poet camille dungy standing in front of trees

Camille Dungy met with members of UNR’s MFA program to share her work during an online poetry reading on April 7. Photo/UNR

During the spring semester The University of Nevada, Reno has put many in-person events on hold, but that hasn’t stopped the arts from being shared across campus. Many programs, like  UNR’s MFA program, have continued to host poets, novelists and other diverse writers. 

In April, the program hosted poet and essayist Camille Dungy for a live reading. The reading was attend by UNR faculty, staff and creative writing students on campus. After the reading, Dungy participated in a fun and energetic Q&A session. 

Dungy is the author of four collections of poetry, and during the reading she presented her most recent collection “Trophy Cascades.”

Jared Stanley, poet and professor at UNR introduced Dungy during the reading, saying her work possessed the ability to connect readers to the movements of the natural world. 

“Camille has done incredible work as a anthologist,” Stanley said in his introduction.

Dungy has edited for anthologies such as “Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry” and “From the Fishouse: An Anthology of Poems that Sing, Rhyme, Resound, Syncopate, Alliterate, and Just Plain Sound Great.”

Dungy was the winner of the Colorado Book Award, and a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for her essay collection “Guidebook to Relative Strangers: Journeys into Race, Motherhood and History.” She was also awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2019, and Dungy’s long list of accomplishments continue on her website, showing the vastness of her talent and hard work.

Poetry can be a lot of things, and Dungy’s work takes readers through womanhood and motherhood, and what it means to be Black women in the world today. 

During the event, Dungy started with a poem she said came out of a landscape that was close to Reno. The poem titled “Language” described how Dungy thinks about herself and the words she used to describe the world. The audience could tell the poem was very personal to Dungy, and when she read the words it felt as if you were being taken through the desert valleys and forested mountains of Reno-Tahoe.  

“I find myself mapping my life around the throat of the sky, and the coyote’s yip not sit shut,” Dungy read. 

Dungy went on to describe how she views the human world and the human experience. She lingered on this point for a while during the reading. Most of her work comes from the way she views her surroundings.

After reading from her first book, Dungy read the first poem in her newest book “Trophy Cascades.” 

The new collection brought life and animation to the reading. Even though the event was on Zoom, you could see the spirited expressions and reactions towards Dungy’s work during her reading.

Throughout the event, Dungy presented more poems from various collections and always followed up with what inspired her to write those specific pieces. An exciting comment she made was how she approaches a poem. 

“The structure and the shape of the poem on the page is part of how I revise a poem for a reader,” Dungy said when describing her writing process. 

Dungy writes a lot of poetry, but she says it’s important to take a break and step back from your work to avoid creative burnout. 

Dungy is currently working on writing more poems for a new collection. While she says she doesn’t know where the poems are going, she is in her creative phase and is looking forward to what comes out of it. 

Dungy’s work is available online and in select stores, and more information can be found on her website. 

Dungy is currently a Professor in the English Department at Colorado State University. She lives in Fort Collins, CO with her husband and child.

Emilie Rodriguez can be reached at emilier@sagebrush.unr.edu or on Twitter @emilieemeree.