Acclaimed poet Chloe Honum visits Guilford

Guilford College was honored to host the poet Chloe Honum for a reading of her works on Wednesday, Nov. 6.​

Honum is well known for her first book of poems titled “​The Tulip-Flame,” published in 2014,​ ​which was selected by Tracy K. Smith as ​the Cleveland State University Poetry Center First Book Prize, named a finalist for the PEN Center USA Literary Award, won the Foreword Reviews Poetry Book of the Year Award and won the Eric Hoffer Award and the Texas Institute of Letters Award.

Honum grew up in New Zealand and has always enjoyed writing poetry. Her second book “Then Winter,” was published in 2017.

During Honum’s visit at Guilford, she read poems from “The Tulip-Flame,” “Then Winter” and a selection of her new works.

“Poetry means getting to hear someone else’s voice and perception and articulations in a whole new way,” Honum said. “I hope people will take away permission to pursue their own passions in their own way.”

Honum started off the poetry reading with a poem titled “Assembling Faith.” The images have a depth and some humor as well. The end of the poem describing the turkey and her desire for faith reads: “It looked as though it had made itself out of morning’s spare parts. I wanted to put something together like that, without a mirror.”

The next poem, “Ballerina Released,” described a particular ballet about a firebird and the repetition of doing the same routine over and over, which is wrapped up in the title. The poem is a way of describing what her life was like as an adolescent living with a suicidal mother and the depression that she faced as a result of her mother’s actions.

The next poem is significant to Honum because it’s the title poem for her first book ​”The Tulip-Flame,” which addresses her depression and the impact that her mother’s suicide had on her family. She describes the tulips as colorless and plain, but then focuses on a tulip-flame which represents a single piece of hope.

Many poems in Honum’s new work include animals in a symbolic representation such as “Self-portrait with a Praying Mantis and Endurance” and “Luna Moth at Night.” Honum describes both “The Tulip-Flame” and “Luna Moth at Night” as poems that are important to her.

“‘Luna Moth at Night’ was something I had been wanting to say in some way but didn’t quite know how or when and it surprised me that I was able to get there, it seemed wild to just pop it out,” Honum said.

There is a real difference in having a live reading by an author of her own work. Phrasing, intonation, speed and

emotion used by the poet conveys a subtly different interpretation of the poem. Poem

s can take on new meaning and life. Honum read her poems to a full room of attendees.

“I really enjoy poetry and hearing poetry I always like,” said Jasmin Whitsett, a senior at Guilford majoring in English, after the reading. “I never enjoy reading it really, or writing it myself. She made it sound so rhythmic and I don’t get that when I read it. I enjoy listening to it.”

In sponsoring the poetry reading, The Greenleaf Review and the English & Creative Writing Program along with the Psychology Department were supporting the arts and, in particular, poetry.

It also offered a chance for the students and the community to engage with an active artist, who addressed suicide and mental health in her poetry, and to hear her voice as a woman and a poet.


Editor’s note: This story originally was published in Volume 106, Issue 6 of The Guilfordian on Nov. 15 2019.