Ripon’s poet-in-residence will read at celebration event Saturday

Steve Bellin-Oka, Ripon College’s first poet-in-residence, will be one of the readers at Saturday’s Wisconsin’s Own Library Open House held at Ripon. All are welcome to attend.

He will read selections he has written at Ripon during his semester here, as well as from his first book of poems, Instructions for Seeing a Ghost. This book was published just before the pandemic started and won the 2019 Vassar Miller Prize in Poetry.

Bellin-Oka considers himself a lyric poet. “I don’t tell stories in the poems, I transform experiences into imagery and metaphor,” he says. “I take observations of the world and make them universal.”

Poetry has a special place in literature, he says. “It’s an ancient form that is our first literary form. It speaks to us in rhythm and music that other literature just can’t. It’s important because it tells the truth.”

He says we are living in a post-truth era right now, and media and social media are diluting the language. “We need poetry to preserve the integrity of the language and to tell the truth about the world around us,” he says.

A native of Appleton, Wisconsin, Bellin-Oka has served as a professor at universities and colleges and in several fellowships. This is his first stint as a poet-in-residence, and he is finding the experience enjoyable. He is teaching one class on prose poetry and invented forms, doing readings throughout the area and is working on a second book of poetry. “The students here are really intelligent and very creative, and it’s been a great class,” he says.

In addition to reading Saturday, Bellin-Oka will be selling and signing copies of Instructions for Seeing a Ghost. It tells of his experiences of returning to the United States after living in Canada for 10 years, and seeing the country in a totally different way.


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