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Poet will give reading, see artist books her words inspired

January 14th, 2019

Jean Janzen

The Book Arts class welcomes Jean Janzen to campus Thursday, January 24, to give a reading at 7 pm in Krehbiel Auditorium.

The event is free and open to the public and will also include a short reading by poet and Bethel graduate Jesse Nathan.

Rachel Epp Buller, associate professor of visual art and design, is teaching her biennial Book Arts class, in which students create artist books, in this case using Janzen’s poetry as a “jumping-off point” for their creativity, Epp Buller says.

“The students [are] working with words and phrases that they [selected] from Jean’s poetry,” Epp Buller says. “They [are] using the words as a prompt – the books won’t be illustrations of the poetry.”

The students’ books will be on display in the Regier Art Gallery in Luyken Fine Arts Center for a one-day “pop-up” exhibition on Jan. 24, the last day of interterm. 

Epp Buller is always looking for ways to collaborate. She approached Janzen in summer 2017, when both were at the conference “Crossing the Line: Women of Anabaptist Traditions Encounter Borders and Boundaries” at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Va., that June.

“I’d recently finished a collaboration with a couple of [Kansas] poets, in a similar vein,” Epp Buller says. “Jean and I talked about the possibility of doing something like this, if she were able to come as a visiting artist the next time I taught Book Arts.

“So even though she’s a poet, she’s being hosted by our department, though she will also be meeting with [Professor of English] Siobhan Scarry’s class for part of a morning while she’s here.”

Janzen will be accompanied to Kansas by a young poet to whom she’s become a mentor and friend and who has many local connections.

Jesse Nathan is a 2005 Bethel graduate who grew up in McPherson County. He is currently doing doctoral studies at Stanford University and living in San Francisco.

Nathan will open the reading with selections from his own poetry.

A reception for Janzen, Nathan and the student artists will be held after the reading outside the Regier Gallery, where the artist books can be viewed.

Janzen has published seven collections of poems, most recently What the Body Knows in 2015.

Her work has appeared in numerous journals, including Poetry, Image and Prairie Schooner. Her essays are collected in Entering the Wild, and her 2003 Menno Simons lectures, delivered at Bethel College, are in Elements of Faithful Writing (published by Bethel in 2004). She has received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.     

Nathan’s poems have appeared in the American Poetry ReviewIowa ReviewFence, the Nation and elsewhere. He is a Ph.D. candidate at Stanford, specializing in English-language poetry. At Stanford, he holds a 2018-19 Mellon Dissertation Fellowship.

Bethel College is the only Kansas private college listed in Washington Monthly National Universities-Liberal Arts section for 2018-19. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see

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As the first Mennonite college founded in North America, Bethel College celebrates a tradition of progressive Christian liberal arts education, diversity within community, and lifelong learning.