The English Department’s Wordfest and Christ College are partnering together to host poet Scott Cairns on Thursday, Nov. 5 at 6:30 p.m. in the Chapel of the Resurrection.

Cairns will share his poetry to explore the multifaceted symposium theme: “What is justice?”

Cairns uses his Eastern Orthodox tradition and issues of spirituality in his writing. Travis Scholl, an alumnus of the English Department and Christ College, is now studying under Cains and will be introducing him in the chapel.

Jonathan Ruff, an English professor and member of the Wordfest committee, said that last spring, the committee already chose Cairns as one of this year’s Wordfest speakers.

“It just worked,” Ruff said. “Professor Edward Byrne had published his work in ‘The Valparaiso Poetry Review.’ Cairns was also coming out with a book in print. If you are a poet, getting your collected work published is a milestone.”

Junior English major Scot Sawa had heard about Cairns’ published work. Sawa is interested in hearing the poet speak.

“To get something published is a big deal and I would like to support and hear Cairns read his writing,” Sawa said.

Sophomore elementary education and global service major Katie Karstensen thinks Cairns’ spirituality and the symposium theme (justice) will be an interesting combination to experience.

“Poetry gives so much emotion and allows the author to show different perspectives,” Karstensen said. “This will allow the audience and Cairns to open dialogue on issues of faith and justice. Poetry is such a beautiful way to communicate and it will help us experience a new voice to issues of spirituality and justice.”

Ruff believes that the chapel is a good place for Cairns to read because it will be a good space for a bigger audience.

“A poetry reading depends not only on the poet, but the audience,” Ruff said. “More and more we live remotely, we live virtually, it can be a great experience to hear the poet.”

Ruff remembers when he went to his first poetry reading as a college student.

“Most people read poetry from people who seem remote in time, space and circumstance on the page,” he said. “When a guy shows up in ordinary clothing and reads a language I share with him, it makes a difference. We could all go into our rooms and read our own books, or we could come together and hear someone read their work and talk about it.”

Last year, Wordfest hosted poet and winner of the National Book Award, Mary Szybist. The motivation for the reading was to bring together students of all majors together to hear about issues of the spirit.

This event is free for all students who are curious and interested in issues of justice.

Contact Kendall Kartaly at

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