By: Hannah Murray, Guest Commentator
From THE BEACON
Have you ever wondered who is behind those words on the page? Literature is meant to be an intimate conversation between the author and reader, but what if you actually got to ask those questions up close and personal? Questions like: Why did you use such interesting line breaks on page 45? What was your inspiration behind this book? How did you get into writing poetry? For many, these thoughts are simply a tool to dive into the literature but for some lucky ones, Monday was an opportunity to ask these burning questions. Wayne Miller, the author of several esteemed works including The City, Our City, The Book of Props, and Only the Senses Sleep,was on campus this past weekend and on Monday gave an inspired reading of his past works as well as a sneak peek into his current project.
In preparation for Miller’s arrival, Dr. Asarnow’s Contemporary American Poetry class read The City, Our City and spent a week discussing the intricate, often abstract topics Miller presents. The first stop on his journey at UP was for a question and answer session in our class. As a sophomore, this was my first experience having a direct conversation with such a successful, distinguished author. Later that afternoon, the English Department hosted a small dinner which included 8 students from Contemporary American Poetry, Dr. Asarnow, and Wayne Miller at St. John’s greatest pub: McMenamin’s. Over Cajun tater tots, Miller told us about his views on Poetic translation and how they can be the greatest tool to examining language. He told us everything from the journal that’s always present in his back pocket to his literate fluency in Albanian all the way to his aversion to tomatoes.
One of the greatest insights Wayne shared with us was that when writing, it is important to listen to what the words are trying to show you. By listening, you may end up with something much greater than what you set out to do. Lastly, and what I think to be most important, he spoke of one of his favorite poets, W.H. Auden, and told us about his favorite ideal: “A poet is, before anything else, a person who is passionately in love with language.” I hope that Wayne inspired many during his reading, but if nothing else, it was an evening full of laughs.
Hannah Murray is a sophomore biology major. She can be reached at email@example.com.