Meg Day, assistant professor of English at Franklin & Marshall College, reflected on her journey throughout 2016, during which she explored 16 countries, spending every day outside the North American continent as a requirement of the prestigious Amy Lowell Poetry Travelling Scholarship.
“I love poetry, and last year it took me literally around the world,” Day said.
The award, granted to a promising American-born poet each year, was established through the will of poet Amy Lowell, who died in 1925. With the means to travel, Lowell spent much of her creative life in Europe, away from her home in Massachusetts, writing poetry that gained wider influence posthumously throughout the 20th century.
Day’s poetry and scholarship explores intersecting topics of queer, disability and trans poetics with such poems as “Make Me a Stranger in This Place” and “Anagram for a Body Wanting to Occupy Two Places at Once,” and her 2014 book “Last Psalm At Sea Level.” One theme in her writing examines the complicated relationship between personal identity and place, which she confronted in many ways throughout her multinational journey.
“As an imagist poet and a queer woman, Amy Lowell travelled to European countries that made her feel more comfortable,” Day said. “But in many countries, it is illegal to be queer. As I mapped out a full year abroad, I had to ask whether those places would be safe and welcoming, even if the legislation claimed to protect my identity.”
Across nations – among them Australia, Singapore, New Zealand, England, Hungary and Belgium – Day navigated the cultural climate. She asked questions of herself and her surroundings, and composed a near-complete book. Each leg of the journey, she observed, challenged her sense of self in new and unfamiliar places.
“A lot of people say that you should travel so that you can come to know your home differently, but I think you come to know your body differently,” Day said. Like every traveler, Day felt many perspectives begin to shift – and as a traveling poet, she felt the Lowell Prize pushing her to think deeply and differently about the poetic themes of identity, body and place.
While exploring these themes from new perspectives around the world, she often imagined how she might teach them back at F&M. In fact, for Day, the year abroad confirmed in many ways her passion for teaching in the classroom.
“I love poetry, I do, but the thing I love more than that is teaching. Every week since I returned, my classes have become more engaging, and I‘ve felt more confident that this is where I should be,” she said.
Since her return to campus, Day has taught the popular upper-level seminar, “Contemporary Queer Poetry and Poetics,” which reflects her core passions as a poet and a teacher. Day seeks to draw out creativity within each student, encourage in them a willingness to take risks, and foster a collaborative and trusting atmosphere in class.
Her approach to teaching gives her students the chance to embark on personal journeys throughout the course, for she knows that you don’t have to go far to create poetry.
Copies of Meg Day’s book, “Last Psalm At Sea Level,” are available at several locations including the websites MegDay.com, BarrowStreet.org, and Amazon.com.