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In the news: Illinois College faculty

5.09.2019

Poet champions her art form

Angela Bauer, Journal-Courier

Words are important.

Poet Kara Dorris knows this and champions their cause any chance she’s given — particularly in poetry.

She has published four chapbooks and has had her poems published in various literary journals and anthologies. As an Illinois College visiting assistant professor of English, Dorris teaches poetry to IC students.

“What I’m trying to teach my students is to incorporate poetry in (everyday) life,” Dorris said. “Poetry is an experience.”

Now she’s also gearing up for her first full-length book of poems, “Have Ruin, Will Travel,” to be published.

The book, which Dorris describes as “part travelogue,” chronicles two journeys — one a trip across Europe and Asia and one an internal journey — and how they intertwine.

“When we travel, we become both more and less ourselves,” Dorris said, noting that travel forces growth — the more of that statement — by forcing people out of the routines that usually define who they are — the less.

The poems in Dorris’ book argue both “for and against these states of being that we take for granted and don’t think about every day,” she said.

While Dorris also writes essays, fiction and non-fiction, poetry is her favorite medium, she said.

“Poetry allows me to get my thoughts on the page, the level of clarity I want,” she said. “It’s not always straightforward. You can talk about love, depression (and numerous other topics), disguise them (in a poem) and reach multiple audiences.”

Poetry also allows for multiple viewpoints, she said.

“The dual meaning that comes with poetry, it never means just one thing,” Dorris said. “There are multiple meanings. I like looking at things from both sides. It’s more about letting the reader understand something themselves and come to their own conclusions.”

While Dorris isn’t alone in championing poetry, poetry frequently struggles to find an audience in a world overflowing with messages in so many forms, she said. This is largely because poetry has a difficult reputation.

“Today we are ‘given’ so much information,” she said. “We don’t have to filter it anymore. Poetry is all about filtering.”

Writing it also isn’t as easy as some would believe.

“We’re so focused on the end result, the to-do list,” Dorris said. “Things we have to check off. Poetry is so much about the process. You write a poem and, maybe, 20 drafts later, it’s maybe done.”

But the work that goes into poetry is worth it, Dorris said.

Poetry “doesn’t give you any answers but forces you to come up with your own answers … and be OK with maybe not knowing everything,” she said.

Kara Dorris’ “Have Ruin, Will Travel” is available for pre-order online through Finish Line Press. The book, which costs $19.99, will ship Aug. 9.

About Illinois College

Founded in 1829, Illinois College is a residential liberal arts college fostering academic excellence rooted in opportunities for experiential learning while preparing students for lifelong success. The college is located in Jacksonville, Illinois. With an enrollment of about 1,000 students, the college offers over 50 undergraduate programs. In 1932 the society of Phi Beta Kappa established a chapter at Illinois College, and it remains one of only 11 in the state.

Illinois College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association.

Visit www.ic.edu or call 217.245.3467 for more information.

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