Poet Carolina Hotchandani to Read from Her New Collection as Part of Women’s History Month

Feb 28, 2024
Carolina Hotchandani, a Latinx and South Asian poet, Rebecca Olander, Visiting Lecturer at Westfield State, Catherine Anderson, an older white-haired woman standing together at a booth full of poetry books. They are at the Association of Writers & Writing Programs conference.

Carolina Hotchandani, Rebecca Olander, and Catherine Anderson this year's Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference.

As part of Women’s History Month, Carolina Hotchandani, a Latinx and South Asian author, will read from her debut poetry book, The Book Eaters, on campus on March 7.

Rebecca Olander, Visiting Lecturer in the English Department at the University, organized the event. Starting at Westfield State in 2012, Olander has taught both first year and sophomore composition, creative writing, and poetry workshops, describing her time at the University as “a deep pleasure.”

I love teaching all different kinds of writing as well as finding the creative in academic writing and vice versa,” she said of her teaching. Olander is also a published author, releasing two poetry books, Dressing the Wounds and Uncertain Acrobats, in 2019 and 2021 respectively. In the midst of COVID-19, the latter was celebrated via a virtual book launch with her students on Zoom, calling them lovely” in their support of her and remarking on their own talents as writers.

In 2016, Olander became the editor/director of Perugia Press, a nonprofit press founded in 1997 that highlights and uplifts womens voices in the poetry community. Publishing one book a year, Perugia Press holds an annual national contest to do so, with the winner also earning prize money and support in the promotion of their manuscript. As an instructor at Westfield State, Olander has invited many of the recent authors to read their work on campus.

We like to make those events a reading and a conversation,” Olander said. Its a place where the poet will read her work but also be open to meeting students and talking to them about their own writing, their writing process, and the writing life.”

With this intention, last years winner of the national contest, Carolina Hotchandani, will be visiting the University on March 7 to read and discuss her work with students, faculty, and community members. Free and open to the public, the event will begin at 4 p.m. and take place at the Arno Maris Gallery against the backdrop of the show Rearrangements” by NY artist Laura Stein, currently on display.

Hotchandani’s debut collection, titled The Book Eaters, was released in September 2023 and explores identity and the relationship between the self and others, as well as how that relationship provides understanding of the way we operate in the world as human beings. In addition to being a poet, Hotchandani is a Goodrich Assistant Professor of English at the University of Nebraska Omaha.

Her book deals with illness, aging, birth, and grief. Those are universal things, right?” Olander said. Were all born, and we all die. We all know people who are sick and who change because of that. The poet is telling her personal story about themes I would say are universal. Undergraduate students are at a place in their lives where theyre becoming more who they are and who they will be. Theyre going through a lot of changes as well. Juggling her own roles of poet, professor, daughter, and mother, Hotchandani writes about those transitions and asks what that does to you as a writer, and person. How do those selves coexist? How do they thrive together?”

Olander feels similarly about the support of all women and their varying identities as fully autonomous, complex people in the world. With March celebrating Women’s History Month, Olander hopes to highlight the importance of allowing time and space for human stories of all varieties.

At Perugia Press, were not just celebrating one woman’s voice at a time, but all of them,” Olander said. That was the purpose and point of the press being founded in the first place in terms of publishing women. You can see statistics that are still true about whos won awards and accolades in the literary world, and its still disproportionately men. Working toward gender equity in publishing has been at the heart of what were doing, and were very proud of that.”