English Professor Hosts Poetry Reading
Justin Sullivan

English Professor, Pat Dyjak, will read from her new poetry book, “Symphony for the Cutters,” on Thursday, Feb. 21 at 7 p.m. in the Noel Fine Arts Center, room 221. 

Dyjak, who has been writing since she was eight years old, said that her poems reflect a journey of childhood abuse at the hands of her family as well as her own act of cutting. She states in her book that it is an act of hurting oneself and is “often thought to indicate frustration, pain, an inappropriate coping technique or refusal to adapt to insupportable or hostile situations.”

“It [cutting] made me feel good. That I was alive, present, that I exist,” Dyjak said.

Although Dyjak dislikes the idea of poetry as a form of therapy, poetry helped her deal with the tragedies of her childhood.

“It gives you a way to create understanding and order,” Dyjak said. “Poetry has saved me.”

“Symphony for the Cutters” was published by Kattywompus Press out of Ohio. Dyjak met Sammy Greenspan, the editor-in-chief, at a workshop and decided to submit her manuscript, which was quickly pulled from the queue.

“She's a great editor, a very good poet and a wonderful human being,” Dyjak said of Greenspan. “I am honored that I'm one of her stabled poets.”

Two of the poems in the book were written entirely by memorization and without composition.  This was a requirement of a workshop Dyjak participated in, which stressed oral presentation as opposed to the traditional method of passing out copies of a piece.

While trying to recite in that workshop, Dyjak initially had difficulty getting past the first two lines, which dealt with her family struggles.

“I was finally able to put down this pain from an abusive childhood,” Dyjak said. “You start realizing the stories you're living in are just that—stories. There are many, many people out there with families not good for them.”

Dyjak separated from her family in 2007.

While Dyjak stressed the helpfulness of writing in her life, she also said that teaching was immensely important.

“I feel really lucky I get to teach poetry. This is fantastic,” Dyjak said. “I love teaching, all the energy in the classroom. There are so many students here—fiction writers, poetry writers—who need nurturing, who need challenging.”

Dyjak says the support for creative writers at UWSP is great.  She cited the poetry stuck to the walls on the first floor of the Collins Classroom Center as an example of the university’s commitment to the arts.

“Art helps people get through life. Art helps people survive. We have to make art—get our voices out there, a little bit of our souls out there,” Dyjak said.

Dyjak is always working on new material and will be using her new book as a promotional tool.  

The poetry reading is a free event and is open to the public.