'Versed in Poetry' Southern poets featured at Centre

By SARAH FAY CAMPBELL sarah@newnan.com Alabama Poet Laureate Sue Walker recently gave a "master class" for Coweta students, and a poetry reading, at the Centre for Performing and Visual Arts. Walker's appearance is the first of the Centre's "Versed in Poetry" services, which will feature a number of Southern poets through 2010 and 2011.
During the master class with Coweta students, held Tuesday afternoon, Walker spoke to poets of all ages, from elementary school to high school. She gave them several short writing exercises, and several students read their work in front of the class. She also gave them some tips for being a good writer. "Writers read," Walker said. "Writers read, to write." And good writers must have heart. "You've got to care about what you do, and what you write," she said. "If you don't care about it... how can you expect your teacher to care?" Walker said she was very impressed with the students and their eagerness. "Those kids were just fantastic," she said. She even gave them her e-mail address and encouraged them to send her their writings. "That's an incredible gift," said Don Nixon, director of the Centre. "Probably nobody will take me up on that," Walker said with a smile. Any time a "master" of any kind comes to the Centre, "we connect with the faculty to offer master classes," Nixon said. It's actually a draw for the artists, he said. "Most of them want to pass on" their passion. The evening event, featuring a plated dinner on the stage of the Centre and Walker reading from her new book, "She Said," was sponsored by the Centre Patrons. Walker was introduced by Melissa Dixon, who grew up in Newnan and is now a poet working on her master of fine arts at Auburn University. Nixon and Dean Jackson, school system public information officer, had been talking about increasing poetry offerings. Jackson knew Dixon, so he put her into contact with Nixon at the Centre, and the Versed in Poetry series was born. Walker opened the reading with a poem about the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster, called "Mad Woman Speaks of Oil on Water." "My troubled expression glistens the water's face. I want to turn away," Walker read. "Greed stings the end of my tongue. Money, the word, catches in my throat." Other poems were from "She Said," a book of poetry about women. Each poem begins with "She said..." Walker read the audience several poems that were inspired by items she read in "The Week," a news digest magazine. One was a story of a man who had donated one of his kidneys to his wife. Later they divorced, and he wanted his kidney back. Walker also read a poem that she said she wrote for her banker. She was applying for a car loan, and having to fill out a mountain of financial statements. They were frustrating her, and she decided to write him a poem, instead. Later she was asked if she got the loan. She did, Walker said. Walker is the director of creative writing and chairwoman of the English Department at the University of South Alabama. She is the publisher of Negative Capacity Press and had published numerous Alabama poets and writers since 1981. Walker has published seven books of poetry, a mixed-genre book on the Mobile-Tensaw Delta, drama, creative non-fiction, and literary criticism. Her recent poetry collection, "Blood Will Bear You Name," won the Book of the Year from the Alabama State Poetry Society and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.


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