Writing for the world to see

By Andrew Wernette

Not many fresh college graduates can put “published poet” on their resume.

Yet, for English student Rhianna Marks, this achievement has come rather early in life.

Marks, 23, is having her book of poems, “The Miry Places Thereof…,” put into print through Dancing Girl Press in Chicago next spring. She will have her own copy around the time that she walks the aisle to graduate.

“It’s really weird,” she said. “Like, really, really weird. Getting published is helpful, and it’s something that I was planning on doing the year between applying and graduating. But now I got a head start on it.”

Marks said that, previous to a writing workshop that she took, she had never written much poetry. In fact, she was more inclined to writing stories.

“I mainly thought I was going to be a fiction writer,” she said.

Marks only realized she had some poetic talent when she took the Introductory Workshop in Creative Writing in Fiction and Poetry, taught by lecturer Vanessa Stauffer. Marks joined to test out her fiction skills.

However, Stauffer noticed that the poetry Marks produced had potential. She invited Marks to join her more focused Workshop in Poetry course in the fall, which Marks did.

“I mainly took the workshop to get like a thick skin, and get used to criticism,” she said.

It was during this course that Marks said she struck a creative vein and “just spat out a bunch of stuff.” She developed an interest in different forms of poetry and began experimenting with line positioning and the physicality. She even found inspiration through reading interviews with famous poets.

Again, her work was not lost on Stauffer. By the end of the workshop, Stauffer suggested that she try publishing the body of poems that Marks had written.

“I knew it was good enough to be published by a national journal or press,” Stauffer said. “But more importantly, I knew that the work Rhianna did in that class was an important breakthrough for her.”

Stauffer referred Marks to Dancing Girl Press, where she had previously published work of her own. After looking at other publishing houses, Marks decided to submit to them based on their lack of a reading fee.

She was accepted.

“When I first got the notification online form, I ran up to my fiancée, and I was like, ‘Could you please read this?’” Marks said. “Sometimes I have to, like, keep going back to it, just be like ‘Okay, it actually happened. It wasn’t a dream.’”

Stauffer emphasized that she didn’t have to do any vouching for Marks to Dancing Girl.

“I thought her aesthetic, which often combines poetic lyricism with a kind of scientific curiosity, would appeal to Kristy Bowen, the editor,” Stauffer said. “And Rhianna’s poems often investigate gender as well, which is a nice fit with DGP’s mission of promoting women’s writing.

“It’s tempting as an instructor to do everything you can to help a student succeed, but when it comes to the extraordinarily difficult world of literary publishing, you’re not doing her any favors in the long run by making the process initially appear to be easier than it actually is.”

The poems themselves vary in subject matter. Marks said that swampland appears in many of them, a feature that comes from the marshy areas around her home in Grand Blanc.

It helped her come up with the title of her book.

“I didn’t know how important swamps were to me until I started writing,” Marks said.

Family roots also play heavily in some of her poems. Marks said she was inspired by family stories and old letters from relatives in Eastern Europe following World War II.

Marks plans on applying for graduate school and earning a Ph.D. in English. She wants to become a scholar and also plans to keep writing and publishing poetry in the future.