Robert Mulgrew Poetry Series Invites Poets Jay Hopler and Kimberly Johnson



On April 25th, Poets Jay Hopler and Kimberly Johnson sat in for a Q&A with sections of Honors English and Advanced Honors English. On April 26th, they will be reading and answering questions from 5-6PM in the Alumni Courtyard as part of the Robert Mulgrew Poetry Series.

On Tuesday, April 26th, renowned authors Jay Hopler and Kimberly Johnson will be coming to Bishop’s to read from their respective works. The two married poets mark the first time in the 11 years of the Robert Mulgrew Poetry Series in which two guests come on campus at once. The event, which is free and will be taking place in the Alumni Courtyard, is currently open for RSVP here. Hopler and Johnson will also be meeting with students from sections of Honors Writing and Advanced Honors English on Monday. 

“They are, in my estimation, two of the most compelling voices in contemporary American poetics,” said English Teacher and organizer of the Robert Mulgrew Poetry Series Mr. Adam Davis. “We’re very excited to have them: it’s been at least three years in the making.” For the visiting poets, it’s been even longer: in an interview with the Inscape Journal, Hopler said that a poem could “take [him] anywhere from an hour to twelve years to do.”

To be able to understand such unique insight into both Hopler and Johnson’s work and to “bring poets of such a caliber is a really exciting moment,” according to Mr. Davis, “not just as a department, but as a school.” Hopler and Johnson have each received various laurieats for their poetry, including Johnson’s grants and fellowships from the John Smith Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, and Hopler’s “Green Squall” featured as the winner of the Yale Younger Poets Prize. 

Aside from being romantic partners, Hopler and Johnson also work together in poetry. Mr. Davis mentioned, “They are both each other’s first readers and through their partnership, they’ve created a world of letters between them. If we were to only have one of them here, we might miss out on hearing the synchronicity in their poetry, and also the ways in which their work differs.” This just makes having Hopler and Johnson visiting Bishop’s together all the more special. 

 Another aspect of their relationship is the circumstances of Hopler’s health; in 2017, he was diagnosed with stage-4 terminal cancer and initially given two years to live. In Mr. Davis’s opinion, “It has made the creation of his new work all the more important for him. It’s interesting to see how two poets of such stature react to the circumstances that life has presented them, and how they separate the emotional relationship from the creative one, or how they incorporate those together.” Mr. Davis also brought up how the two poets are writing actively about each other— Hopler’s book is about his cancer, and Johnson’s is about his cancer, too. “I think it’s going to be an incredible, quite literally once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hear two such talented poets engage with such important questions,” Mr. Davis stated. 

As to what attendees can expect from Hopler and Johnson’s visit, Mr. Davis is thinking about “a dueling pianos-type situation, where they’ll duet. He’ll read a new poem, she’ll read a new poem. It’ll be  interesting to see how they respond to each other in real time. The benefit of that, too, is since they are each other’s first readers, they can give insights on the poem as it was beforehand. We’ll get an understanding of their work from inception to completion.”