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Poet Hyejung Kook Reads for Students, Staff, Alumni as Virtual Visiting Writer

While at Pitt State, many students and faculty will have the opportunity to hear or see world-renown workers and people in their field. English students had the opportunity via a virtual visiting writer poerty reading.  

On the afternoon of Thursday, March 25. poet Hyejung Kook read a variety of poems via Zoom for students, faculty and former students during Professor Laura Lee Washburn’s combined poetry writing and editing course. Professor Washburn invited Cook to read in her class after seeing the poet read at this year’s Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) conference held earlier this March. 

“We always have a Distinguished Visiting Writers series every year where we try to bring in fiction  

writers and poets from across the country,” Washburn said. “(Writers) who are renowned in their field so they can visit with students and do a performance. I think when students get to hear a contemporary poet live, they get to hear a unique perspective and get to see the way that person thinks and practices arts in real life.” 

Hyejung Kook, born in Seoul, Korea, was raised in Pennsylvania. She currently lives with her husband  

and two children in Prairie Village, Kan. Cook received her Bachelor of Arts at Harvard University and her Master of Fine Arts at New York University. Her poetry has previously appeared in publications like Verse DailyBeloit Poetry JournalHanging Loose, and Denver Quarterly

“There’s different ways that I approach writing,” Kook said. “Sometimes it comes from an image.  

Sometimes it comes from a sound. Sometimes it comes from a feeling. It’s that thing where something kind of grabs you and you have shivers or goosebumps. There’s something that feels alive, something that moves me, and that will kind of be the tether, whatever it is, to start writing.” 

The poems Kook presented spanned a wide variety of topics, poems like “Not This” inspired by the  

massacres of indigenous women, the poem “Gravida IV” that paid homage to the traditional tanka poetry form, “Halmoni” that explored both the beauty of naming and the shape of poetry, and “The End of October” which featured elements of Korean culture.  

Kook also presented notes on the magic of poetry and provided a writing prompt for those in attendance. 

“There’s always been an undercurrent of this feeling of the potential of poetry to make things happen,”  

Kook said, in response to a question by current Kansas Poet Laureate Huascar Medina about her current work. “To make inward change for me as a writer and maybe outward change in the world, but it had (always) just been an undercurrent and not something I was thinking about actively. I started thinking about this aspect of my writing more. I really feel like the potential, the charge of the poetry was there, and it started becoming clearer to me. I feel, particularly during this time of pandemic, that this need for (change) and healing has become more palatable. Writing poetry is teaching me how to pay attention to what I need to do.” 

Ellie Davis, graduate student in English, appreciated the variety of subjects in Kook’s poetry and her particular style of reading. 

“I loved hearing Hyejung Kook read her poems out loud,” Davis said. “Hearing her intention and  

intonation brought even more life into her work.” 

Kook’s most recent work is set to appear in Curating Home, an anthology featuring several Kansas  

poets that is set to be published this April. 

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