Single Voice Reading Series hosts Jericho Parms

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“Lost Wax,” a collection of essays by Jericho Parms, gave students the opportunity to find order in the disorder of memory.

The Single Voice Reading Series presented by the Department of English offers students the opportunity to meet nationally renowned artists. Students were given the opportunity to hear Parms present her work Thursday, Sept. 19, in the Tillotson Room of the Tippie Alumni Center.

Frederick F. Seely Professor of English Christopher Bakken began the reading by thanking the John C. Sturtevant Memorial Lectureship for sponsoring the series.

“The (Single Voice Reading) Series is for (students),” Bakken said. “(The Department of English) organizes the series not so faculty can hang out with the writers we like, although that is part of the motivation for sure, but this gives (students) the chance to meet and know and read authors producing the best work in this country.”

Some of Parms’s essays have appeared in publications such as “Brevity”, “Hotel Amerika” and the “American Literary Review”, but in  her presentation Parms chose to focus on her first book of essays, “Lost Wax.”

The Single Voice Reading Series will also welcome authors Malcolm Hansen, Graham Barnhart and Taneum Bambrick this semester.

Hansen’s lecture will take place Thursday, Oct. 10, and focus on his debut novel “They Come in All Colors.” Barnhart and Bambrick will be presenting Thursday, Dec. 5.

“This year’s series is also unique — and I actually just figured this out tonight and I did not do this on purpose — but when I looked at the brochure, every author coming to our reading series this year is celebrating a first book,” Bakken said. “You are meeting authors at the beginning of great careers.”

Before concluding his introduction, Bakken thanked Parms for writing what he referred to as the “perfect textbook” for Literature in the Arts, a new course Bakken is teaching.

“(Parms) did not know that (she) had (created the perfect textbook) for me, but I have really enjoyed teaching those essays, studying the artworks (Parms) writes about and navigating (her) expertise,” Bakken said.

Once Bakken concluded his introduction, he handed the microphone to Samantha Bender, ’21. Bender serves as one of the senior editors for the Allegheny Review.

“In ‘Lost Wax,’ (Parms) strives to navigate art, autobiography and to quote, ‘find order in the disorder of memory,’” Bender said.

‘Lost Wax’ is titled after a casting process used by sculptors. The lost-wax process begins by an intricate hollow figure being sculpted from wax. Once the wax has been sculpted, hot metal is poured into the mold to make a replica of the sculpture. While this process produces bronze sculptures, it destroys the wax.

“Parms likens the process of recalling and writing about her memories to that of lost wax casting, a process by which bronze sculptures are made,” Bender said.

As Parms wrote about her past, she realized that memory was mutable and frustrating, according to Bender.

“(Parms) can recall minute details but not the ones that matter,” Bender said. “(Parms) also realizes that like casting, writing about a memory destroys the original forever, since the act of writing about it forms it into something different and new.”

The essays included in “Lost Wax” follow Parms as she travels across several continents to gradually repair her relationship with her parents, according to Bender. 

“The primary form of love in ‘Lost Wax’ is familial love,” Bender said. “Family, both its connection and disillusion, play a crucial role in many of the essays within this collection.”

After Bender concluded her introduction, Parms thanked Allegheny students and faculty for inviting her.

“Thank you for the incredible invitation to come here,” Parms said. “I cannot really express what a true pleasure and privilege it is to come to a place where your writing has been read with such care and such curiosity.”

Parms then began by reading “A chapter on red,” one of the 18 essays included in “Lost Wax.”

“I wanted to read that piece because it is an essay that really propelled the writing of ‘Lost Wax,’” Parms said. Parms cited “A chapter unread,” as the essay that helped her find her voice as a writer.

“(‘Lost Wax’) was really an essay that helped solidify (my voice) for me and lent to the writing of the other pieces,” Parms said.

After finishing her reading, Parms mentioned that a recurring theme brought to her attention throughout the day was how to write about beauty, praise and joy in a way that is meaningful.

“The world does feel a little broken right now,” Parms said. “I think more than ever, we might not know how to (write about beauty, praise and joy), but we owe it to ourselves and each other to try to write about the things that are beautiful.”

Parms spent the last few minutes of her reading on an excerpt from a new essay she has been writing that is part of a new collection. The collection of essays focuses on matrimony, inheritance and female identity, according to Parms.

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