PSU Student Gives Keynote Address at Annual Connections Dinner

October 3rd, 2016 by Ann

PSU Superstar English major Hannah Hounsell  was invited to give a keynote address at the 2016 Connections dinner for Scholarship recipients, their families, and esteemed Plymouth State guests.  Here is the text of her speech, posted with her permission:

Good evening President and Mrs. Birx, honored guests, scholarship donors and fellow scholars,


Allow me to start by thanking all the donors here tonight who value higher education and have supported individual students through financial contributions. I would also like to acknowledge all of my peers for their determination and work ethic. It takes a lot of work to excel in college. I’m honored to speak on behalf of all my hard working peers tonight.


The beginning of my own college journey was rough: I came from the small town of Tamworth, New Hampshire to Plymouth, kicking and screaming the whole way. The thought of college terrified me and it all stemmed from the fear of not being able to pay for it. I chose Plymouth for its low tuition costs and its well-known Education department. From the beginning, I relied on scholarships to even be able to pursue post-secondary education.


Thankfully, that’s where the rough spot of my journey ended in terms of worrying about the decision to go to college. Immediately after arriving at Plymouth, I knew it was the perfect fit for me. It has provided so many opportunities that I never anticipated. I was hired at the Writing Center. I became immediately involved with two student organizations, PSU Pride and Poets & Writers. The Writing Center was comprised of a zany, welcoming staff that was instrumental in my professional development. Pride was so important for me my freshman year. I was able to explore facets of my identity that I had never fathomed and forge new friendships that would stay with me through senior year. In my sophomore year, I became the Treasurer of Poets and Writers. Working closely with other artists to create our literary magazine Centripetal and putting together monthly poetry Open Mics are always intellectual and emotional experiences. I feel like I have been able to directly tap into Plymouth’s creative vein where expression runs freely.


I also can’t believe that I was lucky enough to end up being a part of the English Department family. Those professors are some of the kindest, most caring and passionate teachers here at Plymouth. They expect a lot of out you. They will make you hustle until you are analyzing your Hong Kong Takeout Menu, but they will do everything they can to help you along the way. And us English majors do a lot of things along the way. I’ve been in five different middle and high schools for tangible, field experience.  I’ve written fifteen page critical analyses, mapped nonlinear Indian literature, designed iPhone applications, and created interactive social media stories, academic blogs, twitter accounts, podcasts, and videos. These are things I wouldn’t have even dreamed of doing outside of college.


There is debate right now about whether or not we should be encouraging young adults to attend post-secondary school. There’s a lot of horror stories about young adults not finding jobs or struggling to pay their student loans back. Many question the value of a Bachelor’s Degree. But for me, it will always be invaluable. I will leave Plymouth knowing how to put together a literary magazine, how to balance an organization’s $7,000 budget, and what to do for my LGBT community.  Upon graduating Plymouth, I will have legal teacher certification in New Hampshire. My degree will be a starting point for realizing more long term goals: high school English teaching, a Master’s, a Doctorate, and maybe even professorship. I will leave with life lessons, lifelong friends, and a deep knowledge of a subject that I am passionate about. And most importantly, I know that I have the increased ability to face challenges, problem-solve, lead, and advocate because of my time at Plymouth State.


I’m not exaggerating when I say that I couldn’t have had these experiences or gained this knowledge without the help of scholarships and those of you who provided them. They haven’t just lessened the burden of loans– although that’s a relief too. My parents and I simply could not have paid the semesterly bills and other college expenses. Additionally, scholarship support– your support– allowed me to purchase a working laptop, textbooks for class, even groceries to sustain me physically.


Every student here tonight has a complex support system backing them: their family, friends, teachers, coaches, significant others. It is amazing that this support system includes generous strangers who care for their betterment and their futures. I want to thank my individual supporters: Walter R. and Dorothy D. Peterson and the Class of 1946. And on behalf of all of my fellow scholars, thank you to every donor here tonight for believing in us and helping us realize our goals and dreams.

Video by Jenny Kelly ’15 & Aimee Castonguay ’14

May 5th, 2015 by Robin

Check out this new short film, based around an ee cummings poem.  Directed by and starring Jenny Kelly ’15, with cinematography by Aimee Castonguay ’14.  Great work by two talented PSU English majors!

Kelly/Castonguay Video

Professor Meg Petersen Delivers Stevens-Bristow Distinguished Professor Inaugural Lecture

November 12th, 2014 by Robin

On Thursday, November 6, 2014, Professor Meg Petersen delivered the Stevens-Bristow Distinguished Professor Inaugural Lecture: Teacher Stories: Seeing our work, our students and ourselves. Click the link to read her inspiring talk!

Upcoming Lectures & Readings By English Faculty

October 15th, 2014 by Robin

Upcoming dates for: “(Not So) Elementary, My Dear Watson: The Popularity of Sherlock Holmes” (New Hampshire Humanities Council Lecture) PROFESSOR ANN McCLELLAN

6:30pm Monday, November 14th, 2016 at Pease Public Library, Plymouth, NH.

7:00pm Wednesday, January 4th, 2015 at Rodgers Memorial Library, Hudson, NH.


Poetry Students Celebrate Chapbooks

May 16th, 2014 by Robin


Student Chapbooks

Photo of Student Chapbooks by Patrick O'Sullivan

In the PSU English Department, Advanced Study in Writing courses offer students opportunities to pursue various genres of writing in greater depth. For the culminating assignment in Professor Liz Ahl’s Advanced Poetry Workshop, students publish and distribute chapbooks of their revised work from the semester and earlier. English major Phillip Cotton calls the project “one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had at school.”

At the beginning of the semester, students read and review published chapbooks, and later in the semester, they look at a variety of samples and try some basic book arts techniques such as saddle-stitching and Japanese stab-binding. But throughout the semester, the primary emphasis is the poems themselves, which students write and critique weekly, both in the whole group and with reading/critique partners. Of this workshopping experience at the core of the course, student poet Patrick O’Sullivan wrote:

“Reading poetry from ‘real’ poets helps me learn, but I shouldn’t think that I have nothing to learn from my peers. They write beautiful poetry, craft lines like masters at times, use words in ways that make me jealous. We all discovered things in each other’s writing that [the writers] might not have seen.”

In 2009, Professor Ahl’s short paper about this assignment was selected as one of the Top 20 Pedagogy papers among those submitted to the Association of Writers and Writing Programs annual conference and pedagogy forum, where she was invited to speak about creating chapbooks in class. She writes:

“Students are invited to imagine that a particular subject or theme might be best addressed across numerous poems, which is a new concept for most of them. Because of this emphasis on theme and arrangement, at least two workshop sessions are devoted to looking at whole manuscripts in draft form.  Students practice talking to one another about the whole, which often helps them manage (writing, revising, recasting, rearranging) the individual parts.”

“At first the task of creating a 14-24 page book of poetry seems simple enough,” writes student Kim Chandler. “You kind of scoff at it. But as you approach a due date and you really start buckling down on your own revisions outside of class, you start to feel how imposing it is.”  Fellow student poet Cecil Smith agrees, calling the chapbook assignment “one of the most challenging things I have done as a poet thus far.” He also observes that his chapbook, Letters to Pataphysique, “has certainly emerged from my interests as a poet, but it has also altered them.”

The chapbook project’s potential to “alter” a poet’s interests is one of the key benefits of the assignment, according to Ahl. “It’s a culmination, or capstone, but also a commencement of sorts – an embarking by these poets into the world of the poems they’ll write next.”

Advanced Poetry Workshop Photo by Patrick O'Sullivan

Poetry Workshop gives public reading at the Museum of the White Mountains

December 13th, 2013 by Robin

PSU Student Alyssa Carter

For the final class meeting of the Fall 2013 semester, students in EN3140: Poetry Workshop read poems inspired by artwork and ephemera on display at the Museum of the White Mountains. Earlier in the semester, they visited the museum, chose artwork, and composed their drafts. Poetry professor Liz Ahl always tries to incorporate a gallery visit during the Poetry Workshop, which is offered every fall, but this year’s Museum of the White Mountains visit was a slight departure. “Most years we’ve gone to the Faculty Art show in D&M, but this year (MWM Director) Catherine Amidon invited us to come to the newly opened Museum of the White Mountains, so I thought I’d take advantage of the opportunity to try something new.” In the past, there was no public reading associated with the assignment to write “ekphrastic” poetry (poetry in response to art), but Ahl is considering making it a permanent part from now on.

Student poet Hayden Leith found that the experience of reading her work standing next to the painting that inspired it brought her artistic process “full circle.” Her classmate Jackie Morin had never written a poem based on art before, but found it enjoyable. Olivia Punch found that multiple evenings spent revising her poem for the public reading helped her appreciate both the artwork and the process behind this particular writing assignment. At the end of the reading, students discussed with museum historian Marcia Schmidt Blaine why they chose certain paintings over others “The students did a great job both reading and talking,” Ahl said.

Poetry Reading by PSU Faculty

November 9th, 2013 by Robin

Click here for info about Ethan Paquin and Ivy Page’s November 21st poetry reading.

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Dr. Ann McClellan, Department Chair
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