Standing Room Only for Latest Speaker for Walt Whitman Writers Series
Her life laid bare before a standing room only crowd, author Darcey Steinke read excerpts from her memoir Easter Everywhere on March 24 at St. Francis College that dealt with the existential, like her personal struggle to understand her religious beliefs and the physical, such as her fight to overcome stuttering. Steinke's appearance was part of the Walt Whitman Writers Series, dedicated to bringing top flight authors to the College to share their thoughts on the art of writing and the specifics of their work. (Watch a short interview with Steinke)
"Steinke is a particularly fitting reader for a series named after Whitman because she has such enormous generosity as a writer," said English Professor Athena Devlin, a co-creator of the writers series. "Both the characters in her novels and the people in her real life are rendered with striking compassion – as battered and as bruising as they can be. But like Whitman, she seems to take them all in."
Dozens of the students had read Steinke's memoir beforehand because the religious themes and questions Steinke shares from her life dovetail perfectly with their current coursework. Students responded to the opportunity to share the intimate details of Steinke's life with pointed, thought provoking questions and observations.
The daughter of a Lutheran Minister, Steinke said that while her father was engaged in a more socially active 60's and 70's based theology; she has had an opposite reaction. "I think the kingdom of god has to do with personal consciousness and everybody getting to a point where they're so aware that wars and things like that would be less likely to happen," said Steinke. "My own mission has been a lot about the more personal spiritual path and less about working the soup kitchens and things like that. And I feel guilty about that, I feel like I should be more socially active and it's been hard for me."
Steinke also spoke frankly about her evolving spirituality on topics like her view on sin, her personal praying as opposed to more structured church attendance and how she came to see that her religious life and secular life were not distinct entities but all the same.
Steinke has written several novels including, Milk: A Novel, Suicide Blonde and Jesus Saves, and twice been named to the New York Times Most Notable Books of the Year list.
Walt Whitman, a long-time Brooklyn resident who often included the then-city of Brooklyn in his work, was a natural choice to be honored by naming the writer series for him.
St. Francis College, founded in 1859 by the Franciscan Brothers of Brooklyn, is located in Brooklyn Heights, N.Y. Since its founding, the College has pursued its Franciscan mission to provide an affordable, high-quality education to students from New York City's five boroughs and beyond.
St. Francis College, 180 Remsen Street, Brooklyn Heights, NY 11201