Nancy Genevieve Perkins, Associate Professor of English and Past Chair of the English Department, presented two papers at the 39th Annual Meeting of the Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature, which met in East Lansing, Michigan, from May 7 to May 9.
One of Perkins’ papers was selected to be presented in the MidAmerican Award winner’s panel. The topic of the panel was “More than Regional: Universal Writers from the Heart of the Country.”
Perkins selected the work of UIS’ English Emeritus Professor John Knoepfle. His poetry has received numerous awards throughout Springfield, Illinois, and the Midwest.
Perkins’ paper was entitled "John Knoepfle’s Early Poetry: Taking the ‘wide slow waters’ of the Sangamon to the Rest of the World." The phrase "wide slow waters" was used in Knoepfle’s poem, "confluence."
Perkins’ interview of Knoepfle for this paper was recorded and placed in UIS’ Archives for future researchers. A distillation of the paper presented at the conference noted that "John Knoepfle’s poetic voice transports the voice of MidAmerica beyond this time and this place to poetic readers of history, place, culture and to writers of poetry wherever and whenever such readers and writers begin their journeys. His voice is as timeless as the rivers’—whose rhythmic voices his poetry emulates."
Perkins’ second paper was entitled "Poems from NYX: Sister of Erebus: A Memoir in Poetry." Perkins quoted Robert Frost to contextualize her current body of work: "(A poem) ends in clarification of life—not necessarily a great clarification, . . . but in a momentary stay against confusion."
This "Memoir in Poetry" is, according to Perkins’ introduction to her reading of these new poems, "the final book in the NYX poetry trilogy; (it) focuses on my family’s journey of goodbyes, as my mother, as all of our family, struggled with her Alzheimer’s. It is a story of her journey through Erebus, a nether region in ancient mythologies between this life and the next, a ‘place of darkness through which the souls passed on their way’ to the ‘land of the dead’ [Bulfinch’s Mythology 902, 910]; (it is) a region we too will travel. This poetry is the distillation of that bleak darkness into the clarification of absolute essentials."