Vivian performs new work


On Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m., English Professor Robert Vivian gave a reading of poems from his latest book, “Immortal Soft Spoken,” a collection of what he dubs “dervish essays;” the book is his second written in this style.

The dervish essay, as conceived by Vivian, is a prose poem “driven by anaphora [the repetition of a word or phrase] and a strong energy… to be honest I don’t fully understand where this energy comes from, but it’s very lyrical, urgent and physical.”

Vivian performed his poems in the library’s Anderson Reading Area before an intimate crowd of students and colleagues. Reading for about forty-five minutes, he demonstrated the physicality of the poems in the way only a reading can.

The reading was energetic and expressive, Vivian’s delivery fast and rhythmic, his body constantly in motion. The emphasis on anaphora, as well as the strong phonetic flow of the poems can cause them to become all the more effective when heard rather than read. And, for Vivian, it’s an enjoyable time.

“It’s always fun, always a privilege to read in front of people. But I don’t really make any distinction between reading at an event or reading at home for [my wife]. Or Rumi Hour for that matter. It’s a moveable feast, really. The joy is within the writing,” Vivian said.

For Vivian, the writing is the most important part. An avid creator and consumer of poetry, writing any less than each and every day is not an option. Combine that with chairing the English department and teaching and, unsurprisingly, with that much focus on writing, writing a book becomes a somewhat easier process.

“It was very organic. It just reached a certain point where I said ‘hey, I think I have a collection,’” Vivian said. “It wasn’t a conscious ‘I am writing a book’ thing.”

After finishing the reading, questions were taken. Among the topics asked about, one was revision habits. Vivian said that he revises where he needs to, but that he can usually tell if a poem will need a lot of work if he spends a lot of time thinking about it after writing.

“If I’ve written something in the morning and I can’t remember what it is in the afternoon, I know it’s good,” he said.

As for moving on after this book, Vivian has no trouble at all keeping busy creatively. “My friend Joel and I are editing a collection called “Wild Gods.” I’m sending out another collection of Dervish pieces. I just keep on truckin’.”

Active Minds fights stigma


Suicide Prevention week activities were led by Alma’s Active Minds organization over the last week in an effort to bring awareness to the importance of mental health.

Suicide was the tenth leading cause of death overall in the United States and there were more than twice as many suicides in the United States as there were homicides, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

“Active Minds is a nonprofit organization that supports mental well-being. [Active Minds] educates and brings awareness to mental health to diminish the stigma around it,” said LaShawnda Lampley (’20).

This week, Active Minds had a few events and activities in and around campus to spread awareness. One of these events, Field of Flags, put students and faculty members face-to-face with the statistics.

“During field of flags, we set up over 1,000 flags to represent the number of college students who takes their lives [each year],” said Lampley.

People of the Alma community are invited to write the name of a loved one who committed suicide on a flag. This installation gets set between Clack and the library each year.

Eric Hodgdon, a speaker, visited campus and told the story of his daughter committing suicide at 15 years old.

“[He gave] a very powerful speech about persevering and active listening, [as well as] all the skills you need to point out the signs to help someone and assure them that they are not alone,” said Lampley.

Jennifer Showers of the Counseling and Wellness Center is the Active Minds advisor, and she set up a QPR (Question, Persuade, and Refer) training session on campus. QPR training helps teach people to notice signs that someone may be suicidal or in crisis mode, and steps to prevent those circumstances.

Other activities Active Minds orchestrates throughout the year include Stress Less, the Butterfly Project and a cupcake sale.

At the Stress Less event, students decorate a “Stress Less Box” and fill it with things that aid with both destressing and relaxing.

The organization also runs their own Butterfly Project, where they sell temporary butterfly tattoos. Students and faculty members are then meant to put the tattoo in a place where they might selfharm, and treat the tattoo as if it is a loved one in need of care. The project’s goal is to encourage people to look after themselves just as they looked after their tattoo.

Active Minds’ cupcake sale features cupcakes with frosting colors representing a certain disorder or illness. Each one then comes with information and resources on that specific disorder or illness.

Lampley believes that mental health is just as important as physical health.

“Negative stigma around mental health could be a breaking point for someone with a mental illness,” she said. “I was always told once you’re aware of a problem, you should fix it. We are here to make people aware of mental illness, and now it is time to do something about it and fix it—starting with the negative stigma.”

Active Minds meets every other Wednesday in SAC 103 at 9:30 p.m., and their next meeting is October 10.

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