Monday, April 6, 2015
Composition Students Reflect on Cummings Class Visit and Reading
By Hilary Donatini
I decided to feature some works from our spring reading series writers on my English 102: Composition 2 syllabus this semester. On March 23, J. David Cummings, author of Tancho, visited my class, sharing his writing process and providing context for understanding his poetry. Two of my students who attended both the class session and the afternoon reading agreed to write about the experience: Amelia Sidley, a nursing major from Thompson, Ohio, and Jessica James, a social work major from Loudonville, Ohio. Their responses show how core classes such as freshman composition can open new intellectual vistas for all majors.
I found the experience of the J. David Cumming’s reading and class discussion to be especially enriching. Cummings was a very interesting person to talk to, and I really enjoyed being able to sit and converse about Tancho. I found it extremely interesting how he came about writing the book and how he was able to organize the poems in an order that made sense to the overall image of the book. From this experience I got to hear a different perspective on many of the poems, from the author himself. A poem that I may have interpreted one way he saw a different way and it was interesting to be able to compare my ideas with his. Being a nursing major and a non-English major I may have taken the experience a different way. I was able to ask questions on his writing process as well as his revising process that I could apply in writing my papers. I was able to have an insight into something that I would not always be able to have in my major, and I think that this experience will only help my writing abilities in any class. This experience was very beneficial to me as the reader of the book as well as someone who wrote about it.
At first when I heard about the poetry reading that J. David Cummings was going to put on, I wondered how exactly it would work. And who would want to sit for that long and just listen to poetry being read? But I am very glad I went! Hearing David Cummings read his poetry aloud really brought it to life and made me think about it on whole new levels. He paused in certain parts and separated everything out how it was suppose to be and it helped me truly understand the poetry. I also thought it was very interesting when he talked about the order of the poems in the book, and how they were not originally planned this way. Of course, nothing is perfect the first time around, but when you think about a professional and published writer, you just don’t think of them making mistakes and having to edit as much; but truly, they probably do more editing and revising then just an average writer.
I was also privileged with the chance of having Cummings come to my English class earlier in the day before his poetry reading. This allowed me to get a background not only on how the book was developed but also on his life, and it really allowed me to understand where all his poems in Tancho came from. The one thing that stuck out to me was that he actually worked in a laboratory that actually worked on the development of nuclear bombs and weapons. But he didn’t agree with the thought and idea of them, so he gave up his career to become a writer. Sometimes when reading poems or stories, the reader will wonder, does the author truly know what they are talking about or did they just do very extensive research? Cummings actually had experience and background around the nuclear weapons, which is what partially inspired him to write all these poems. Overall, the experiences I had with J. David Cummings really opened up my eyes and made me have more appreciation for poetry.