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Visiting Writers' Workshop faculty members give reading

BY SAMANTHA GENTRY | MARCH 22, 2012 6:30 AM

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Best-selling fiction writer Andrew Greer takes great inspiration from poets because, he said, they "do all the heavy lifting" for writers in other areas, including him.

"They drag words out of the muck of misuse and the deafness of modern living and bring it to life again, to shock us, surprise us, and make us hear and see," he said.

He said a poet's process is remarkable and inspiring to him, and that is why he looks forward to reading with colleague Dora Malech.

"[Malech] makes such wonderful use of language, turning around familiar phrases, showing us beautiful words when we know something is in danger just outside our vision," Greer said.

The two writers will read together for the first time at 8 p.m. Friday in the Dey House Frank Conroy Reading Room. Admission is free.

Both writers are faculty members in the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and they value their experiences as part of the program.

For this reading, the two will bring what they teach in the classroom to life as they share their individual work.

Malech will read some new poems and also poems from her two published collections, Say So and Shore Ordered Ocean.

She is in the process of writing her third collection of poems and said she believes she found inspiration everywhere, including personal relationships, politics, language, and the poems of others.

"It's pretty early in the process right now to have anything insightful to say about it," Malech said. "I'm just feeling my way in."

Greer plans to read from a book that he is finishing, about a woman who visits her life as if she had been born in various time periods. He said there might also be some sort of musical accompaniment during his performance.

Because writing a novel takes years, he said, he often doesn't work on something new while he is trying to finish a piece.

However, he has written a few things during his time at the UI.

"I have written a short story while I'm here, and I am working on a short piece about the Theater Museum Repertoire Americana in Mount Pleasant, which I visited with poet D.A. Powell," he said.

As the two authors develop their writing careers at the UI, they agree that teaching allows them to explore a new component of the creative process.

"My students are amazing; their poetry engages and astounds me," Malech said. "I love being a part of their creative community in and out of the classroom."

Greer has similar beliefs, saying it's a great joy to try to lead the writers along the right path.

"The writers at Iowa are so smart and talented and a delight to work with," he said. "They have such amazing potential."

When asked if he had any advice for aspiring writers or his students, he said to have "equal parts arrogance and doubt."

"Too much arrogance, and you'll write something unreadable. Too much doubt, and you'll never make anything new," Greer said. "Go forth and make something no one has ever seen before."


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