Poetry brings Casteen back to Sweet Briar

John Casteen, who taught creative writing at Sweet Briar for eight years, will return to campus for a poetry reading on Dec. 2, along with Charlottesville writers Andrew Martin and Laura Eve Engel. The event takes place at 7:30 p.m. in the Browsing Room in Mary Helen Cochran Library and is free and open to the public.

Canteen taught creative writing at Sweet Briar from 2007 to 2015.
Canteen taught creative writing at Sweet Briar from 2007 to 2015.

Casteen will read new poems from a manuscript he is currently working on, as well as a number of pieces he wrote while at Sweet Briar. A former associate professor of creative writing and founder of the College’s Creative Writing Conference for undergraduate students, Casteen left Sweet Briar earlier this year, before it was clear that the school would stay open.

“I have some really positive associations with the time I spent there, especially with some former students, colleagues and the campus itself,” he said.

“I’m glad to come back for a reading — [although] I do sort of wish we could hold it in the Outing Cabin, which was my real home there.”

The outdoors has always held a special place in Casteen’s writing and teaching. During his time at Sweet Briar, he partnered with the College’s Outdoor Program to lead several reflective retreats for writing students to cabins owned by the Potomac Appalachian Trail club in Greene County, and organized a number of guided creative writing hikes on Cole Mountain.

Laura Eve Engel
Laura Eve Engel

Casteen is the author of two collections of poems, “Free Union” (2009) and “For the Mountain Laurel” (2011), and his recent or forthcoming poems appear in Fence, The Southern Review, The Paris Review, From the Fishouse, Ploughshares, Shenandoah, Best American Poetry and The Rumpus Poetry Anthology.

He also has contributed essays to Offline, The Morning News, Virginia Quarterly Review, Slate and The Washington Post. He currently teaches poetry at James Madison University.

The reading will also feature Charlottesville writers Andrew Martin and Laura Eve Engel. Engel is the residential program director of the University of Virginia’s Young Writers Workshop, which has been taking place on Sweet Briar’s campus since 2012.

Her poetry has appeared in The Awl, Boston Review, Crazyhorse, The Southern Review, Tin House and elsewhere. She is a recipient of fellowships from the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center and the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing.

Andrew Martin
Andrew Martin

Martin’s stories have appeared in The Paris Review, with one being published this winter, and his essays, reviews and interviews have been published by The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, the New York Times, The Washington Post and Bookforum.

A recent fiction resident at the UCross Foundation, Martin runs workshops at Writer House in Charlottesville. He is currently writing a novel and finishing a story collection.

For more information about the event, please email Nell Boeschenstein at nboeschenstein@sbc.edu.