by Stacy Benson
Ekphrasis In Verse, poetry slams, open mics, writing contests, a book review, and author interview are some of the activities that took place this year at Virginia State University, stamped with the handprint of The Virginia Normal. All of these exercises would not be possible without our people. The authors, students, staff, and faculty at VSU are the soulful instruments, playing in harmony, that create the unique composition that is The Virginia Normal.
Before explaining further about our enterprise this year, we must pause to remember one of those beautiful souls of VSU who passed away suddenly earlier this year. Dr. Hildegard Rissel was Assistant Professor of Spanish from 1996 to 2001 and Associate Professor of Spanish from 2001 until her death in 2018 in the Department of Languages and Literature. Dr. Rissel is fondly remembered by her colleagues and students. Dr. Diann Baecker said that Dr. Rissel was “a calming influence on the department and a good friend.” She will be missed by all who knew her.
Last year TVN initiated “Ekphrasis in reVerse.” Art students created images based on other students’ writing. This year, “Ekphrasis in Verse” showcases student writing based on pieces of art. The artwork and writing are featured in this issue. This exercise not only helped to bridge a gap between two different departments at VSU, but also reinforces the idea that writing and art can go hand-in-hand.
The staff at TVN are pleased that the students of VSU turned out in a big way to make the poetry slams hosted by The Virginia Normal and Sigma Tau Delta a big success. Poets proudly performed their original work and the room was packed with students in support of them. The open mic series, “State: Your Mind, Your Art, Your Life,” opened the doors for all genres of writers to share their work. A writing contest was held this spring and students were eager to submit their original pieces to be judged by the faculty of the Department of Languages and Literature. The winners and honorable mentions are included in this issue.
Personally, it was exciting to add two new features to our online publication. Conducting an interview with Scott Laudati, a published poet in Issue 3 of our print journal, was fun and rewarding. So too, was writing a book review of Two Towns Over by author Darren C. Demaree whose poetry appears in Issue 4. These are two aspects of writing that I had not before considered, but having completed them, I am looking forward to continuing features like them for TVN Online in the future.
This has been an exceptional year at TVN thanks to the dedicated people who have given us their time and effort and to the writers who share with us their words on the human experience. Publication of this issue would not be possible without the support of Dr. Sheikh Kamarah, Cheryl Stewart, and the Department of Languages & Literature. Thank you!