A Passionate Art Form

News | May 1, 2015

Rebecca Wee and her siblings grew up in a home full of books, with parents who read to them. She loved nursery rhymes and fairy tales, and apparently, had passages of Beowulf memorized by age 3.

rebecca wee

Children feel rhyme and meter with their bodies, and as they learn to speak, they find great delight in the repetition of sounds and rhythms, says Rebecca, who is a professor of English at Augustana College.

“It’s physical. I think most of us are born with a feel for poetry; maybe it just doesn’t ignite or stay for everyone.

Or the way it’s often taught discourages us from thinking we can understand or write it as we get older,” she said.

Rebecca will present Writing Is the Only Way I Know How to Pray during the Sunday morning learning hour, 10:45-11:30 a.m., on May 10 in the Chapel. It is the final day of learning before summer break.

Her area of study is poetry of witness – poems especially of the 20th century, written out of conditions of extremity.

Rebecca, a professor of poetry at Augustana College, will discuss poetry as an art of survival and recovery, and how the sentiment of the title, which comes from American writer Helena Maria Viramontes, informs her own work.

“Poetry is a passionate art form — familiar and strange, personal and communal, inspired and crafted. It can challenge and change us in ways that can be hard to articulate; poems belong to the realm of the holy. When I teach I hope to convey something essential and surprising, even if just for a few minutes. Art is transformative, in ways very close to prayer.”

Rebecca joined the Augustana English department in 1994. She teaches poetry, literature, first-year writing, and directs independent studies in creative writing.

She is a graduate of St. Olaf College, with a bachelor’s degree in English, and George Mason University, with a master’s of fine arts in poetry.

Her first collection of poetry, “Uncertain Grace,” won the Hayden Carruth Award for New and Emerging Poets in 2000. In 2003, U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins awarded her a Witter Bynner fellowship in poetry from the Library of Congress. From 2003-2005, Wee served as the poet laureate of the Quad Cities.

Inspiration, she said, is “elusive and constant.”

“If we’re alive to the world we’ll be inspired — one’s art may be cooking, gardening, basketball, piano, teaching, construction, it doesn’t matter, human beings want and need to make things and we’re inspired by what we love and admire,” Rebecca said.

Hear and read some of Rebecca’s work

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