21st Annual Literary Festival
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Mace & Crown October 13, 1998 page 12
Jack Myers Brings History of Language To Writer-In-Residency Program

Staff Writer

The electricity on campus this October is enough to set the streets on fire. The twenty-first literary festival brought such "fierce minds" as Robert Pinsky, Maria Luisa CariƱo and Li-Young Lee. Poet Jack Myers is the current Writer-In-Residence on campus this October. Myers is the author of several volumes of poetry, including, "As Long As You're Happy," and his latest work, "Blindsided." He has also served as co-editor of "New American Poets of the 1990's," and editor of the "Longman's Dictionary of Poetic Terms." Students signed up for the Writer-In-Residency program will have the opportunity to put their work on the table in one-on one sessions and group workshops.

I had the chance to speak with Jack about his life, the language of poetry and the Writer-In-Residency program. As he lit a Merit Cigarette, his eyes seemed to softly cradle the circumstances of the past. He spoke of his childhood, growing up on the ocean in Winthrope, Massachusetts. He talked of his journeys into Cambridge as a young poet in the early sixties, where he and a handful of passionate souls such as Tom Lux and William Corbit would gather for what they

called "Magical Evenings." Down in a basement lit by Chinese lanterns, gripping their coffee and cigarettes, they would read into the night, their shadows boxing against the wall.

He remembered being introduced to contemporary poetry and his time spent in the University of Iowa workshop (then, only one of the few MFA programs in the country), and his subsequent success of being published in various journals and magazines. Looking for steady work, he brought his family back to Boston, where he started his own painting company. It was there, exhaustingly perched on top a building at MIT, painting in the snow, that he looked down through a window, saw a class in session and thought, "I should be down there teaching." In 1975, Myers applied and was accepted for a teaching position at Southern Methodist University in Texas. He has been there ever since.

Jack explained that "writing poetry is an exploratory process," that as writers we must "throw ourselves into the darkness to find the light." In fact, Jack stated that he might write 200 poems for a book of 30 to 40.

Reading and listening to his poetry, one is struck by the fusion of passion and sorrow, humor and kindness. He said
that "I was never humorous in my first few books," but humor found it's way into his work as he explained, "I came into myself, through my family." Jack told me that his poetry is often concerned with "overlooked objects and events," the meditative and spiritual aspects of life, and the essence of "doing with being."

I was interested in finding out his view on the importance of writing workshops and programs such as the Writer-In-Residency. Jack feels that the most important element in workshops and the WIR program is "encouragement." He said that it was important to "give encouragement and to look supportively at a student's work." Furthermore, he said that the WIR program gives the student unique "one-on-one feedback from another writer outside of the university." Judging from the kindness and passionate essence of Jack, the students in the program will find him an inspiring and positive influence.

Including the one-on-one conferences, Myers will be giving two lectures, free and open to the public. On October 13th at 12:30 pm, he will give a lecture titled "Consciousness and Creativity," and on October 20th at 10:00 am, another entitled "Catching Your Shadow." If his performance at the Literary Festival is any indicator, these lectures should prove to be "electric."

Jack Myers speaks his mind before ODU students at the Hampton-Newport News Room on Wednesday.
Photograph by Chris Walker


Things get "charged" in this year's literary festival entitled "Electric Voices: Coming of Age."