Words from the World

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MFA’s Mapmakers Alumni Institute brings world perspectives closer to home

   “How do we bring people closer to us?” asks Rhony Bhopla, describing her intention behind the upcoming Mapmakers Alumni Institute event. But, MFA graduate Bhopla specifies that they are working not just to make the world feel smaller but to make people feel more connected.

   Before we examine that idea, you may ask what the Mapmakers Alumni Institute is in the world.

   Let me inform you: The Mapmakers Alumni Institute works to highlight the voices of POC writers while also integrating global problems into their literature—and I had the honor of interviewing Scott Korb, who directs Pacific University’s low-residency MFA in Writing program and also is the event organizer, and also Bhopla, the poetry alumni who will be hosting the upcoming event on October 31. From the get-go, it was obvious that Bhopla cared so much about that project and wanted to spread the word.

 When asked about how the Mapmakers Alumni Institute began, Korb responded that he wanted to expand diversity at Pacific and represent minorities that are often left out. He worked to diversify the voices involved in this program. While the pandemic hit everyone hard, Korb found a way to bring people from far away a little closer. Online calls with authors became easier to communicate with more diverse voices and educate others on the world. Korb wants this program “to reach out into the world” rather than remain in one community.

   During our interview, Bhopla talked about how it is one thing to hear about a disaster over the news but another to read about a person’s perspective on it. She has invited authors who use first-person perspectives that help create personal connections.

   Two authors highlighted at this event are Shivanne Ramlochan and Rajiv Mohabir. Both use literature, whether poetry or a novel, to share their experiences with minorities while also tackling global issues. Bhopla cannot wait to introduce them during this event and allow them to elaborate on their writings.

   The event was created to help audiences realize that the books collecting dust on your shelf come from people with important stories to tell. They are cartographers mapping out their lives and experiences. We are all cartographers working to make our voices known no matter how big or small our words feel.

MFA Mapmakers Alumni Institute, “Ecopoetics and Eco-Writing,” Monday, October 31, 5:30 – 7 pm, online (register in advance). — Rylee Larson


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