Fathers provide inspiration behind works, authors share experiences through poetry

Shreya Banerjee

For some writers, life experiences and a relationship with one’s parents can provide a great amount of inspiration.

The Michener Center for Writers, UT’s three-year residency program for students earning an MFA in writing, sponsored an event Wednesday night, featuring authors Naomi Shihab Nye and Joseph Skibell. Nye is a professor for the Michener fellow program and Skibell graduated from the program in 1996. The two authors chose pieces which reflected their lives and the events that shaped them. A common theme between Skibell and Nye’s works was the influence their fathers had on their lives.

Skibell is currently working on a book inspired by his love of guitars and a trip with his daughter to interview guitar players around the country. Skibell shared the story of when his father became sick and handed down his guitar to Skibell, which eventually prompted him to write about it. Nye is also in the process of publishing a collection of poems inspired by her father.

At the event, Skibell read an excerpt from his work, “A Curable Romantic” where the lead character discusses his experience of being Jewish and his relationship with his father.

“So many things happen in life,” Skibell said. “Life is more interesting when you have a project in mind.”

Nye shared a poem with attendees about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and how Palestinians were removed from their homes. Nye’s father, a Palestinian, was a journalist and she said news articles about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict haunted him for his entire life.

“I believe Jews and Arabs can share that small plot of land peacefully,” Nye said.

Nye also read a collection of poems which were inspired by her travels in America and abroad. One particular piece was inspired by her time at Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s house in Massachusetts.

“I wanted to write a poem about Longfellow and those writers who inspired me in my childhood,” Nye said.

Several students from the Michener Center attended the event.

“Naomi is an extraordinarily gifted and generous teacher and that reflects in her work,” said Abe Koogler, a first year Michener Fellow.