Author Archives: Ben Atwood

Congratulations to Last Night’s Readers!

Congratulations to last night’s MA/MFA readers!


(Pictured: last night’s readers, from left to right: Allison, Amber, Carol, Alyssa, and Alicia.)



(Pictured: On the left is Dr. Ungar, professor of poetry. Center, MFA Graduate Alyssa Cohorn. Right, MFA Graduate Amber O’Sullivan.)


English Majors Represent Saint Rose


Saint Rose English majors pictured above, Hannah Lee (second from left) and Christina Romeo (far right).

Saint Rose English majors Hannah Lee and Christina Romeo represented the department April 8 at SUNY Oneonta’s Undergraduate Literature and Composition Conference. Hannah and Christina were accompanied by Chantelle DeRose and Brittney Domagal.

Hannah Lee presented her paper, “The King as Poet Not God: The Influence of Religious Iconography and Queer Theory in Rupert Goold’s Richard II.” The paper, Hannah explains, “is an analysis of a movie version of Richard II and how Richard’s identity, along with his kingship, falls apart.”

When asked about her experience and if she had any advice, Hannah replied, “I’ve only attended Saint Rose’s English Symposium before, so being at a new college was nerve-wracking. However, the conference went well overall. I don’t think I’m in any place to give advice since conferences are a new territory that I’m trying to figure out as well. Nevertheless, I would say the big thing is to try your best to not panic–which I know is easier said than done. Relax, drink enough water so your mouth isn’t dry, and read clearly.”

Chantelle DeRose, also speaking on the conference experience, found Oneonta to be “a wonderful atmosphere. Everyone at SUNY Oneonta was incredibly welcoming, and the entire event was extraordinarily organized. Although I only attended the conference to support my friends, it was still such a valuable experience. I really enjoyed listening to everyone’s papers, and I feel that I learned a lot just from observing. If I could give any tips to students who may want to attend in the future, I would just tell them to be confident in their abilities. Once you put yourself out there, it’s a fantastic opportunity to present your work. It’s also a great chance to meet and spend time with other students outside of Saint Rose who love writing. We met a lot of awesome students, some from New York City and some from SUNY Cortland, who really made our day much more enjoyable.”

For more information regarding SUNY Oneonta’s conference series, visit


Upcoming MFA/MA Reading

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Upcoming Readings

MFA Graduate Reading 2017The Rebeccas

Upcoming Readings at Saint Rose

May 1st 7pm Touhey Forum
Join our visiting writer Rebecca Godfrey as she reads selections from her work. Rebecca Godfrey will be joined by guest writer Rebecca Wolff.

Rebecca Godfrey is the author of the novel, The Torn Skirt (HarperCollins), a finalist for the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize. Under The Bridge (Simon & Schuster), a work of literary reportage about the arrests and trials of seven teenage girls for the murder of Reena Virk, was featured in GQ and Rolling Stone, and is being adapted for feature film. She is the recipient of the James Silberman and Selma Shapiro Fellowship from Yaddo. She holds an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College and teaches in the MFA Programs at Brooklyn College and Columbia University.

May 4th 6:30-8:30pm Albertus 301
MA/MFA Reading
Join our recent MA and MFA graduates as they read selections from their theses.
** Alyssa Cohorn will read from her work of creative non-fiction, “The Suburbs: An Exploration of the Lyric Essay”
** Carol Jewell will read from her work of poetry, “Hits and Missives”
** Lee Geiselmann will read from his work of fiction, “Grounds from Divorce”
** Amber O’Sullivan will read from her collection of fiction and poetry, “This Side of Wanting”
** Allison Paster-Torres will read from her work of poetry, “Eradicating Heart Disease in the 21st Century”
** Alicia Sharp will read from her work of literary criticism, “The Soul Response”

See you there!

Congratulations Tyleigh Versocki!

Saint Rose alumna Tyleigh Versocki graduated with a B.A. in English Language and Literature two years ago. Two days ago, Albany-based communications, public affairs, and event agency Relentless promoted Versocki to partner! Congratulations!

Interview with Mackenzie Johnson


English Senior Mackenzie Johnson recently won the Senior Writing Award. On an unseasonably warm day, we chatted about the award itself and Mackenzie’s inspiration while writing Abattoir, It Is A Small Creature, and It’s a Lark.


BA:     Can you describe the writing award you received?



MJ:     The Senior Writing Award is judged by three independent judges. In order to qualify, a writer must send in one academic paper, and two samples of writing in other genres, amounting to no more than 25 pages.

It was nerve-wracking even submitting the thing, but I’m so glad I did. Even typing out the award’s description made me nervous again.



BA:     Can you talk a little about how poetry influenced your prose and vice versa?



MJ:     I definitely started off a prose writer. I thought poetry was for greater minds than mine, or at least for those who had a unique way of looking at the world. But I eventually gave it a try, and have since come to realize that poetry is definitely a craft that must be honed over time.

Still, you can see little bits of my prose sticking out of my poetry–“It Is A Small Creature” is telling a story, and one that could easily shift from the poetic medium to the literary medium. And poetry has always been in my prose, though it’s since been trimmed back thanks to constructive criticism. Poetry is where a lot of the flowery trimmings of my short stories go, like a transplanted tree limb. Everything that I write can be used; it just needs to be in the right place.



BA:   Speaking of spaces, “It’s a Lark,” “It Is A Small Creature,” and “Abattoir” contain motifs of the distance between bodies and of bodies occupying the same space. In “It’s a Lark,” you write We’re standing across from each other / the vastness of space / yawning between us … Why aren’t we / crawling into / and enveloping one another.” In “Abattoir,” the Bibelot absorbs souls and stores them on a drive. In “It Is A Small Creature,” horror of encroaching anxiety comes to life as an other, occupying the same space as the host. What is it in this motif that keeps you returning to it?



MJ:     I like the idea of the body being something unfamiliar. It’s a sacred space for me, personally, so drawing the body away from preconceived ideas, whether it be giving a body to something that does not possess one, or taking one away from someone who does, is a very intriguing practice. Bodies, I think, help paint issues in a new light; should anxiety be considered a predatory thing instead of a fault of those who suffer from it? What does romance entail for two people? Is Dr. Bibelot still a person, or should we now consider him a machine? The body is so important to us, and I like to shake that up a little.



BA:     I was also struck by the cinematic qualities of “Abattoir.” I’m thinking of passages such as “She looked out over the landscape, spotting the caravan, and her left eye zoomed in on it with a quiet whir. ‘Three outside, one in the driver, no passenger,’ she murmured. ‘Mining supplies on board.’” and “An even stronger blast rocked the room, metal shrieking as it clattered to the floor from the lab tables, and Annette was flung over the ladder, landing on the small of her back. The ceiling buckled, and a metal rafter from the roof groaned and broke, swinging low and catching Isaac in the side, sending him flying toward the far wall.” Are there specific cinematic elements that you feel yourself drawn to? Or cinematic sources of inspiration that you turn to?



MJ:    I love cinema, so I absolutely had cinematic inspiration in writing Abattoir, though I may not have known it at the time. Visuals are interesting to me, and I’ve always loved giving a sensory overview of a situation to invite the reader inside. I have also always loved dynamic action scenes, particularly when a lot of things are in motion. I try to achieve the perfect balance of dynamism and comprehensibility in writing action scenes in my own work; I want people to be able to follow each throw of the spear without being overwhelmed by how many spears there are, if that makes sense. A good action scene is easy to follow, but contains enough engaging movement to keep the audience alert, and I guess I wanted to imitate that.



BA:     And what about literary sources of inspiration?



MJ:     I am a sucker for literature that depicts human struggle, especially in regards to mortality. I think Abattoir subconsciously gets a lot of its moral questions from Brave New World and Ender’s Game–what makes people “persons,” are only humans worthy of moral consideration, and so on.

I’m also madly in love with The Three Musketeers, so I think I borrowed a lot of grandeur from that. I will always see Tolkien as an inspiration to me because he has influenced so many aspects of my writing over the course of my entire writing career. He really inspired me to get in there and get my hands dirty building the world my characters will live in, because it makes the experience that much more tangible.



To read more of Mackenzie Johnson’s work, visit and