|SHSU poet Melissa Morphew will discuss the connection between her work and her past on "The Art of Living," on Tuesday (Jan. 20), at 7:30 p.m. on Veria TV (Dish Network channel 9575).|
Using poetry as a way to deal with emotions is a practice associate professor of English Melissa Morphew is more than familiar with.
One of Sam Houston State University’s resident poets, Morphew used her experiences of losing two siblings for her book of poetry "Weeding Borges' Garden," which will be published next year by Turning Point Press.
An award-winning poem from that book, “Broken: Blue,” garnered the attention of “The Art of Living,” a Veria TV television show exclusive to the Dish Network, and the show’s producers visited the SHSU campus last spring to interview Morphew on how she uses her poetry in connection with the things that have happened in her life.
The episode, “Recovery and Renewal,” will air Tuesday (Jan. 20) from 7:30-8 p.m. on Dish Network channel 9575.
“The producer found on the Internet where I had read the poem in New York; they have a streaming audio of me reading it,” Morphew said. “I do a little preface where I talk about how the poem was inspired by the death of my brother, and then my sister, and my mother and family having to deal with it.
“She really loved the poem and my explanation,” she said. “They interviewed me about how poetry can help you recover from traumatic events in your life, especially grief.”
A meditation on grief, “Weeding Borges’ Garden” is a series of poems that tell the story of a woman who reveals occurrences in her life, including the death of her 5-year-old daughter and being abandoned by both her lover and her mother, through flashbacks while weeding her garden.
“With that whole series, to a certain extent, I wanted to look at all the different aspects of grief: grief from losing someone because they are dead, but also it deals with losing someone because of failed romantic relationships, losing someone because they are too distant to connect with you emotionally,” she said. “It’s all different kinds of grief.”
Tapping into her own sorrow for the book, as well as placing herself in her mother’s position to experience the grief she felt in losing two children, Morphew discussed how putting those feelings into a fictional context helped her deal with the emotion of writing about something so difficult.
“Sometimes things are so close to you and so hard to deal with that you can’t deal with them by talking about them in a straightforward sort of way,” Morphew said. “For me it was easier to put it in a fictional context and deal with it. I could talk about it in a way that when I needed distance, I could get distance, but then when I wanted to reveal something, I could also reveal something.”
While the art itself can be therapeutic, Morphew said she hopes that sharing such grief can help others deal with their own.
“I think in part whenever I do write something, I’m hoping that it will touch people and help them,” she said. “William Falkner, when he accepted the Nobel Prize in Literature, said that all good literature deals with the human heart in conflict with itself.”
As part of the interview, Morphew also offered advice on dealing with grief.
“I think for everybody, it’s good to talk to somebody; grief counseling is a good thing,” she said. “One of my nephews, the youngest one, he and I were painting together not very long after it (her brother’s accident) happened, and his paintings started getting more and more gruesome.
“Instead of being horrified, I realized he was working out what he needed to work out,” Morphew said. “He had lost his father, and his mother, my sister-in-law, got killed in the car wreck. So you know there was a lot of stuff going on in his head.
“I think everybody, to a certain extent, has to figure out their own way to work through it,” she said.
Like the “The Art of Living,” which emphasizes using art to healthily express emotions, Morphew said she is a proponent of people finding constructive ways of dealing with emotions.
“Even people who don’t have an artistic bent, just doing something with your hands, doing something that lets you get what’s inside out, helps,” she said.
For non-Dish Network subscribers, the episode will also be available on Verizon FiOS (Fiber-Optic Television) and online on AOL TV.
Because the interview included footage of the SHSU campus and also focused on techniques she uses in her classes, Morphew said she thinks it “will be a nice little plug for students who might be interested in coming here to study creative writing.
“I was very flattered,” she said. “One of the poets they’ve interviewed is Jack Myers, whom I really admire and who also lives here in Texas. He actually has written a textbook that I love to use in my graduate classes. So I was quite honored to be in company with Jack Myers, because he really is one of my heroes in the poetry world.”
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Houston Chronicle education writer Jeannie Kever recently turned to Regents Professor of English Paul Ruffin for his views on university presses moving toward "digital books" as opposed to traditional ink-on-paper."We're fulfilling the ancient role of the university press, and that is to produce books," said Paul Ruffin, the Texas poet laureate for 2009 and director of the Texas Review Press at Sam Houston State University. "I don't want to give up the book because it is an art."
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