Dr. Angela Rehbein comments on WLU’s first-ever virtual Hughes Lecture Series

In celebration of National Poetry month, Scott Hanna hosted the first virtual 2021 Hughes Lecture on Wednesday, April 21. Many long poems were spoken by W.Va. poet Laureate Marc Harshman, Ohio poet Laureate Kari Gunter-Seymour and Frank X. Walker, founder of the Affrilachian poets. If you want to experience these poems you can go to the Topper Station website. Their performance was inspiring and emotional.

The Hughes Lecture series started in 1970 as a result of an endowment gift from Dr. Raymond Hughes. Hughes was a faculty member of West Liberty University for 39 years. The West Liberty University Foundation manages the fund and tries to fulfill his intent of the lecture. If you are interested in being a donor to contribute to these types of programs to West Liberty University Foundation go to, wlufoundation.org.

Their poems consisted of personal experiences and today’s history. Gunter-Seymour is the first to speak. She writes from her sense of place and her experience of the pandemic. Her poems felt close to home and a shared slice of life. Walker spoke next. Some of his poems were personal and commented on racism. His poems made the audience do a double-take. He gave his take on what’s going on in time gives perspective and gives the poem more spirit. Harshman spoke about the pandemic and other experiences. His last poem in particular blew me away.

Angela Rehbein, the Associate Professor of English, said, “I want to reinforce what one of the poets, Kari Gunter-Seymour, said during the question and answer period: artists and writers tell the truth about the times in which we live. In my view, we need these truth-tellers now more than ever. All three poets demonstrated how vital poetry is for making sense of difficult times, places, and circumstances. They also showed us how to seek out joy and remain human in the face of difficulty. What could be more important?”

Poetry can be found on social media and other parts of the internet, like Google Books, if you don’t want to go to a bookstore. I don’t know many people inspired by poetry, but if they took the time to find the right poets, I believe they would change their minds. Poetry gives readers another person’s view combined with your own, creating a safe space in your mind to reflect. Whether a poem is goofy or serious, you can almost always take something away from the experience. If you don’t dabble in poetry, I recommend watching this lecture because it only inspired me to make and read more poetry.