Words brought to life in poetry night

The Poetry and Prose series welcomed its latest event at the M.D. Anderson Memorial Library highlighting nonfiction authors and professors Lacy Johnson, Mat Johnson and first-time guest Peter Turchi, showcasing their new writings featuring a family reunion in an unlikely place, surviving a kidnapping by an unexpected acquaintance and the curious thoughts of a serial dreamer.

The baked treats weren’t the only thing that kept students and staff members on their seats Wednesday evening — for the most part — it was also the notion of catching a glimpse into the minds and lives of fellow colleagues and lecturers, something creative writing professor Turchi said he would take great advantage of.

“I read fiction and nonfiction, and I’m kind of entertained to see what people will think I read as they figure out whether it is fiction or real,” Turchi said. “I’m interested in fiction that has a certain ring of authority that passes itself off as nonfiction. It’ll be kind of a blur, so we’ll see what kind of response it gets.”

Turchi’s series consisted of charming memories with his wife and possible visionaries surrounding the theme of flowing water, as he recalls witnessing a suicide when a woman standing at the edge of the railing fell — or dived — into the water “so gracefully it doesn’t seem fair to call it suicide.”

Mat Johnson shared an experience of a racially mixed father finding his long-lost daughter, facing racial stereotypes and sincere dialogue which served as both cringing and comical as the room was filled with chuckles and light laughter from crowd.

Interdisciplinary arts professor Lacy Johnson introduced her new book, “The Other Side,” detailing her experience as she was kidnapped by her ex-boyfriend, now a fugitive in Venezuela, six weeks after ending their relationship of 14 years.

“This is a book that I’ve been working on and thinking about writing for a very long time,” she said. “I started writing the work when I was a student here at UH on the Ph.D. program; it was a subject matter that I had a lot of trouble writing about and have approached it from different angles, periodically, for many years. It is a combination of more than a decade of efforts to tell this story.”

Respectful silence awaited Johnson’s story as she opened the scene at the police station, having to stop momentarily as she described her unrecognizable appearance and the ironic feeling of feeling so lost after she was finally found, but she continued detailing the first night, when she “fixed my eyes around the dark” and waited in fear.

Students found it hard to not be moved by these colorful excerpts, which even inspired some in their own writing.

“It messed me up,” said creative writing alumnus Anthony Sutton of Lacy Johnson’s reading. “Her introduction to her series and how it played into her life — it was impactful.”

“I laughed and cried hearing these writings,” said liberal studies senior Karen Mazu. “I especially favored Turchi’s series. He had that cool presence on stage, and this inspired me to aim for higher writing style in the future.”

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