On Thursday February 11th, WBHS English teacher Mrs. McQuillan invited poet Holly Painter to speak to her Honors American Literature and Points of View classes. Ms. Painter began her career in poetry studying philosophy and English at the University of Southern California. Natural philosophy holds great influence within her works, perhaps most obvious in her first poetry book, Excerpts from a Natural History. A brief description of the collection can be found on Painter’s website;
“When the British natural philosophers of the 17th century founded modern natural history, they proposed finding a poet to compile a poetic account of everything that existed in nature, very broadly defined. Four hundred years later, the work is ongoing, made modern and rigorous with rules and style-guides, managers and research-poets.
This collection follows a year’s worth of submissions by one such researcher-poet, but the poems are only half the story. The rest lies in the revisions and comments—of both a professional and personal nature—between the poet and the editor back at corporate offices. As the relationship unravels, natural history becomes a tool of the heartbroken and obsessed.”
Painter is a traveler who, while hailing from the Metro Detroit area, has traveled to the corners of the globe. She has written poetry and been published in a variety of countries (the United States, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia)
During her visit to Mrs. McQuillan’s 5th hour Honors American Literature class, Painter shared an assemblage of memories, lessons, and personal works. Her speech covered the course of her career, the difficulties of being a poet/writer, as well as a brief commentary on the political landscapes of the places she has lived such as Singapore. Many of the pieces in her reading were taken directly from Excerpts from a Natural History, allowing students the opportunity to engage with class topics such as natural philosophies and transcendentalism.
Ms. Painter’s presentation especially resonates with McQuillan’s Honors American Literature classes because they just finished their unit on American Transcendentalist poets. Mrs. McQuillan used Ms. Painter’s presentation as a chance to showcase the work of a poet who creates in current times. Many students were curious about pursuing careers in the arts, and Ms. Painter was able to offer them insightful advice on that subject. Her demonstration showed students that careers as artists are fulfilling and possible to attain in today’s STEM driven world, which is a necessary lesson for all students to learn.
You can check out more of Ms. Painter’s work on her website; http://www.hollypainter.com