry, Half-Lit Houses (2004), Of Gods and Strangers (2011) , and her latest book, Hybrida (2019), which NPR named as “one of the most important books of poetry to come along in years.” The New York Times named Hybrida to its Book Review New & Noteworthy collection in 2019. In 2014, Ms. Chang was named by Brooklyn Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in Brooklyn Culture. Ms, Chang is co-editor of the W.W. Norton anthology, Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from the Middle East, Asia, and Beyond (2008), and director of Creative Writing at Binghamton University.
In her introduction, Lily commented, “In the Visiting Writer Seminar, we had the opportunity to read and discuss Tina Chang’s work, including: Hybrida, and Half-Lit Houses, and enter deeply into the view of the world that her poems give us. This has had a lasting effect on everyone in our class, because we have all found ways to connect with the pain she writes about.” In addition to the all-school assembly, Ms. Chang visited with the Visiting Writer Seminar class as well as other English classes, and offered a public reading in Ferguson Theatre.
The Ethel Walker School Visiting Writer Seminar is a semester-long course in which students have the rare and special opportunity to immerse themselves in a study of one writer’s works, something few students of English at the undergraduate and graduate levels experience. Throughout the semester, students read a critical mass of texts by that writer, developing a deep and abiding knowledge of that writer’s style, form, and ideas. The course culminates with a visit by the author to Walker’s. At the end of each semester, students in the Visiting Writer Seminar collaborate on a final project in which they conceptualize, layout, design, and publish a class anthology of works, inspired by the writings of the visiting writer. The magic of this course is created in the collaborative and symbiotic exchange between the writer and the student. Learning and inspiration move from the writer to the student but also, we hope, from the student back to the writer.