Experience cultures through literary event

Every culture has a distinct language, but Words Without Borders will break down those barriers by featuring the literary work of international authors from around the globe.

Poet Liu Hongbin, who fled China in 1989, will be one of three authors reading at Words Without Borders: The World Through the Eyes of Writers, a free literary event beginning at 7 p.m. today in Cullen Hall of the University of St. Thomas, 3800 Montrose Blvd.

"It is easy to say cliches like ‘I feel honored to,’ but I want to say I feel obliged to take this opportunity to honor poetry by reading it." Hongbin said.

Founding editor of Words without Borders, the Online Magazine for International Literature, Samantha Schnee believes this event stands out from others because it allows international authors to highlight the work of another international writer.

"The writers whose work they will be reading live in Europe, Asia and Africa, and are unable to come to the U.S. to represent themselves," Schnee who organized the Houston debut, said.

"This is an act of true altruism by the featured authors who will read on Wednesday night, and represents a personal sacrifice of their time made in the belief that it is vital we have access to, and want to hear, voices from beyond our own shores," she said.

For Hongbin, poetry has been a way of expressing his early childhood memories of China, as well as giving him the intimate connection he always sought.

"When I was very little, I was evacuated to the countryside to live with my grandparents," Hongbin said. "I realized that my unconscious impulse for writing poetry was to discover myself, communicate and argue with myself. Poetry responded to my inner needs for an invisible companionship. In fact, I have got more from poetry than I have given to poetry."

Writing is more than just delivering a message for Hongbin, and instead is seen as a true expression of art.

"When words of different parts of speech converge and take up a different role, a subject comes with a verb, and marries an object, there is a play at performance. I enjoy the feeling of being reduced to a wordsmith, a minor director or an audience," he said.

Hongbin believes literary events, such as this one, are commendable efforts and are changing the world of international literature.

"Samantha Schnee and her colleagues are heroic and they are dedicated to the translations of international literature; they are converting a desert of words into an oasis for words. They have all my respect and admiration," Hongbin said.

Schnee hopes people can look beyond their differences and leave with a new, profound perspective of other cultures.

"My wish is that everyone in the audience is transported, for at least a few moments, to another continent and that people will be inspired to visit to explore other ways of life around the world and recognize the miracle that, despite all our differences, we have so very much in common."

Other participating authors include Zara Houshmand an Iranian-American writer who has translated several Iranian plays, with her most recent work A Mirror Garden, and novelist and playwright Bapsi Sidhwa, whose novels have been published in several languages.

Hongbin will be sharing his poetry at the event, and is the author of three collections of poems titled Dove of the East, An Iron Circlet and A Day Within Days.

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