Ga. writers captivate with poetry and prose
A fantasy of romance in a foreign land takes an interesting turn following the entrance of Michelle, a beautiful and captivating French woman, on a train in Europe. Acting coy, the traveler dauntingly tries to make his fantasy a reality and win over Michelle. At the brink of finally fulfilling his dream of love, the traveler loses his chance at love to valium-induced sleep.
This humorous tale is a travel narrative titled “A Stranger on a Train,” written and read by Assistant Professor of English Peter Selgin to students and community members last Thursday.
Senior political science major Delaney James liked the humor of Selgin’s travel narrative.
“I enjoyed that I could relate to him on a personal level,” James said. “It was so real. I feel like his unlucky experience with the French woman was something that would happen to me.”
The Department of English invited two distinguished writers to share performance readings. Selgin and Georgia’s Poet Laureate, Judson Mitcham, each shared pieces from their collection of works.
Selgin is the 2007 Flannery O’Connor award winner for his fiction novel “Life Goes to the Movies,” and he also won awards for his memoir titled “Collections of a Left-Handed Man: An Artist’s Memoir.”
Selgin shared two pieces for his portion of the evening’s readings. Along with “A Stranger on a Train,” he read an excerpt of his essay “Dead to Rights,” titled “How to Draw a Caricature.”
As a former caricature artist, Selgin channeled his experiences with patrons, their requests and the process of drawing to create this essay.
Following Selgin’s two pieces, Judson Mitcham shifted gears and read from his collection of poems.
Freshman Austin Brannen enjoyed how the readings of Selgin and Mitcham worked well together.
“It was neat how both speakers juxtaposed each other. One was more solemn and the other was funny,” Brannen said. “They highlighted each other.”
Mitcham is the current Poet Laureate of Georgia, has written three collections of poems and was awarded the Townsend Prize for Fiction for two of his novels. As Poet Laureate, Mitcham is appointed by the state and has the privilege of writing poems for special events and occasions.
Mitcham chose a selection of poems where he discussed the ideas of love, loss, race, terrorism, shame and religion.
His piece “Weight” reflected an experience with his grandson in the Georgia capital involving the statue of Alexander Stephens and the idea of using power to change race relations.
He began each reading with a short preface about the piece where he describes the inspiration and discusses his feelings on the subject.
His final poem, “An Introduction,” was one inspired by Mitcham’s mother’s life, her character and her spirit.
Both readers received positive response from students and community members.
Sophomore Whitney Gray was impressed with Mitcham’s poetic style.
“I liked how his poetry was colloquial,” Gray said. “It was easy to put yourself in the piece because it was like he was having a conversation.”
Sophomore Alice Crawford enjoys coming to the readings as a management major.
“You don’t have to be a creative writer to get something out of the readings,” Crawford said. “They are very relatable.”
The writers want to encourage students to come to these readings, so like Gray, they can put themselves in the piece and expose themselves to something new.
“When we listen to a piece of writing, we have to engage the imagination. Readings can help expose people to things they may not normally be exposed to,” Selgin said. “When we read the pieces, we get to hear the final product. The performance is a part of it and can give a new perspective.”
Mitcham agrees that the readings of poetry and narratives are crucial to their understanding.
“We enjoy the readings ourselves. It takes the piece back to the origins of story because the voice of the writer makes it final,” Mitcham said. “It’s crucial because the students have to create the images and, it’s not something they’re familiar with.”