Profile on Visiting Writer Oliver de la Paz

By Robert Drinkwater Contributing Writer

    Oliver de la Paz, poet and College of the Holy Cross professor, is scheduled to come to UMF on March 7th and will read from his works at the Emery Performance Space as the first visiting writer of the spring semester.

   Despite living in Massachusetts, this is not de la Paz’s first time in Farmington. “I’ve visited Farmington about 11-12 years ago back when April Ossmann was the executive director of Alice James Books,” said de la Paz in an email interview. “I’ve also got a number of friends who teach and work in the area.”

   When it comes to inspiration for writing de la Paz said, “ I’m most inspired by what I am currently reading in terms of poetry. I write ‘dialogically’ or in dialogue with other works of art.”

   De la Paz mentioned that his poems will focus on one subject and paying close attention to something that someone may not notice. “For someone who wants to know about my poems and poetry I would describe it as obsessive and interested in closely looking at or regarding a subject,” de la Paz said. “I like to zoom in on things people don’t notice.”

   His children are also what inspires him to write. “Three of my children have special needs and two of them are on the autism spectrum,” de la Paz said. “I recently completed a book length collection of poems that is inspired by parenting and learning to understand what it means to be a parent of children on the spectrum.”

   De la Paz has been a lifelong writer, “I’ve been writing my entire life” said de la Paz, “ I became serious about writing poetry in my early twenties but had written poems at my leisure before then. When I took the work seriously I had applied to schools to apprentice with some notable writers including Alberto Ríos, Beckian Fritz Goldberg, and Norman Dubie at Arizona State University. That was back in the early 90’s.”

   When it comes to describing his poetry, de la Paz said, “Some days I describe my poetry as ‘a chore,’ others days I describe my poetry as ‘my lifeline.’”

   In terms of who has influenced him, de la Paz said, “My most pressing and important influence is often who I’m currently reading. Right now I’m reading a wonderful novel by Jon Pineda entitled ‘Let’s No One Get Hurt,’ I’m reading a new collection of poems by January Gil O’Neil entitled ‘Rewilding,’ and a book by Sarah Gambito entitled ‘Loves You.’”

   “In the past I was strongly influenced by the work of poet Larry Levis and Li Young Lee as well as my teachers whom I’ve mentioned,” de la Paz said, “And when I was starting out I was really strongly influenced by Sylvia Plath.”

   Creative Writing professor and Director of the Visiting Writers Series Jeffrey Thomson is also familiar with de la Paz’s work. “I’ve read his books and I knew him by reputation,” said Thomson. “He’s a good guy.”

   The Creative Writing program, along with The Writers Guild, sponsor the visiting writers events usually held in the Landing a couple of times per semester. They try to bring in six to seven writers per year.

   “People are doing exciting work in contemporary literature,” said Thomson.

New Editors of the Sandy River Review Introduce their Vision

New Editors of the Sandy River Review Introduce their Vision

By Andrea Swiedom Contributing Writer

Dale Rappaneau and Emily Marquis, the two editors in charge of this year’s Sandy River Review, are on a mission to promote art and writing submissions from all UMF students for the 39th v

Dale Rappananeau and Emily Marquis are this year’s Sandy River Review Editors. (Photo courtesy of Andrea Swiedom)


   Creative Writing majors at UMF are often reminded by their professors to submit to The Sandy River, but there has been little to no outreach to promote submissions amongst the rest of the students on campus.

   The Sandy River Literary Journal was established in 1982 and is published once a year by two of UMF’s Creative Writing interns. Though the journal is overseen by Alice James Books, the interns have complete control over submissions.

   “We don’t just publish UMF work. Right now, we have submissions from Hawaii, one from the Netherlands and one from Arkansas,” said Rappaneau.

   Marquis expressed the desire for Sandy River editors to be more visible so that they can encourage all students, regardless of their major, to submit their work.  “That’s why we set up the table in the student center trying to get submissions from people who aren’t creative writing majors who still like to write,” said Marquis.

   Not only are the editors looking for a broader pool of UMF students to choose work from, but they are also hoping to see a diverse spread of genres.

   A genre the editors would like to see is one that explores the self. “We were talking about how maybe we would want to break [The Sandy River] into sections like, personal or family-wise or community-wise and break up the pieces according to that,” explained Marquis.

  Rappaneau expressed his desire to see more science-fiction and fantasy submissions. “I don’t think we could turn the magazine into strictly dystopian sci-fi all of a sudden,” said Rappaneau. He hopes his selection process for the journal will showcase genres that haven’t been represented in past anthologies.

   As long as the editors uphold The Sandy River’s tradition of showcasing contemporary writing, they have the freedom to design the journal however they want, within reason.

   The editors are also hoping to see a large variety of art mediums submitted to the journal this year.  “Previously they [former editors] would accept photography, art, mixed media. We would like to see a lot of illustrations in this anthology,” said Rappaneau.  

   Adding illustrations will help make this anthology stand out from past volumes, but so will the vision for the cover design.  The editors are holding a contest exclusively for UMF students to submit their art work for this volume’s cover.

  To make the submission process less nerve-wrecking, students can attend the Writer’s Guild, a writing club that meets on Mondays at 7 p.m. on the third floor of the Creative Writing House.   When attended regularly, the club is an ideal place to prepare pieces for submission.

   Annie Moloney, who is currently the Writing Guild President, initially had her work rejected for the The Sandy River, but she received a letter from the editor encouraging her to continue working on the piece and to re-submit it.  

   “I brought it to Guild and I had a really good workshop there,” said Moloney, “and I eventually kind of changed the format of it from a piece of flash fiction into a monologue which was my first experience writing dramatic work.” Moloney re-submitted her edited piece, “Until It Does,” and had it published in the 36th volume of the literary journal.

   The Sandy River is accepting art and writing submissions until Dec. 7 and the 39th volume will be published in May 2019.  Submission guidelines can be found online at


Visiting Writer Spotlight: Meet Cristopher Bakken

Visiting Writer Spotlight: Meet Cristopher Bakken

By Willy Doehring Contributing Writer

Author Christopher Bakken. (Photo Courtesy of Christopher Bakken)

   Writer and poet Christopher Bakken will visit UMF to read from his work as the semester’s first installment of the Visiting Writers series, organized and hosted by the Creative Writing department.  

   Bakken is currently the chair of the English department at Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania.  He has a Ph.D. in Literature and Creative Writing.  Bakken describes himself as “a Swiss-Norwegian hockey-playing hillbilly from rural Wisconsin who accidently fell in love with Greece,” giving much more insight into both his personal background and into his writing.

   However accidental it was, Bakken’s love of Greece is reflected in his work.  In his non-fiction book Honey, Olives and Octopus: Adventures at the Greek Table Bakken travels Greece to find the eight elements of the Greek table and explores the traditional ways that each of these elements are produced— among other things.

The cover of Bakken’s latest book ‘Honey, Olives, Octopus’ (Photo Courtesy of Christopher Bakken)

   “The chapters meander along the goat path, covering a lot of territory that has little to do with Greek cuisine,” said Bakken.  “By which I mean to say my book combines elements of memoir, travel writing, food pornography, historical musing, and action-adventure narrative.”

   Professor Jeffrey Thomson of UMF’s Creative Writing program is the primary organizer of the Visiting Writers series and was able to work with Bakken to organize the upcoming reading after another author canceled. The first reading was scheduled for February 15 and would have featured non-fiction writer Stephen Elliot, who was forced to cancel on short notice.
   Thomson was unavailable for interview regarding the matter, but Bakken was unfazed when he learned he was replacing Elliot.  “I had no idea, nor does it matter to me at all,” Bakken said.

   Bakken plans to read primarily from Honey, Olives, Octopus when he visits UMF, but he also recently published his third book of poetry called Eternity and Oranges. Bakken describes the book as being “full of spooky ghost poems,” departing a bit from his focus on Greece. Bakken’s reading will be on February 22nd at 7:30 p.m. in the Landing.