California State University East Bay

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California State University East Bay

The Pioneer

California State University East Bay

The Pioneer

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The Poet’s Heart is Revealed at Distinguished Writers Series

Professional poet Forrest Hamer reads one of his many poems for the audience during last Thursday's "Distinguished Writers Series" event.

In honor of National Poetry Month, the CSU East Bay English Department held their third and final “Distinguished Writers Series” event for the academic year during the evening of April 21 in the University Library.

The series’ previous events drew professional writers from all over the Bay Area to read and talk about their work before an audience. The guest speaker for last Thursday’s event was poet Forrest Hamer.

However, prior to his presentation, this year’s winners of the Helen “Jackie” DeClercq Poetry Prize read aloud their winning poems, followed by the DeClercq children handing each of them a certificate of recognition.

The third place winner, senior Thomas Lyons started off the event by reading aloud his piece, “Stuck in Place.” The Creative Writing major wrote the piece based off of his uncle’s experience with Alzheimer’s Disease and his own observances of the neglected. He wanted to “warp reality into something that would make the audience feel things that they wouldn’t normally feel.” He entered his poem in the contest to gain experience with getting published.

Following Lyons was second place winner, senior Christopher Morgan. His piece, “Haikus: Contemplative Birds in Pocket Fables,” was his opportunity to go out of his way to write something humorous, as opposed to the much more serious material he would normally write.

As a Creative Writing major as well, his reason for entering the contest was the same as Lyons’.

“I need to start collecting publications to begin making that a career,” he said.

First place winner Margo Lockwood, a Music graduate student, was the last to read. She originally wrote her piece, “Thanksgiving,” in 1999 while riding along Interstate 5. She described it as a reflection on her then-recent visit to her parents, as a way of capturing the moment.

“I knew as they entered their 80s that this would come to an end and I wanted to capture some of those moments for myself,” she explained, “so that way I would always remember the beauty of the visit.”

Lockwood didn’t know about the poetry contest until a few hours before the deadline. Given that this was her last quarter here she had never entered in a poetry contest before, she decided to go for it. She was very surprised by the results.

Following their readings, Hamer got up and did his presentation. He read some of his more recent works and, as the evening progressed, he read some of his earlier works. Several of his poems reflected on themes such as family, identity, death and interactions with certain people.

Hamer’s experiences with poetry goes back a long way. He started writing poetry in high school because he “wanted to write the poems that have yet to be written.” He originally entered college to become a writer, but due to how the craft was taught, he took up psychology, another interest of his, instead.

He is now a psychologist who works in Oakland and is also a psychoanalysis lecturer at UC Berkeley.

Despite his change in study, that didn’t stop Hamer from writing poetry. Aside from his own books, he has been published in several anthologies, including “Best American Poetry” and “Word of Mouth: An Anthology of Gay American Poetry,” and several journals as well, such as “Berkeley Poetry Review” and “Beloit Poetry Journal.”

When asked about how he sees himself as a poet his response after a moment’s thought was, “I see myself as living one life but in two different ways, as a poet and a therapist.”

The poems of the DeClercq Poetry Prize winners will be published in the English Department’s literary magazine, “Occam’s Razor,” this June.

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The Poet’s Heart is Revealed at Distinguished Writers Series