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Friday, June 21, 2024
The Observer

Poet performs reading at College

As part of the Visiting Writers Series, Melissa Range read from her collection of poems titled “Scriptorium” at Saint Mary’s on Thursday.

Range said she started writing when she was a young child as a way to help her make sense of the world around her and herself. Range said she was a fiction writer when she went to college, but soon discovered that her favorite part about writing was not so much the plot as it was writing imagery.

“I think it happens that way for a lot of writers,” she said. “You start in one genre and then you end up in another.”

Range said she was drawn to poetry because of the experience of working with language in the poetry form.

“I like the possibilities for linguistic play that are expected in poetry,” she said. “You can play around with sound and rhythm and imagery.”

Although she does not limit herself to more “traditional” styles of poetry, Range said she does tend to write in structured forms of poems as a way to challenge herself and bring out new ideas.

“That sparks different ideas for me,” she said. “Especially when I’m having to rhyme something or repeat something, it forces me to think about new relationships between words, and when I’m thinking about new relationships between words, I’m led to new ideas. Working in poetic form causes me to write a different poem than I set out to write, and I like that because it means I had a new idea while I was writing. Rather than just writing what I already think, I write and discover something.”

Another reason Range is drawn to poetry, she said, is poetry is a compact way of writing.

“Poetry is the most concentrated kind of expression of language,” Range said. “It allows you to really have to come up with the most concise way to express something. … You end up speaking through metaphor, and that creates interesting new relationship between things.”

Range, whose poetry deals with themes such as religion, violence, social justice, environmentalism and history, said she does a lot of research for her poems.

“I had to do research … before I could figure out what I wanted to say,” she said. “My process involves a lot of gathering before I figure out where I’m going with that. What I’m looking for is some interesting little nugget of something that’s interesting that I want to explore.”

Sound is also a big factor for her poetry, Range said.

“My poetry, even when I’m not rhyming, there’s to be a lot of sound play, so I think of sound before I think of image,” she said.

Range said literature is important as a way to connect with other people, especially in the political climate in America.

“In a world where, increasingly, it seems like people are taking one extreme side or another and no one wants to talk and listen to each other, literature provides a different kind of space where a lot of different ideas can mingle together and we’re not asked to come down on one side or another,” she said. “We’re asked to understand other people. … Literature can teach us how to do that because we’re trying to empathize with people when we read about them.”

Referencing poet laureate Tracy K. Smith, Range said literature and poetry are whispers while the rest of the world is making noise.

“Poetry gives us something else, and I think that’s good for our souls,” she said.

Range said any Saint Mary’s woman who wants to follow a passion — writing or any other discipline — should work hard to hold onto their dreams because while the world is making progress towards taking young women more seriously, there still is a long way to go.

“Don’t let anyone take your gravity away from you,” she said. “When people talk down to you, they are trying to dismiss you and not take you seriously. Don’t let anyone ever do that to you. … There’s something you have to hang onto in yourself.”