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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Faculty reading thursday keeps with tradition

    Since the 1960s, the UA’s Poetry Center has held its own reading series, exposing an audience to both poets and authors alike. Each year, the center hosts a faculty reading that alternates with an alumni reading. Assistant professor of English and fiction writer, Jason Brown, as well as English professor and poet, Steve Orlen, will read together tonight at the center.

    “”We try to get a diverse mix of writers to please our audience, but poetry and fiction are usually not read together,”” Anne Guthrie, an employee at the center, said. “”Faculty readings are important not just for students, but for the community and faculty. The readings show the faculty’s commitment to their writing. It is a special event we put on every year.””

    Brown, whose book of short stories, “”How the Devil Chose New England for His Work,”” was published by Open City/Grove Atlantic in November, has received praise.

    “”Some of the stories deal with Maine’s twin preoccupations with boats and lumber, but the strongest anatomizes the town with stunning emotional precision,”” according to a recent review by The New Yorker Magazine.

    Brown’s 11 short stories take place in a fictional small town – Vaughn, Maine. There characters of all ages are flung into situations dealing with the interlinking themes of routine, survival, forbidden love, alcohol, inheritance and class.

    When asked by the Boston Globe how the stories developed, Brown said, “”Only gradually. The linked story collection based in small towns was my model, and I read everything I could get my hands on starting with (Sherwood Anderson’s) ‘Winesburg, Ohio.’ Ideally each story would have had characters reappearing, but in eliminating the weaker stories I lost some of those that had characters in common. In the end it’s the place that holds them together.””

    The Los Angeles Times said, “”Brown’s ability to make your heart ache is a rare gift. There are a few off notes here, but ‘Why the Devil Chose New England for His Work’ is an exceptionally beautiful and devastating book.””

    Orlen, who last read at the center in October 2007 for the housewarming festival, has published two chapbooks and six collections of poetry.

    In Orlen’s own words, he tells a story that sets him apart from other poets with his childhood experiences.

    “”My father once called the principal of the junior high. He asked: If my son wants to go to college, should he take Latin or French? The principal said, ‘You don’t have to worry about your son going to college. He’s going to jail.’ Then he hung up.””

    Orlen’s poetry goes far beyond enjoyment and enters a world of winding paths.

    “”Any true poem should offer its reader paths through thought and intuition toward an altered awareness of his or her own life,”” he said.

    Orlen’s goal in writing poetry is to have the poem connect on a much deeper level with the reader.

    “”I want my poems to speak directly to the reader. At the same time, I hope they complicate the thinking of anyone who reads them. My poems are out of a desire to ask questions, not to supply answers,”” Orlen said.

    The faculty reading will take place tonight from 8-9. The event is free and is hosted by the UA Poetry Center, 1508 E. Helen St.

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