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Finding Space for Poetry Immersion

“I think it’s incredible that the program here at Columbia and the wonderful staff provide students with opportunities to share their work and form a community. I am so thankful for all the work they do to make the department as exemplary as it is.” —Alex Zhang CC’20

Alex Zhang CC’20 has been selected to participate in a prestigious three-week seminar for undergraduate poets at Bucknell’s Seminar for Undergraduate Poets. Taking place this June, Zhang will have a unique opportunity to be guided by established poets through writing workshops, lectures and individual discussions.

“As one of few sophomores to have been chosen in the program’s 34 years, I truly feel honored,” said Zhang. “I had been debating other options for the summer, but my family and friends immediately encouraged me to drop everything and take this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Ten students were selected for Bucknell’s summer program, which has previously featured visiting poets such as Terrance Hayes, Dana Levin, Mary Ruefle, Arthur Sze, Brigit Pegeen Kelly, Jean Valentine, Carl Phillips and Mary Jo Bang SOA’98. All undergraduate fellows present readings of their own work while being housed on Bucknell’s Lewisburg campus in Pennsylvania.

We spoke with Zhang about his interest in poetry, his time at Columbia and why he’s looking forward to spending a summer at Bucknell.

When did you become interested in poetry?

During the summer of my junior year in high school, I had the opportunity to intern for the Academy of American Poets. I spent each day reading poems from famous authors, then went home each night and tried to replicate their styles. Poetry has always felt more like a necessity in my life, rather than an extracurricular activity. It has provided me with an outlet to voice my narrative and speak to broader, general issues.

How has Columbia College enhanced your interest in poetry?

One of my main reasons for attending Columbia was because of the phenomenal Undergraduate Creative Writing Program. I am currently in the process of completing Senior Poetry Workshop, with Alex Dimitrov, adjunct assistant professor of writing, whose work I have always looked up to. I also took two semesters of workshops with David Tomas Martinez, adjunct assistant professor of writing, who consistently pushed me to my best and offered to review projects I was working on outside of class. Finally, I am in my class with Marni Ludwig SOA’08, adjunct assistant professor of writing, whose class, “Poetry After Trauma,” exposed me to a plethora of modern and necessary voices. What amazes me about Columbia professors is that I have always felt less like I’m in a class, and more like I’m receiving advice from a friend.

What excites you about this program at Bucknell?

I am thrilled to be working one-on-one with poets that I have admired for so long. For example, Ada Limón and Kaveh Akbar are both slated to teach this summer, and I could not be more excited to meet them. The program also provides me with the opportunity to truly immerse myself in poetry and explore my work further.

While I have found a balance between writing and schoolwork at Columbia, I still think that a space dedicated to poetry will allow me with the necessary room to expand as a writer. And I can’t wait to meet more like-minded individuals who are as passionate about poetry as I am!

What's been the highlight of your College experience so far?

This fall, I shared my work at an Undergraduate Creative Writing Reading. I think it’s incredible that the program here at Columbia and the wonderful staff provide students with opportunities to share their work and form a community. I am so thankful for all the work they do to make the department as exemplary as it is.


Alex C. Zhang CC’20 is an economics and creative writing double major. He is the co-president of Columbia Queer Business Society, the vice president of Multicultural Business Association and a poetry reader and writer at The Adroit Journal.

Last updated Tuesday April 17, 2018

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