September 23, 2022

Jake Skeets visits Bonaventure to read poetry – The Bona Venture


The English Department at Saint Bonaventure University welcomed guest poet Jake Skeets, author of Navajo descent and university professor, to the Hall of Fame at the Reilly Center. At an hour-long event on Wednesday evening, Skeets read a selection of poems from several of his collections, including the award-winning “Eyes Bottle Dark with a Mouthful of Flowers.”

Dr. Sara Nicholson, assistant professor of English at the university and event organizer, described the process of bringing Skeets to Bonaventure.

“The department invited Skeets to visit our college community this week,” Nicholson said. “He traveled all the way from Albuquerque, New Mexico to visit us in Bonaventure and we were lucky enough to be able to talk to him and hear him read.”

Skeets is currently an assistant professor of English at Diné College and will be an assistant professor at the University of Oklahoma in the fall of 2022. Prior to the reading, he toured Nicholson’s Creative Writing: Poetry II class, answering questions and leading a lesson. Kristyn Johnson, a junior English student, was on hand for the class and described the unique experience of teaching Skeets.

“It was really exciting to have him in our class because I had never experienced this before. He came to our class and we all got to ask him multiple questions about his book, the process of publishing poetry and other things about himself…to be able to hear a poet published was very insightful and inspiring,” said Johnson said. “With a few minutes of lecture, he gave us a prompt inspired by Michael McGriff’s poem, ‘Why I’m Obsessed With Horses. He had us write a list of about 50 objects, then had us write a separate list of objects in nature, ie clouds, earth, flowers, etc. [then] had us choose an animal that we really liked – and we constructed the poem using the objects and things from nature that we had previously listed. It was really fun trying out a new way of writing poetry.

While the English Department has hosted poetry readings in the past, this event marked the first time since the COVID-19 outbreak that a reading could be held at the Hall of Fame. Dr. Matt King, associate professor of English and head of the department, described the joy that comes with restarting this practice in his introduction to the event.

“St. Bonaventure has long been home to world-class poets,” King said. “This tradition has been put on hold due to the pandemic and we are thrilled to be starting it again.”

Isabelle Gaffney, a second-year English student, had never attended a poetry reading until Wednesday.

“It was my first live poetry event, it was interesting,” Gaffney said. “He [Skeets] used a lot of homophones so I personally think I would have preferred to read [the poetry] before listening. Nevertheless, I found the event great. It’s so impressive to see such deep meaning delivered in just a few words.

Skeets’ reading may be the first since the pandemic, but Nicholson stressed the importance of not making it the last.

“Events like Jake’s Reading enrich the student experience and showcase the lasting value of the arts,” she said. “It’s important for young creative writers to meet working artists, to see that what we do together in the classroom goes far beyond the classroom.”

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