Michael Cervas Visiting Writers Program

The Michael Cervas Visiting Writers Program is named in honor of Michael Cervas who taught English from 1986-2020 and who initiated two longstanding visiting writers programs: The Westminster Poet Series and the Friday Nights at Westminster series of readings. The Michael Cervas Visiting Writers Program is supported by generous gifts from the Ford-Goldfarb English Department Enrichment Fund, the McKinley Fund, and the Friday Nights at Westminster Fund.  

About Michael Cervas
During his 34-year tenure on the Westminster faculty, Michael taught all levels of English; coached basketball, soccer, track, baseball, golf and squash; worked as a corridor supervisor in Alumni House; and presided as department head for three decades. Having retired from his full-time appointment to the faculty at the end of the 2019-2020 academic year, Michael continues to direct the Visiting Writers Program.

Friday Nights at Westminster

The Friday Nights at Westminster series of readings began in 2009-2010 to coincide with the opening of the Armour Academic Center. Six times a year (twice each trimester) writers are invited to come to campus to give a Friday evening reading and then return Saturday morning to visit with English classes. Typically, English teachers introduce their students to works by the visiting writers before their readings or performances, thus guaranteeing an educated audience for the guest writers. The program has featured readings and performances by poets, essayists, novelists, jazz musicians and singer-songwriters, many of whom, like Jennifer Egan, Ron Carlson, Emily St. John Mandel, Anthony Doerr, Monica Wood, Dar Williams, Kris Delmhorst, Nat Reeves and Mark Erelli, have national reputations. Local writers and musicians, like Colin McEnroe, Rand Richards Cooper, Lynn Hoffman, Jonathan Gilman, Gina Barreca and Rob Duguay, have also appeared in the program. One special feature of Friday Nights at Westminster is that the evening always begins with a reading by a student or a faculty member.

2023-2024 Schedule

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  • Friday Nights at Westminster 2023-2024

    Please join us for Friday Nights at Westminster, a series of readings and concerts held at Westminster School during the 2023-2024 academic year on selected Friday nights, (occasionally on other nights of the week).
    The events begin at 7 p.m. and are free and open to members of the public. Events are held in either the Westminster Centennial Center or the Gund Reading Room of the school’s Armour Academic Center. We will let you know where each event will be held once the decision is made. Parking is available in the parking lot adjacent to Armour.
    Friday, Oct. 6
    Susan Schoenberger
    A native of New Windsor, N.Y., Susan graduated with honors from Dartmouth College in 1984 with a bachelor’s degree in English literature. Since college, Susan has been a writer, editor and copy editor at various newspapers, including The News and Observer, The Baltimore Sun and The Hartford Courant. Since 2013, she has been director of communications at Hartford International University for Religion and Peace, a graduate school that focuses on interfaith dialogue and peacebuilding.
    Susan’s articles and essays have appeared in many publications, including The Courant’s Northeast magazine, Reader’s Digest and several anthologies. Susan began writing fiction seriously after attending the Wesleyan Writers Conference in 2001. Her short stories have appeared in “Inkwell,” the “Village Rambler” and on the Bartleby Snopes website.
    “Intercession,” her first novel (published as “A Watershed Year”), won the top prize in the 2006 William Faulkner-William Wisdom Creative Writing competition. “Intercession” was also one of seven finalists for the Peter Taylor Prize given by the Knoxville Writers Guild. In early 2007, Susan received an Artist Fellowship Grant from the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism.
    Susan’s second novel, “The Virtues of Oxygen,” was published in 2014. Her third novel, “The Liability of Love,” was published in 2021. She has three grown children and lives in West Hartford, Conn., with her husband and unpredictable dog named Leo.
    Friday, Dec. 8
    Steve Straight
    Steve Straight was professor of English and director of the poetry program at Manchester Community College. His full-length collections include “Affirmation” (2022), “The Almanac” (2012) and “The Water Carrier” (2002), which was a finalist for the Connecticut Book Award in Poetry. For many years Steve directed the Connecticut Poetry Circuit, and for many summers he directed the Seminar Series for the Sunken Garden Poetry Festival in Farmington, Conn. He has given workshops on writing and teaching throughout the eastern U.S. In 1998 he was named a distinguished advocate for the arts by the Connecticut Commission on the Arts. He lives in South Windsor with his wife, Marian Maccarone, soprano and voice teacher.
    Friday, Jan. 26
    Aidan Levy
    Aidan Levy is the author of “Saxophone Colossus: The Life and Music of Sonny Rollins” and “Dirty Blvd.: The Life and Music of Lou Reed” and editor of “Patti Smith on Patti Smith: Interviews and Encounters.” A former Leon Levy Center for Biography Fellow, his writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Village Voice, JazzTimes, The Nation and other publications. He holds a doctorate in English and comparative literature from Columbia University, where he is currently a lecturer. For 10 years, he was the baritone saxophonist in the Stan Rubin Orchestra.
    Friday, April 19
    Amity Gaige
    Amity Gaige is the author of four novels, “O My Darling,” “The Folded World,” “Schroder” and “Sea Wife” (2020). She is the winner of a Fulbright Fellowship and fellowships at the MacDowell and Yaddo colonies. In 2016, she was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for fiction. Her novel “Schroder” has been translated into 18 languages and was shortlisted for The Folio Prize in the U.K. in 2014 and for L’Express Reader’s Prize in France. “Schroder” was named one of Best Books of 2013 by The New York Times Book Review, HuffPost, Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Kirkus, Cosmopolitan, and Publisher’s Weekly, among many others.
    The longtime visiting writer at Amherst College, she now teaches creative writing at Yale. Her short stories, essays and book reviews have appeared in publications such as The New York Times, The Guardian, Die Welt, Harper’s Bazaar, The Yale Review, Slate.com, One Story, Ploughshares and elsewhere. She has appeared at numerous conferences, festivals, and on radio shows such as NPR.
    She lives with her family in West Hartford, Conn. She had to learn to sail in order to write “Sea Wife.” She learned that she is not a gifted sailor, so she will stick to writing about it.
    Tuesday, May 21
    Westminster Artists Collective
    (student and faculty writers and musicians)
    The Michael Cervas Visiting Writers Program, which includes the Friday Nights at Westminster series, is supported by generous gifts from the Ford-Goldfarb English Department Enrichment Fund, the McKinley Fund, the Connell Music Fund, and the Friday Nights at Westminster Fund.

Westminster Poet Series

The Westminster Poet Series began in 1999 when Linda Pastan, at the time the Poet Laureate of the State of Maryland, came to Westminster to give an evening reading and visit with English classes the following day. The second poet in the series was Billy Collins, who had just been named United States Poet Laureate. Since then, the school has welcomed award-winning poets from all around the United States to campus for two-day visits. Westminster Poets have been United States Poets Laureate, State of Connecticut Poets Laureate, Pulitzer Prize winners, and National Book Award winners.

Tim Seibles Named Westminster Poet for 2023-2024
The English Department is delighted to announce that Tim Seibles will be the Westminster Poet for 2023-2024. 
Seibles was born and raised in Philadelphia. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Southern Methodist University.
Seibles approaches themes of racial tension, class conflict and intimacy from several directions at once in poems with plainspoken yet fast-turning language. In a 2010 statement he shared in "From the Fishouse," Seibles states, “I think poetry, if it’s going to be really engaging and engaged, has to be able to come at the issues of our lives from all kinds of angles and all kinds of ways: loudly and quietly, angrily and soothingly, with comedy and with dead seriousness. […] Our lives are worth every risk, every manner of approach.” Praising Seibles’ ability to “navigate the terrain of American pop culture in order to ponder the state of the American psyche,” Bookslut reviewer Joey Rubin states in a 2005 review of "Buffalo Head Solos," “If Frank O'Hara's meandering monologues were meant to capture the performative design of Abstract Expressionism and Allen Ginsberg's forceful riffing was meant to mimic the jazz stylings of Charlie Parker, then the back-bending, image-splicing, lyrical narratives in Tim Seibles's sixth collection of poetry "Buffalo Head Solos" should invoke the fast-flipping frames of Hannah-Barbara animation. Seibles's cartoon imagery, and cartoonish muscling of language, however, are not just trying to make us laugh. Which is to say, Seibles is playful—but he's not kidding around.”
Seibles is the author of several collections of poetry, including his most recent, "Voodoo Libretto" (2022); "Body Moves" (1988); "Hurdy-Gurdy" (1992); "Hammerlock" (1999); "Buffalo Head Solos" (2004); "Fast Animal" (2012), which won the Theodore Roethke Memorial Poetry Prize and was nominated for a 2012 National Book Award; and "One Turn Around the Sun" (2017). His work has also been featured in the anthologies "In Search of Color Everywhere: A Collection of African American Poetry" (1994), "Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry" (2009) and "Best American Poetry" (2010).
Seibles’ honors include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, as well as an Open Voice Award from the National Writers Voice Project. In 2013 he received the PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Award for poetry. He has taught at Old Dominion University, the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast MFA program, and at Cave Canem.

Seibles lives in Norfolk, Virginia. From 2016 to 2018, he was the state's poet laureate. 
Seibles will be visiting Westminster from Feb. 26-27. He will give an all-school reading Monday morning, Feb. 26 and speak with English classes during the academic day on both Monday and Tuesday.

For more about Seibles, click here.   

And here are a few poems:

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  • Blade, Unplugged

    It’s true: I almost never
    smile, but that doesn’t mean
    I’m not    in love: my heart
    is that black violin
    played slowly. You know that
    moment late in the solo
    when the voice
    is so pure    you feel
    the blood in it: the wound
    between rage
    and complete surrender. That’s
    where I’m smiling. You just
    can’t see it—the sound
    bleeding perfectly
    inside me. The first time
    I killed a vampire    I was
    sad: I mean
    we were almost
    But that’s
    so many lives
    ago. I believe
    in the cry that cuts
    into the melody, the strings
    calling back the forgotten world.
    When I think of the madness
    that has made me    and the midnight
    I walk inside—all day long:
    when I think of that
    one note    that breaks
    what’s left of what’s
    human in me, man,
    I love    everything
  • The Debt

    I have the blood of the conquerors in my veins
    and the blood of the enslaved and the slaughtered,
    so where shall I rest with this
    mixed river of blood painting my heart—what city
    wants me, which woman will touch my neck?
    Nigeria is sleeping in the angles of my skull
    and maybe two small French towns—
    one in each leg—are also sleeping, and of course,
    the first people in this land, with their long
    black, black hair, seven of them
    are napping along my ribs
                 And with all these people
    adrift my body, I am asleep as well—
    dreaming their good wishes, their strained whispers,
    sleepwalking all over America.
    But it’s alright, in my country,
    everyone is asleep: at the wheel, on the job, even
    with their fingers on the trigger, asleep
    with their distant continents, the glittering
    silence of their shattered histories
    and the long pull of a thousand
    thousand moons inside them.
                 They don’t remember
    how once we swam inside our mothers, that
    once our mothers floated inside their mothers,
    just as their mothers once waited inside those
    before them and before that it was the same—
    all the way back to the first mother
    in Africa,
         that slim, short, quick-tempered woman
    whose children crawled all over the planet,
    then got big and started
    hurting each other—with the conquerors
    in their bright armor, trying to finish everything.
    I know where the blame falls. I know
    I could twist my brown skin, my mixed nations,
    my kinky hair into a fist. I know.  I know.
    But I hear a stranger music in my bones—
    the windy shimmer of long fields, a quiet of birds
    stunned by dusk, the singular tree of all blood
    rising, the future awake singing from these wounds
    and what is the lesson of history, if not
    that we owe each other more bread, more
    friendship, fewer lies,
    less cruelty.
  • Delores Jepps

    It seems insane now, but
    she’d be standing soaked
    in schoolday morning light,
    her loose-leaf notebook,
    flickering at the bus stop,
    and we almost trembled
    at the thought of her mouth
    filled for a moment with both
    of our short names. I don’t know
    what we saw when we saw
    her face, but at fifteen there’s
    so much left to believe in,
    that a girl with sunset
    in her eyes, with a kind smile,
    and a bright blue miniskirt softly
    shading her bare thighs     really
    could be The Goddess. Even
    the gloss on her lips sighed
    Kiss me    and you’ll never
    do homework again. Some Saturdays
    my ace, Terry, would say, “Guess
    who was buying Teaberry gum
    in the drugstore on Stenton?”
    And I could see the sweet
    epiphany still stunning his eyes
    and I knew that he knew
    that I knew he knew     I knew—
    especially once summer had come,
    and the sun stayed up till we had
    nothing else to do but wish
    and wonder about fine sistas
    in flimsy culottes and those hotpants!
    James Brown screamed about: Crystal
    Berry, Diane Ramsey, Kim Graves,
    and her. This was around 1970: Vietnam
    to the left of us, Black Muslims
    to the right, big afros all over my
    Philadelphia. We had no idea
    where we were, how much history
    had come before us—how much
    cruelty, how much more dying
    was on the way. For me and Terry,
    it was a time when everything said
    maybe, and maybe being blinded
    by the beauty of a tenth grader
    was proof that, for a little while,
    we were safe from the teeth
    that keep chewing up the world.
    I’d like to commend
    my parents    for keeping calm,
    for not quitting their jobs or grabbing
    guns    and for never letting up
    about the amazing “so many doors
    open to good students.” I wish
    I had kissed
    Delores Jepps. I wish I could
    have some small memory of her
    warm and spicy mouth to wrap
    these hungry words around. I
    would like to have danced with her,
    to have slow-cooked to a slow song
    in her sleek, toffee arms: her body
    balanced between the Temptations’
    five voices and me—a boy anointed
    with puberty, a kid with a B
    average and a cool best friend.
    I don’t think I’ve ever understood
    how lonely I am, but I was
    closer to it at fifteen because
    I didn’t know anything: my heart
    so near the surface of my skin
    I could have moved it with my hand.

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