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You found black-eyed Susans pressed

within the flecks of my irises, as if

they’d been fossilized, and I, rising

from the earth to take on life,

carried them with me, used them

to see.

If I could have created you, I would

have sculpted you from the clay I dug

from the stream behind my house,

pleased to be the one who molded

the muscles along your spine, who shaped

them to fill my hands perfectly whenever

I’d hold you.

Is it so wrong to doubt

our mothers and search for our conception

between layers in the ground, believing

the evidence that the matter of our souls

and selves were formed among impressions

of previously flourishing things?




The Bellmore poem was the winning entry

for poetry in the most recent issue of The


Stephen Cramer


Language is more than just words for poet Stephen Cramer ’97. It inhabits the body.

“I fell in love with poetry at the age of 14, when I saw a video of Stanley Kunitz reading

his poem ‘The Round.’ I was amazed at how incantatory it was, and I played it until I

hadn’t just memorized it, but felt as if it were part of my musculature.”

Cramer’s work often combines gritty imagery with rhythms that are palpable, as in

“What We Do,” from his book “Tongue and Groove”: “He’s drumming/a rim full of dents,

angled/facets that pull to themselves/all the sun they can bear.” Pulitzer Prize-winning

poet Yusef Komunyakaa has described Cramer’s work as giving “a map of sound, where the

pastoral and the urban inform each other, and the only level and plumb line that matters is the heart.”

Last year, Cramer released his third volume of poetry, “From the Hip” (Wind Ridge Books, 2014), a series that merges the

rigor of the sonnet form with the urgent cadences of hip-hop. “I am addicted to sonnets these days,” Cramer confessed. “The

form takes you out of your mental agenda. When you sit down to write, the sonnet is going to push you around.”

A prolific writer who teaches at the University of Vermont, Cramer is a four-time Pushcart Prize nominee, and has

published dozens of his poems in periodicals and literary journals, including The American Poetry Review and The Harvard

Review. He recently completed a fourth collection of poems, “Bone Music,” and already has another book in development,

a culinary series entitled “A Little Thyme and a Pinch of Rhyme,” poetic recipes where the ingredients are haiku and the

instructions sonnets. “Poets typically have two masters: reason, so the poems make sense, and musicality,” explained Cramer.

“These poems have to taste good too.”


One of the jewels of

Lycoming’s creative writing

program, the Himes/Sweeney

Visiting Scholar in Creative

Writing Series, brings some of the top writers in the country to the

college to share their work and insights with students and the Lycoming


Originally dubbed simply the Reading Series, its longevity has now

been guaranteed by the generous endowment of alumna Diane Himes-

Sweeney ’63. Past visitors in the series include two of the nation’s former

poets laureate, Philip Levine and Billy Collins, as well as winners of

almost any American literary prize you could name, including the

National Book Award, the Pulitzer Prize, the O. Henry Award, and many

others. “It’s fabulous how many sensational writers we have been able to

bring to Lycoming with this program,” said Prof. Sascha Feinstein, who

directs the series. “At first I had to call in all my favors, but now the word

has gotten out and writers really enjoy coming here.”

Because of opportunities like this and the structure of the creative

writing program as a whole, undergraduate students at Lycoming

essentially get graduate-level seminar and critique experiences. “When

our students go to MFA writing programs, they regularly tell me how

much better prepared they are for it than counterparts from other

schools, who are often taken aback by the intensity of things at the

graduate level,” Feinstein noted.

The educational benefits of the Himes/Sweeney series for Lycoming

students go beyond witnessing great writers presenting their work. “Our

students get to work directly in small groups with artists at the peak

of their craft,” Feinstein said. “Imagine ten of our students sitting in a

workshop with C.K. Williams. They will never forget that. Ever.”