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Bethel College to welcome two Mennonite poets to campus

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. -- Widely published Mennonite poets Jean Janzen, Fresno, Calif., and Jeff Gundy, Bluffton, Ohio, will appear at Bethel College on the same day, Thursday, April 14, at different times. Janzen is the author of six books of poetry, the latest of which, "Piano in the Vineyard," was published in 2004 by Good Books. Janzen was the Menno Simons lecturer at Bethel College for 2003, and her lectures have just been published by Pandora Press as Volume 13 in the Cornelius H. Wedel Series, under the title "Elements of Faithful Writing."

Ami Regier, associate professor of English, will introduce Janzen and "Elements of Faithful Writing" at 10 a.m. on April 14 in the cafeteria in the Schultz Student Center on the Bethel College campus, after which Janzen will be available to sign her book.

Janzen’s 2003 lectures (and hence the book) were based on the four basic elements: mud (earth), water, fire and air. She combines air and fire in one chapter and in the final chapter, titled "Text: Marking the Stone," recognizes the interconnectedness of the four elements in life and writing.

"I chose the four elements," she says, "because our life experiences cannot be recorded in abstract language. Our senses and our words are connected to the elements, the concrete representations of our existence. These four are true to my own story of writing, as well as the writers of literature throughout the past millennia."

The Mennonite Library and Archives initiated the Cornelius H. Wedel Historical Series as part of Bethel College’s centennial celebration in 1987. Wedel, the first president of Bethel College from the beginning of classes in 1893 until his death in 1910, was an early scholar of Mennonite studies.

The publication of "Elements of Faithful Writing" marks the beginning of a new collaboration between the MLA, the Wedel Series and Pandora Press of Kitchener, Ont.

On the evening of April 14, Jeff Gundy, professor of English at Bluffton University, will give a reading as the next Friends of the Mennonite Library and Archives event.

Gundy is the author of four chapbooks, four collections of poetry and three volumes of creative nonfiction. "Deerflies," published by WordTech Editions in 2004 and the winner of its 2003 Editions Poetry Prize, is Gundy’s latest book of poetry, while "Walker in the Fog," just released by Cascadia Publishing, is his most recent book of nonfiction.

"Walker in the Fog" is the first book-length treatment of American Mennonite writing over the last 20 years. It explores important Mennonite and Mennonite-related authors such as Patrick Friesen, William Stafford, Julia Kasdorf, Jean Janzen and Keith Ratzlaff, along with crucial issues and themes in their writing.

However, at Bethel College, Gundy will be reading mostly his poetry at 7:30 p.m. in the Administration Building chapel. Gundy has been doing a series of readings this spring in the United States and Canada.

Gundy and Janzen each have family ties to Bethel: Gundy’s son Ben is a senior, and a cousin of the Janzen family, Jeff Janzen, Fresno, is a sophomore at the college. Both the Janzen book signing and the Gundy reading are free and open to the public.

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