On Thursday evening, Alumnus Travis Scholl introduced poet Scott Cairns stating, “Cairns has the best hair of the poets in contemporary American poetry.”

Wordfest is a continual series of readings from practicing writers including poetry, fiction, nonfiction and drama, sponsored by the English Department and is also in conjunction with the Christ College Symposium. The second Wordfest reading of the fall semester was held in the Chapel of the Resurrection, which included a wide audience of students and faculty for the visiting poet. The chairs circled around Cairns, allowing for a more intimate setting for the audience and poet to connect through dialogue and presence.

Professor Edward Byrne of the English Department was pleased with the chosen location for the specific reading.

“Poetic works of theological significance read in the chapel allows for an interesting and dramatic place to read and the environment adds to the reading,” Byrne said.

Cairns spiritual poetry is heavily influenced from the traditions of Eastern Orthodoxy. Scholl highlighted that Cairn’s poems are for the “slow pilgrims” and therefore, makes the readers become pilgrims themselves, furthermore allowing them to take the journey within Cairns’ writings.

This journey was highlighted with each poem and keeping your eyes on the goal of becoming holy. Byrne said that Cairns’ theological poetry is written in a non-didactic way.

“He is a good poet,” Byrne said. “His poetry is accessible with something that appeals to everybody.”

Cairns tone of voice was very engaging.

“Laugh when you get the chance, because as I continue to speak, you will slowly lose the opportunity to,” Cairns said.

Sophomore global service and psychology student Emily Owens was at the reading.

“Cairns reading was funny and intriguing,” Owens said. “His easy nature and humility allowed the audience to connect with him and understand issues of spirituality.”

His connection and conversational manner easily captured the audience allowing people of all interests to glean something from his words.

“Because of the subject matter, there will be students not only interested in poetry, but theology and religion that will experience something new in this artistic setting,” Byrne said.

This last Wordfest symposium of the semester gave viewers a different vision of theology, not just in a scholarly setting, but an artistic view as well. This gives a different perspective for the audience see relating to spiritual poetry.

Cairns poetry did not preach, rather, it opened up the mind, examined situations and was appealing to people of all faiths and backgrounds.

As Cairns finished his reading, questions about spirituality, writing and intention were discussed — a conversation that echoed among the walls of the chapel throughout.

Contact Kendall Kartaly at torch@valpo.edu.

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