Guest poet shares work and life experience with students

By Lauren Hunter
Staff Writer

On Feb. 26, the Center for Beauty sponsored the first poetry reading of the Arts and Culture series for the spring semester at 6 p.m. in the Gentile Gallery. 

Renowned American Catholic poet, James Matthew Wilson, was invited to campus to give the reading. Wilson is the Cullen Foundation Chair in Poetry and a founding MFA Program in Creative Writing faculty member at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas. 

Franciscan University English Department faculty members were in the audience, including Stephen Lewis and Aaron Urbanczyk. Urbanczyk introduced Wilson and gave the audience the background of Wilson’s education and accomplishments. 

Wilson told the audience that his topic for the evening of poetry would be a general overview of his career as a poet, as well as sharing some of his own work across his six books of poetry, including from “Saint Thomas and the Forbidden Birds,” which is to be released this year. 

Wilson first said what drew him to become a poet was an encounter with poetry at the University of Michigan during his undergraduate years. 

“Whatever [my professor] may have intended to teach us that day, I spent the whole rest of the class period trying to write one line of iambic pentameter,” said Wilson. 

“I felt alive with this kind of holy glow that this is somehow impossible to do…,” continued Wilson, adding that this was his turning point from writing prose fiction to writing poetry. 

Once Wilson finished his story of how he became a poet, he moved to sharing some excerpts from his books and the stories that were behind each of them. This inspiration ranged from Wilson’s daughter to a new house to the COVID pandemic. 

The poems included excerpts from “Four Verse Letters,” “The Hanging God,” “Some Permanent Things,” “The River of the Immaculate Conception” and “The Strangeness of the Good.”  

Following the reading of poetry, there was a Q&A session for the audience to interact with Wilson. The poet’s books were on sale after the talk.