Poet shares array of works

Anna Riggenbach

Poet and author Judith Harris reads some of her work in the Student Center yesterday. Harris was the first speaker of the Wick Poetry Series, which is presented by the Wick Poetry Center. SEAN DAUGHERTY | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: Jason Hall

A comical poem about baseball and darker poems about her mother’s Parkinson’s disease flowed from Judith Harris as she read her poetry last night at the Student Center.

Harris, the first reader featured in the Wick Poetry Series, shared poems from her first two published books in addition to reading poetry that she has never read aloud to herself.

She also spoke about the inspiration behind her poetry.

“Realism is overrated,” Harris said. “Objects are just crying out for our attention.”

Much of the information in Harris’ poetry came from her childhood and her family’s antics.

Harris, who grew up in a lower-middle class family, said her parents had imitation items, such as generic pearls and off-brand clothing. Having a baby sitter watch her and her sister made her family feel like they were “keeping up with the


“My parents were very proud of the fact that we had a baby sitter,” she said. “But I had a baby sitter who wanted to be a stripteaser.”

Harris then read her poem “The Babysitter,” which describes the neighborhood coming to watch her stripteasing babysitter.

While her childhood may have seemed happy, Harris said she was unhappy, and poetry was a way for her to express herself.

Poetry did not become Harris’ niche until she got to college. She took an introduction to poetry course, where she started expressing herself through written words.

“Poetry was a way for me to make friends with a world I didn’t understand,” she said. “I had homesickness of the soul.”

Although it took two hours to get her dressed in the morning, her mother still slept like an angel, Harris said.

Danielle Seidita, senior psychology major, enjoyed Harris’ serious poetry.

“It doesn’t put you in a dark mood,” she said. “I can dive into the darker poems.”

Serious poems are not the only focus of Harris’ writing. Comical writings, such as a poem she wrote about baseball, also grace the pages of her two books.

Harris had never seen a baseball game and reluctantly agreed to write a poem about the sport.

“I can’t believe I was commissioned to write a baseball poem,” she said. “I did Internet research.”

Harris has been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for her second book of poetry, The Bad Secret.

In addition to two poetry books, Harris has also written a book called Signifying Pain: Constructing and Healing the Self through Writing. She decided to write the book, which focuses on how people are involved with literary depiction and trauma, after getting her Ph.D. in literature.

The Wick Poetry Center brings in different poets throughout the year to read in its poetry series. David Hassler, Wick Poetry program and outreach director, said he was excited to have Harris as the first reader in the series.

“I was impressed with the depth of Judith’s mind,” Hassler said. “Judith has trained her poet’s eye on this world.”

Contact College of Arts and Sciences reporter Anna Riggenbach [email protected].