“I want a man whose body makes mine hum,” writes award-winning poet Beth Gylys ’86 in her poem titled “Personal.”
With this single line of poetry that inspired the title of her first full-length compilation, Gylys is taking the poetry world by storm with her recently published Bodies That Hum.
Reflecting a cleverness and passion, the works included inBodies clearly define Gylys as a poet and a person. Admitting that her poetry has become an intimate and somewhat biographical process, Gylys explains that her attraction to writing comes from its introspective nature. “Emotional thinking generated an intensity from which I could write,” she says. “All humans need to express themselves and find different outlets to explore who we are as emotional people.”
For Gylys, Bodies was a product of her personal growth processes. “I had been experiencing some difficult relationships that inspired me,” she says. “Of course, the relationship between the sexes seemed interesting to me as well.” As a result, the compilation investigates the anguish of intimate relationships and the emotions and interplay between males and females.
Defined by a distinctive voice and a nontraditional style, her works primarily reflect the difficult villanelle form and a rigid rhyme scheme. For Gylys, winner of the 1998 Gerald Cable Poetry Contest, completing the 14 villanelles included in Bodies marked the end of a personal vendetta. “The first time I wrote a villanelle I didn’t do a very good job,” she laughs, “so I set out to master it.” Writing is about becoming a more knowledgeable person about yourself.”
The personal knowledge she gained, in fact, inspired her poetry. A native of Pittsburgh, Pa., Gylys says she had considered writing as little more than a pastime during her early college career at Allegheny College. “I was rather na�ve and sheltered coming into college,” she admits. “But Allegheny served as a bridge, allowing me to engage in the world in more depth. It taught me the love of learning.”
Her writing blossomed as her personal exploration and growth advanced during her graduate studies. Now an assistant professor of English at Mercyhurst College, Gylys inspires the love of writing in her undergraduate students while continuing her work as a poet. Teaching introductory writing, poetry literature and advanced creative writing courses, Gylys says she hopes that her aspiring student writers will experience self-growth while improving their technical expertise.
Imparting the secret of her own success to her students, Gylys says that anyone can succeed if they hold their own ideals true. “Don’t adopt a voice that is not yours,” she says, “because it’s important to be who you are.”
In addition to Bodies That Hum, Gylys has published a small pamphlet of poems titled Balloon Heart and plans to publish another full-length collection in the near future.
This upcoming project will include both published and non-published works that explore personal relationships with the natural world and the life of a single woman in contemporary society.