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The Architect of Her Own Experience

The Architect of Her Own Experience

The Architect of Her Own Experience

Poet Sarah Hovet was determined to use the opportunities at the UO to craft her education and rise to national recognition

Poet Sarah Hovet was determined to use the opportunities at the UO to craft her education and rise to national recognition

Poet Sarah Hovet was determined to use the opportunities at the UO to craft her education and rise to national recognition


STORY BY LAURIE NOTARO  |  VIDEO BY DUSTY WHITAKER WITH LAURIE NOTARO

 
 

It’s a Friday night, and students, both seasoned and new, are moving like fish from one area in the Erb Memorial Union to the other, picking up free snacks from vendors at the Flock Party. A dance team performs enthusiastically in front of a crowd that chatters moderately when their eyes aren’t on the squad, and in the Crater Lake Room, a young student walks over to a tall, lithe blonde woman studying her iPhone and asks, “Are you the hypnotist?”, motioning to posters positioned in the room that announce a performance that will start in less than half an hour.

“Um, no,” she says, surprised, and then smiles a little. “But I’m the poet.”

When the lights dim and the room quiets 15 minutes later, the poet with fluttering waist-length hair stands behind the microphone as the room grows even more still. She dives into the poem, headfirst, and the audience goes with her.

She starts quietly, then gets progressively, but almost unnoticeably louder until any chatter in the room has stopped and the only one with a voice is Sarah Hovet. She doesn’t flinch when someone leans against the light switch and tosses the room into complete darkness; she keeps going the same way when the mistake is solved and the lights flash back on.

Sarah Hovet writing in her notebook

Sarah Hovet writing in her notebook

Grind

BY SARAH HOVET

...

I have a dream about my teeth falling out,
bouncing on the floor like ivory Legos
that will bite my bare feet when I walk to the bathroom in the dark.
I look into the mirror and see
the dark of my head through the holes,
exposed gums pink and pocked with tooth imprints,
they fall into my coffee
bobbing like rigid mini-marshmallows
and dissolve.

...

A Magical Place

It was after a visit to the HJ Experimental Forest, a 16,000–acre ecological research site 40 miles east of Eugene that Hovet, 20 and a senior English major in the Clark Honors College from Springfield, Oregon, found the inspiration to create a poem that encapsulates her experience at the UO, and what she has been successful in accomplishing here.

“HJ Andrews is the greenest place I’ve ever seen,” she said. “The diversity and distinctiveness of its growth make it a magical place: sword ferns and stairstep moss growing on nurse logs, medicinal plants like Pacific yew and Oregon grape growing in such abundance, things I’d never seen before like witches jelly. Not writing about it wasn’t an option. The growth strikes me as a metaphor for the growth of selfhood students undergo there. The UO is a large research institution with myriad opportunities—people can build whatever experience they want here.”

And that is exactly what Hovet did. She was the architect of her own experience, using the opportunity to study abroad and expand her college career beyond the boundaries of campus; becoming involved in organizations that would push her forward personally and academically, and following her interests until she became nationally recognized in those areas.

As a result of becoming the architect of her years at the UO, Hovet has also been awarded the Vice President for Research and Innovation Undergraduate Research Fellowship, the Walter and Nancy Kidd Memorial Prize in fiction, and the Eleanor B. North Poetry Award.

“I was able to craft experiences in outdoor classrooms, in study abroad programs, in Inside-Out prison exchange courses,” she says. “I will always be grateful that I could try so many different activities that have shaped me into a more conscious individual.”

Sarah Hovet reading her poetry

Building A UO Experience

Hovet recently returned from a fellowship in Ireland that was reflective of her studies and was possible through UO funding and Global Education Oregon study abroad. She focused on Irish women writers, taking classes at the National University of Ireland Galway and visiting special collections at both NUI Galway to see the feminist Attic Press-Arlen House collection and the Edna O’Brien papers at University College Dublin.

“I’ve found that women have played such active roles in Ireland’s history, yet continue to this very day to be underrepresented in the arts, despite their significant contributions,” she said. “I’ve also found that a growing body of scholarship exists on this disparity and have been elated to contribute to it, especially being able to analyze texts written by Irish women written as recently as 2015, such as Pond by Claire-Louise Bennett.”

Though poetry and writing are Hovet’s forte, she was conscious about building a varied and solid environment by becoming active in Sigma Tau Delta International English Honor Society, where she is the Alpha Tau Phi chapter president and Far Western student representative; UO Poetry Slam Team member; an Environmental Leadership Program Canopy Connections team member; the Clark Honors College Student Association common reading coordinator; an American English Institute conversation partner and tutor and an Ethos Magazine staff writer.

Her accomplishments and participation have not gone unnoticed.

“Sarah Hovet is an exceptional artist, scholar, and leader,” said Corbett Upton, associate director for undergraduate studies in English and Slam Poetry Team sponsor. “Sarah is creating a legacy of artistic and academic achievement and community-building at Oregon and nationally. Oregon is lucky to have a student of her caliber representing the university around the state, the nation, and the world.”

“I Could Have Had Anything I Wanted…”

“After this year, I will remember the university as a place where I could have anything I wanted, as long as I worked for it,” Hovet says in her quiet, natural voice.

Tonight, she is the poet, an experienced and award-winning member of the slam poetry team, her typically demure and quiet voice raised enough to travel over the room in a wave as the audience responds in approval with snaps of the fingers. She has captured the room with her work, and all eyes are on her.

It seems she is a bit of a hypnotist, after all.