DANBURY, Connecticut — As a student at John Jay High School in Hopewell Junction, New York, Meaghan Canavan developed her love of literature. As a Professional Writing student focusing on journalism and public relations at Western Connecticut State University, she took it to the next level by being named one of five Connecticut Poetry Circuit Poets for 2023-24.
“I think I’ve always been interested in writing,” Canavan said. “Growing up, my best subject was English in school, and I was always devouring books. My love of reading eventually transferred to writing, although I definitely still love the former as well. It wasn’t until my last two years of high school, though, that I realized it was actually something I could pursue as a career.”
As her 2020 high school graduation approached, Canavan began to consider her college options.
“WCSU’s writing program is why I chose to attend the school,” she explained. “Many universities only offer an English major with some writing classes on the side. But when I saw that Western had a major for it — along with offering New York residents in-state tuition — it really felt like a win-win.”
Now in her senior year, Canavan has been involved with several of the university’s many student publications. “I’m the treasurer for the Student Publications Club, and I help contribute to things such as the school’s newspaper, The Echo, and its literary journal, Black & White,” she said. These on-campus experiences will translate well to Canavan’s end goal of working at a publishing house or magazine focusing on the editorial process or writing of some kind. “I like writing my own stuff, but I’d love to help share the work of others as well,” she explained.
Canavan said poetry didn’t really come into her life until her junior year at WCSU, when she started taking poetry classes. “I’d always liked reading it, but it wasn’t until I was studying the subject that I began to feel connected enough to write it,” she said.
Canavan’s introduction to poetry writing came from WCSU Professor of Writing Dr. Brian Clements, a highly respected published poet and editor of poetry anthologies. “Dr. Clements is the one who nominated me for the opportunity to be a Connecticut Collegiate Poet,” Canavan said. “I selected 10 of what I believed to be my best written poems, and together we narrowed it to five. Those five poems were then sent in as examples of my work.
“A big reason I received this opportunity in the first place was because of not only Dr. Clements, but the Writing Department as a whole,” Canavan continued. “The professors are always looking out for students and will send us many opportunities involving scholarships, contests, internships, etc. A lot of the acknowledgments I have received have been through their recommendations, and they are to thank for it.”
Clements expressed his pride in Canavan’s accomplishments. “The faculty of the Department of Creative and Professional Writing couldn’t be prouder of Meaghan and all of our students,” he said. “To have a WCSU Writing major selected for the Poetry Circuit for the third year in a row alongside students from Yale, Wesleyan, Quinnipiac and Trinity College speaks to the talent and dedication of our majors as well as the success of our department’s unique approach to teaching writing. Like all WCSU Writing majors, Meaghan has studied writing in multiple genres, journalism and publication design, and, in fact, started off in the program as a fiction writer with little past practice in poetry. Recently, she was among the group of students who launched the department’s online culture and arts magazine, ‘The Howl.’ We celebrate Meaghan’s success and can’t wait to host the Circuit on campus again this year.”
Canavan is the third WCSU Professional Writing student selected as a Connecticut Poetry Circuit Poet. Isabella Bullock, of Westport, was chosen in 2022-23 and Michelle Rochniak, of Wallingford, was selected in 2021-22. Canavan is looking forward to her responsibilities on the Connecticut Poetry Circuit. “My main goal is to represent myself and the school well,” she said. “I want to demonstrate that I’ve put a lot of time into my work, so I want to improve my public speaking to try to communicate this well.” Many of her poems are written in the first-person, and explore the relationships between herself, others and the world.
In addition to Canavan, this year’s winning student poets are Mia Alexander from Wesleyan University, August Bishop from Quinnipiac University, Alexa Schwartz from the University of Hartford and Saidie Zeiner-Morrish from Trinity College. WCSU and Quinnipiac are the only universities that have had a student selected as a Connecticut Poetry Circuit participant for three years in a row.
The Connecticut Poetry Circuit was established in 1968 to continue the work of the New England Poetry Circuit, which was founded in 1964 by the Academy of American Poets and Holly Stevens, daughter of the acclaimed poet and Hartford insurance executive Wallace Stevens. Each year, the Connecticut Poetry Circuit enlists a panel of poets to judge a statewide contest of college-student poets. Five student poets are selected to tour the circuit each spring and will read their work at a number of universities and events.
Western Connecticut State University changes lives by providing all students with a high-quality education that fosters their growth as individuals, scholars, professionals and leaders in a global society. Our vision: To be widely recognized as a premier public university with outstanding teachers and scholars who prepare students to contribute to the world in a meaningful way.