Award-winning author Julie Choffel reads from collection of poetry

University of Connecticut creative writing professor Julie Choffel is seen during her reading at the UConn Co-op Bookstore in Storrs Center on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015. (Amar Batra/The Daily Campus)

Acclaimed poet and University of Connecticut creative writing professor Julie Choffel read from her collection of work at the UConn Co-op Bookstore in Storrs Center Wednesday evening. The hour-long reading was the first event of this academic year’s Long River Reading Series.

Choffel was the recipient of the Poets Out Loud Prize in 2012 from Fordham University Press for her book “The Hello Delay,” and many of her poems have appeared in magazines and periodicals across the country.

After a brief introduction, she began with a few selections from “The Hello Delay.” Her soothing tone of voice matched the flow of the poetry as she read each poem with deliberate measure. Her writing style evoked a sense of familiarity and sought to question the nature of the world around her.

Choffel explained that much of her inspiration for the book came from the landscape of her former home in Oakland, California.

“Everything is sort of glowing and you have this incredibly natural backdrop to this very urban environment,” Choffel said. “It was just kind of surreal, in that way.”

She also read some work from her latest manuscript, which Choffel just recently finished and hopes to publish soon. The subjects of the work featured in this collection ranged from noisy lawn mowers to lists that she “won’t make this year.” The style of the collection was very casual, inviting the audience to feel just as she felt while writing the poems.

She has also found inspiration in her now five-year-old daughter, explaining that her daughter’s newfound understanding of abstract concepts was fascinating to her.

“It was amazing to me how her imagination is wild, but it’s very much totally grounded in the reality that she knows and nothing more,” Choffel said.

After finishing her most recent manuscript, she is now working on writing creative essays.

“I was never the most disciplined writer, but I’m able to write a lot when I do have time and I think that has worked to my benefit,” Choffel said. Whether or not her ideas actually turn into anything, writing them down keeps her practicing.

The style of the reading and the way in which Choffel elaborated on each individual poem was well received by the audience.

“I thought it was cool that she was putting in a lot of her own backstory,” said Sierra Mazur, a third-semester English major with a concentration in creative writing.

“A customer can buy the book and read the poetry, and they don’t need to go to the poetry reading to do that,” said Parker Gregory Shpak, third-semester English and philosophy double major. “So it’s nice to get some commentary.”

In terms of how she gets ideas for her poetry, Choffel said it’s usually a process.

“Sometimes I get a line in my head, or I’ll have sort of a rhythm or a cadence or a phrase, or something stuck in my head,” Choffel said. “Usually I try to be a blank slate, but that’s hard. No one’s ever really and totally a blank slate.”


Casey Virgo is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus.