Brian Burmeister, an English instructor from Iowa State University, reads a few of his poems and short stories during Des Moines Area Community Colleges in Carroll's Literary Arts Week April 9.
Brian Burmeister, an English instructor from Iowa State University, reads a few of his poems and short stories during Des Moines Area Community Colleges in Carroll's Literary Arts Week April 9.

April 24, 2019

Brian Burmeister wracked his brain trying to find just the right words to portray the agony and hardships faced by those in Darfur, Sudan.

He used poetry to describe the suffering families experienced during the genocide that occurred in Darfur.

Jacob Dawson’s diction took readers into a small town in rural Illinois where a man named Adam Marshall had been killed.

His novel moved readers from one character to another character, to keep them anxiously wanting to know — who killed Adam?

As part of Des Moines Area Community College’s celebration of the Literary Arts Week, Iowa State University Instructors Burmeister and Dawson read their poetry, short stories and novels at DMACC’s Carroll campus April 9. Both instructors are published writers who teach English at Iowa State.

Burmeister regularly contributes to Clever Magazine, Compulsive Reader and the Sport Literature Association. His work has also appeared in the Feminist Wire, Thin Air Magazine and other publications.

Dawson’s short stories have appeared in PANK Magazine and Bartleby Snopes.

For the hour-long read-aloud, each author shared a few of his works before ending the day with a Q-and-A.

Burmeister read poems “We Concern Ourselves” and “Monument Circle,” about the genocide in Darfur, Sudan. The poems told stories of Darfur children and families as well as America’s response, or lack thereof, to the genocide, Burmeister said.

Through his writing, he is able to shed light on what others are experiencing throughout the world, he said.

“It was really the first time where I felt I could use poetry to raise awareness on something that is truly meaningful in the world,” he said.

Dawson read from his whodunit murder mystery “The Price We Pay,” which tells the story of a father, Thad Marshall, who recently lost his son and is experiencing various stages of grief.

Dawson said he set the book’s plot in rural Illinois because it’s one of the places he knows best.

“I lived in central Illinois when I was getting my undergrad and first master’s degree, and I lived in a small town outside of the college I went to,” he said. “I became just very familiar with how people worked there and how the politics worked and the state of poverty, so I just, kind of in a weird way, fell in love with that place.”

Before Dawson or Burmeister send any of their pieces out to be published, they go through an intensive editing process.

For Burmeister, it’s his wife who sits with him and goes through his work. But Dawson said he has a different method. He collects a group of people he trusts to edit chapters or long sections of his writing and provide him with feedback.

Both writers said the best thought to keep in mind for those wanting to publish a piece of literature is to always be patient and never give up.

Being patient (and) being perseverant — I think those are your best friends, and just not taking it personally when you get rejections, which are the inevitable product of the experience as well,” Burmeister said. “It just requires a lot of effort, I would say, more than anything.”