GV Writers Series features two accomplished authors


Janine Joseph and Oliver Baez Bendorf. Courtesy / Jaclyn Heward and Cate Berry

Jacob Creswell

On Thursday, March 14, Grand Valley State University’s Writing Department hosted two poets, Janine Joseph and Oliver Baez Bendorf, as part of the Writers Series.

According to the writing department’s website, “The Grand Valley Writers Series has a long history of bringing distinguished and emerging writers to campus to read from their work, visit classes and interact with students across GVSU’s campus.”

Assistant professor and series coordinator Todd Kaneko said that “it’s important for young writers to get a variety of voices. The Writers Series helps them get even more of a perspective.”

These Writers Series events typically consist of a craft talk, which Kaneko described as “a master class with a well-known and experienced author.” After the craft talk is a reading where the visiting authors read their work, along with some new pieces.

“I think that there’s a misconception that a reading is like church. It’s more like a concert. It’s the rock and roll of writing… it’s more interactive. (The readings) bring the writers in for students, and helps them understand the perspective (of the pieces),” Kaneko said. “The students can get the author’s voice (at the readings). They deliver the work as they understand it. It’s more than just the author reading it aloud.”  

Joseph’s work has been published in several literary journals and has received the Kundiman Poetry Prize and 2018 da Vinci Eye Award. Joseph is also an assistant professor of creative writing at Oklahoma State University.

Bendorf is the author of “Advantages of Being Evergreen,” which won the 2018 Cleveland State University Poetry Center Open Book Poetry Competition. Bendorf is an assistant professor of poetry at Kalamazoo College in Michigan.

“Most of our audience is students,” Kaneko said, when asked about how they pick writers to feature for this series. He described how they aim to find authors whose work could be taught in a writing course. 

“In what writing courses could this be taught?” Kaneko said. “Writers are always writing, taking in the world, always thinking. Being exposed to the writing, for a writing student, should just spark ideas.”

Kaneko said that this series gives student writers the opportunity to improve and expand their knowledge.

“Writers should always be trying to meet other writers. They can learn a lot from a casual talk,” Kaneko said. He also went on to say that these events are a great way for students to find out what they can do with the work they create in terms of getting it out into the public.

The last event in the Writers Series will feature nonfiction author Sarah Einstein, who is the author of “Mot: A Memoir,” “Remnants of Passion” and “The Tripart Heart.” It will take place on Monday, April 8 in Kirkhof Center Room 2270. The reading will be held from 3 to 4:15 p.m., and the craft talk will be from 6 to 7:30 p.m.