Last Thursday, the UNH Writers Series came to an end hosting its last two distinguished authors of the 2016-17 term, Elizabeth Powell and Jensen Beach.
“We opened the series this year with both a poet and a fiction writer, and we thought it would be a good idea to book-end the series the same way with another two-fer,” associate professor of English Sue Hertz said.
Powell is best known for her award-winning poetry book “The Republic of Self,” a New Issue First Book Prize winner. At the event, she read from her most recent book, “Willy Loman’s Reckless Daughter: Living Truthfully Under Imaginary Circumstances,” which won the Robert Dana Prize in poetry.
According to Powell, she has always had a keen sense of the theater after being raised by a community of artists from Vilnius, Lithuania and the Yiddish theater. Without the confidence of acting, she expressed her artistry on paper.
“[Arthur] Miller’s play [“Death of a Salesman”] has always resonated with my upbringing…I wanted to create a persona who could speak to all the issues that Arthur Miller’s play brings up about society, family, the old deadly American dream,” Powell said. “The voice that came out was the voice of the erased daughter in a man’s world of commerce, which has traditionally been the locus of power in the U.S.”
According to Powell, as both a poet and a fictionist, sometimes it can be hard to write a story one way or another. In her novel “Willy Loman’s Reckless Daughter” she demonstrated the point she made made prior to her reading, that, “…You can bridge the gap between poetry and fiction.”
Beach, on the other hand, is a fiction author who holds a Master of Fine Arts in fiction from the Program for Poets and Writers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, as well as a Master of Arts and Bachelor of Arts in English from Stockholm University, in Sweden, where he lived with his wife for over six years.
Beach is recognized for his two collections of stories, one being “For Out of the Heart Proceed,” and his most recent work, “Swallowed By The Cold,” a collection of short stories set in Sweden from which he was reading. His work has appeared in a number of publications such as Ninth Letter, Cincinnati Review and The New Yorker.
“This is the first and probably the last book about Sweden. I do a lot of work as a translator so I think that influences me more than I think about. I do enjoy Swedish literature in particular and always will,” Beach said.
Most of the audience consisted of other writers, poets, students and teachers curious about all the influences and inspirations that help create these artistic strides in literature. Attendees listened, absorbed and marveled at the authors’ remarkable writing and lessons they conveyed that brought them to where they are today.
“I think I’m interested in how people think, and sometimes how that is so trusted with the way they act. I like to dramatize human consciousness [and] how to get as close to thought on the page,” Beach said.
After reading his excerpt from “Swallowed By The Cold,” Beach had a lot of advice in regard to writing and what motivates and interests his work.
“I’m interested in the control and manipulation of a story, everything is deliberate and imposed, the artifice of fiction, and you’re making a piece of art that mimics real life but isn’t real. They have a unique capability of being in between the real and what is totally imagined,” Beach said.
Beach gave kind words of advice to the writers in the audience at the event.
“Be patient and kind to yourself. Writing is just work, you just have to do that work, take it seriously but you can’t let it take over your life,” Beach said.