Introducing Kim Addonizio

During the second night of February of this year, phenomenal poetess and author Kim Addonizio graced the House of Georgia Southern with her electrifying presence. Addonizio, proud mother-author of two novels, two story collections, two poetry-writing instruction books, and of seven poetry collections, gave public readings of her poetry from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m., courtesy of The Department of Writing and Linguistics and The Georgia Poetry Circuit.

Little in stature, but mighty in the word, Addonizio’s presentation was likened to that of lightning: Brilliant. Captivating. Undeniably powerful. As she read to the audience from her latest poetry collection, Mortal Trash (W. W. Norton), she allowed us access into her world. More importantly, into her life, her story, and into the moments that made her become who she is.

Following her readings, she bestowed upon us audience members the opportunity to ask her questions, and to have them answered. When asked about how did she arrive at the position of courage that allowed her to so boldly become raw with her poetry, she responded simply and wonderfully that “this is what literature is about – being human.” She furthermore went onto explain that as writers, or those who aspire to become writers, it is imperative for us to become comfortable with “telling our stories however way we can tell it.” Addonizio mentioned how in poetry, “everything is fair game,” meaning that anything from our lives could be written about, if we so choose.

Lastly, although most importantly, she eloquently reminded us all, myself included, that in order to get anywhere with our writing, we need to “not worry whether people are going to react [or not],” but to mainly do it for ourselves. So that we are using our gifts. So that we are putting our literary treasures out into the world.

Overall, having Kim Addonizio visit Georgia Southern University was an absolute pleasure, and we hope we can have her back here again sometime soon. Addonizio is also the award winner of two Pushcart Prizes, fellowships from the NEA, and also from the Guggenheim Foundation. She was a finalist for the National Book Award for her masterful poetry collection Tell Me (BOA Editions, 2000). She enjoys teaching and speaking across the country, and internationally.

In addition to her awesomeness, she also a member of the musical group Nonstop Beautiful Ladies, in which she plays the harmonica. May she continue to be so amazing!

 

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Why Writing is Good Stuff

Sometimes Creative Writing gets a bad reputation. More than likely we have heard how pursuing a writing degree (or any liberal arts degree) is not a worthy cause, and that those foolish enough to enter will be heading towards a fruitless future. However, despite what has been said, there are actually good things to come out of being a writer.  

For one, it is through the process of writing that we refine our communication skills. Without knowing how to efficiently communicate with one another, we cannot expect to succeed as a society or even as a world.

Secondly, the more that we write, the better we are able to make meaning out of the events happening in our communities, societies, and in the world around us. It is through the outward observation of the state of affairs occurring here on planet Earth, as well as the inward exploration of the affairs happening within ourselves, that we can acquire the material needed to form our stories and understand our lives.

Thirdly, when we are writing, we are sharing our knowledge, our thoughts, our emotions, and other valuable parts about ourselves or perspectives. By doing this, we may come across numerous similarities among each other, which can lead us to the conclusion that maybe, just maybe, we’re not as different as we had previously thought. As a result, we are better able to understand our own human nature, along with those of our neighbors.  

It is also through the process of writing that we are able to yank our imaginations from out of our minds, and lay them out for ourselves and for our fellow humans to observe. When we do this, we invite others, and the entire world, into our worlds. We allow them to dabble in homelands built out of our fantasies, and to explore and adopt lives to which we have given birth. When we produce our stories, whether we are aware of it or not, we are in agreement with the truth that we are world-creators; that we are earth-shakers; mystics with the pen.  By sharing ourselves like this, we are giving our planet a mighty and irreplaceable gift.

To write means to connect with ourselves and others.  To write means to seek understanding and meaning in our lives. To write means to have fun with our imaginations. To be a writer means to leave the world a little better than how we found it.

As a side note: the Department of Writing and Linguistics here at Georgia Southern is home to an abundance of classes, and a treasure-trove of professors whose desire is to push and inspire students to be the best writers they can be. Come and see us sometime!

Never let anyone tell you no: Asante on rejection, hip hop, and writers who are better than you

Asante Workshop PictureIf you were one of the lucky ones, than you were able to attend the author’s meet and greet today at the Library, where MK Asante quickly turned the event into a hall of wisdom for aspiring writers and music artists.  If you weren’t, here are some nuggets of wisdom:

On Rejection: When one of the participants proposed that being a writer is an exercise in rejection, Asante said, right off, that he wiped all rejections out of his mind.  He would not expand any energies towards that.  “The only time I remember who rejected me is when I’m successful.  Then I’m like… I know who you are.”  You get a feeling listening to him talk that you wouldn’t want to be on the other end of that pointing finger.  MK Asante then went on to give us two examples of why rejections are a waste of time:

  1. When he was 14 years old in the streets of Philadelphia, one of the things he had to do if he wanted a social life was having to walk up to young ladies he’d never met before and try to talk to them and see what happened.  “Some of them wouldn’t even acknowledge your space,” he said. So he moved on to the next one, or the one after that, “and maybe then it works out.” He also reminded us not to take it personally.  “Maybe that girl had a boyfriend, or she was interested in girls. You don’t know.”
  2. When one of his friends applied to film school and got rejected, upon receiving the standard rejection letter, he showed it to Asante and said, “This is only the beginning.”  Thinking this was time for a “move on and forget it” speech, Asante went along with it and told his friend he didn’t need to go to film school, film school is not the only path, etc.  Well, his friend shook his head no.  “You don’t understand. This is just the beginning of the negotiations.”  The next day, the friend sent an email to the Dean of the school, telling him that he really felt like he belonged at that program, etc.  The Dean responded, not in so many words, you and 1,000 other people who get rejected, buddy. Still the friend persevered. To make a long story short, by the end of the next month, the friend had turned a rejection into an acceptance.

Summary: “If you want something bad enough, you will get it. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”

On writing, music, and the Beat generation

If you’ve read Asante’s work, you will notice it has a rhythm to it not unlike hip hop.  It is not an accident that the soundtrack of his book, BUCK features such greats as Stevie Wonder, King Mez, Mike Tyson, Maya Angelou, and Talib Kweli.  When asked if music influenced his writing, Asante confessed his love for the Beat generation of poets and writers who freestyled their work inspired by African American jazz musicians: Kerouak, Burroughs, Corso, Ferlenghetti, Ginsberg were the big names and they were inspired by jazz musicians like Dizzy Gillespie, Bird, John Coltrane, Thelonius Monk, Miles Davis.  “These poets were good,” said Asante, “but when I listened to black poets inspired by jazz, they were great.” Among the favorites, coming up a few times during these conversations is Amiri Baraka.  Now hip hop is inspiring a new generation of writers, and hip hop is about to undergo what Asante calls a resurrection.

Here is a link to a SoundCloud streaming of Asante’s Buck soundtrack.buck-white

On writers who are better than you.

When a student asked Asante what someone should do when confronted with a writer or artist who is much better then you.

“I ask questions,” said Asante without missing a beat.  “The best way to deal with people who are better than you is to ask them questions.”  Ask them how they do or did the thing that you want to do.  Don’t be afraid to ask.  Asante reminded us again and again of the generosity of his own mentors, people like Maya Angelou who certainly had more things to do then to help a young graduate student with his film, yet as these people put time aside for him, so does Asante feel like has to put time aside for the next generation of aspiring writers.

We certainly feel that Asante has been extremely generous to students at Georgia Southern with his many tidbits of wisdom and his time.

If you haven’t had a chance to meet him yet, there is still time.

His reading and performance will be on Thursday October 15 at 7pm in the College of Education auditorium 1115.  

MK Asante’s residency at Georgia Southern University was sponsored in part by a grant from SouthArts in partnership with the NEA and by Georgia Southern University.