Writers will present readings of selected works at a campus event Thursday night

Cookeville – What do poetry and short stories have in common?

They’re both featured in new books by Tennessee Tech University creative writing faculty – and those writers will present readings of selected works at a campus event Thursday night. The event is free and open to the public.

Monic Ductan and Erin Hoover, associate professor and assistant professor of English, respectively, will be featured in “New Books by Creative Writing Faculty” at 7 p.m. Jan. 25 at the university’s Backdoor Playhouse, located in the rear of the Jere Whitson Building at 805 Quadrangle in Cookeville.

“Being a practicing poet, being able to write and work in a field I love, is a significant accomplishment, and writing about something in a way that resonates with other people’s varied experiences is an accomplishment,” Hoover said.

Her latest book, No Spare People, published in Oct. 2023 by Black Lawrence Press, resonates with others, she said, because it deals with the fraught uncertainty of the pandemic and the weighty themes of working and being a single mother of a young child during that period.

“These poems were written between 2018 and 2022. Thematically, those were anxious times for everyone. Personally, I was navigating a difficult job market and raising a child in a world that made me nervous,” she said.

Especially during that time, Hoover was troubled by public rhetoric about groups of people counted unimportant, such as LGBTQ+ and BIPOC people or people earning lower incomes.

“But everybody counts – there are no spare people. That belief is what inspired the title of my book,” she said.

No Spare People has garnered praise from advance readers for its evocative and intellectually charged poetry. Likened to the impactful style of Adrienne Rich – a poet whom Hoover says inspired her – critics have noted how astutely Hoover’s poetry delves into the realities of womanhood, motherhood and the complexities of navigating modern society.

“Erin Hoover’s second collection, No Spare People, recalls to me the sobering effect of encountering Adrienne Rich’s work in the late ‘80s. These poems deal in reality, eschewing the fantastic,” said Cate Marvin.

Likewise, Kaveh Akbar describes Hoover’s poetry as hard, not in understanding or relating but rather in accepting our own experiences in them. “These are hard poems in that they press far past the facile reductive binaries of good and evil, savior and saved, and into something – a lyric, a voice – that feels a little more complicated, a little more like our own world,” Akbar said.

Hoover’s work is also inspired by poets Erin Belieu and Garrett Hongo. “These are the people who taught me how to write narrative poetry, and each has a strong reputation as a poetic craftsperson,” she said.

In addition to teaching poetry, literary publication editing and other English courses at Tech, Hoover advises students seeking a certificate from the university in editing and publishing, moderates the Sawmill Poetry Series at the local Plenty Downtown Bookshop and authors the “Not Abandon, but Abide” interview series of Southern poets for the Southern Review of Books.

“Tennessee Tech is an excellent university to study English and creative writing. Having faculty who are actively publishing writers is a great feature for students seeking to become actively publishing writers too,” Hoover said.

“Feeling like there is a really vibrant space for poetry in the local community is also inspiring,” she continued.

“While I encourage people to study poetry at Tech or elsewhere, poetry is accessible to everyone. Poetry creates a unique space to think and write about larger issues like love, death, justice, and our aspirations and struggles, so poetry is as varied as poets, which is to say, individual writers,” she concluded. 

Hoover’s latest collection has garnered industry acclaim. It was named one of Independent Book Review’s “Books We’re Excited About,” a Lambda Literary “Most Anticipated” title, and selected for Small Press Distribution’s “SPD Recommends.” It was an SPD Poetry Bestseller immediately after its release in October and Nov. 2023.

Her first book of poetry, Barnburner, was published by Elixir Press in 2018, and won a Florida Book Award in Poetry. She has been on the Tech English faculty since fall 2021.

At the New Books by Creative Writing Faculty event, the authors will be introduced by colleague Ted Pelton. 

Copies of Hoover’s No Spare People, as well as Ductan’s inaugural book of short stories titled Daughters of Muscadine, will be available for purchase at the event from the Tech bookstore.

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