College Hosts Guest Poet as Part of Writers Series

What is the connection between a contemporary jazz concert and witnessing an animal become road kill? To most, there is no connection between these two seemingly random events, but for a poet, words can connect and alter disparate ideas like these into something new and powerful.

On Thurs. April 10, poet Emilia Phillips performed a reading of poems from her 2013 collection titled “Signaletics” in Laird Hall’s Patterson Lounge as part of the Wilson Writers Series.

The collection’s title comes from the 19th century practice of measuring the bodies of criminals for the purpose of identification. Created by French police officer and biometrics researcher Alphonse Bertillon, the identification system was later replaced with fingerprinting.

Poet Emilia Philips reads her work Photo Courtesy of Casey Beidel
Poet Emilia Philips reads her work
Photo Courtesy of Casey Beidel

“‘Signaletics’ was a way for me to write about both myself and something bigger; about violence, about what can and cannot be measured,” said Phillips. She does this through juxtaposition, the act of positioning two dissimilar things or ideas next to each other to show comparisons and contrasts.

Phillips’ life, both past and present, is represented in her work in “Signaletics.” Her father is especially present throughout the collection. His career as a police officer and fingerprint specialist is often played against events of the past or future. This juxtaposition provides the works with a distinct mood that affects our view of the poet’s childhood and the nature of human interaction as a whole.

“It is part of a lineage of thought. There is always a larger connection. We are not simply a prodigy of people, we are part of a progression,” said Phillips.

During her presentation as part of the Writers Series, Phillips read a total of eight poems and recited one from memory. Poems performed included “Reading Ovid at the Plastic Surgeon’s,” “Bertillon Fragment #1,” “Latent Print” and “Blues Dream,” among others.

After the reading, members of the audience were welcomed to meet the poet.

Jamie McCauley ‘15, an aspiring Wilson poet, attended the reading and was impressed by Phillips’ work. Having read Phillips’ poetry prior to the event, McCauley found value in the live performance. “It gave it a different feel. She was able to explain things in different ways than I read them before,” said McCauley.

Other students and members of the local community also attended the reading. “It was really inspiring and interesting,” McCauley said. “Even people not interested in poetry got something from it.”

Phillips is the author of three chapbooks in addition to the collection “Signaletics.” Her work appears in “Agni,” “The Kenyon Review,” “Narrative,” “Poetry Magazine” and in other publications. She has received several awards for her work including the 2012 Poetry Prize from “The Journal” and a second place prize in “Narrative’s” 30 Below contest.

Each year, authors and poets like Phillips are featured in the Wilson Writers Series, which is sponsored by the Department of English and Mass Communications. Readings are free and open to the public.

Previous writers featured by the Writers Series include Scott Hightower, John Gery, Richard Katrovas, Warren Rochelle, Diane Vance and Laurel Black.

For more information on the Wilson Writers Series, contact Dr. Michael Cornelius through email at

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