Westminster School’s Michael Cervas Visiting Writers Program, which has been paused since last March, will present a series of virtual visits by writers during the second half of the 2020-2021 academic year, including two Friday Nights at Westminster readings featuring Jaed Coffin in January and Sarah Blake in April, as well as a two-day visit by Aimee Nezhukumatathil, the 21st Westminster Poet in late March.
The inaugural event will be a reading by Coffin, scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 29 (via a webinar). He will be preceded by a student reader, the 2020 winner of the Brian Ford prize for Creative Writing, Nathalie Charles '21. Coffin will also speak with English classes Jan. 30 (via Zoom). This will be Coffin’s second visit to Westminster as a Friday Night reader. He was the featured reader in October 2015.
Coffin is a journalist, essayist and memoirist from Brunswick, Maine. He is the author of two critically acclaimed memoirs, “A Chant to Soothe Wild Elephants” (2008) and “Roughhouse Friday” (2019). Coffin has also published many articles and essays in a wide variety of newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times, Down East magazine, The MOTH, Nautilus, Yankee Magazine and The Sun magazine. Coffin is also an assistant professor of creative writing in the English department and the M.F.A. program at the University of New Hampshire.
An adventurous world traveler, Coffin’s first memoir, “A Chant to Soothe Wild Elephants,” recounts his experiences during the summer after his junior year at Middlebury College when he lived in his mother’s village in Thailand (and tried to become a Buddhist monk). His second memoir, “Roughhouse Friday,” tells of his experiences in Alaska during a year in which he went soul searching (and became a middleweight champion barroom boxer). But, of course, both books are about so much more: identity, masculinity, family, multiculturalism, the quest for spiritual truth and the wonders of the natural world, among other topics. Coffin’s prose style could be described as simple and straightforward, but marked also by quiet beauty and moments of surprising grace and poetry.
All of this year’s Third and Fourth formers read “Roughhouse Friday” as their English summer reading book, and they will have a chance to speak directly with the author during classes.
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.