Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

UA alums promote literacy through poetry readings

Returning back to their creative roots, two Master of Fine Arts graduates from the University of Alabama, Jeanie Thompson and Abraham Smith, hosted a poetry reading on campus, bringing to light various statewide arts programs in honor of National Poetry Month.

The Alabama Writers’ Forum, a group focused on the advancement of literature throughout the state, organized the event in association with the Alabama Center for the Book, which is headquartered in Gorgas Library of the UA campus. The Center for the Book is a national project to strengthen literacy within each state.

“We hosted this event to try to let the public know about the Alabama Center for the Book and establish a presence here on campus,” said Donna Adcock, public relations director for the University libraries and the Alabama Center for the Book. “We are working together with the Alabama Writers’ Forum to promote reading and literacy, but ultimately, we are trying to promote these writers.”

Thompson and Smith, who graduated from the university’s MFA program in 1977 and 2004, respectively, were both recently selected as the 2012 Alabama State Council on the Arts literature fellows. This fellowship for artistic excellence and service to the community includes a $5,000 award to assist the recipients in taking their next career steps.

“Everyone should have a consciousness that there’s a circling back  here,” said Thompson, who also serves as the executive director of the Alabama Writer’s Forum. “It was just a natural thing to have the reading at the university that both of the writers graduated from in honor of both of our fellowships.”

As a founding editor of the Black Warrior Review, Thompson enjoyed returning to campus. However, her main focus of the night was fostering the relationship between the various statewide arts programs and reading selections from her developing new book for the first time. The collection of poetry, titled The Myth of W-a-t-e-r, delves into the life of Alabama native Helen Keller, with both fiction and nonfiction aspects.

“Helen Keller was probably a genius and some sort of saint,” Thompson said. “But she had feelings, emotions and desires just like everyone else.”

Smith is an English professor at UA and the assistant editor of Slash Pine Press. He used the event to recite and perform a variety of his poems, which proved to enhance the feeling of community on campus.

“It was exciting to read my poetry in front of fellow faculty and staff,” Smith said. “Everyone gets nervous when reading their own material. Stage fright has to be there. But it grows bonds of community the stronger.”

Audience members enjoyed the readings as an enlightening and engaging experience.

“It is really great that we have the ability to attend cultural events such as these,” said sophomore English student Joey Gamble. “There was a variety of different readings — each poet had their own style. It’s great that as students, or as non-students, we can have a forum to showcase these differences.”

Both Thompson and Smith will perform another reading in Montgomery on April 21 in the poetry tent of the Alabama Book Festival.

More to Discover