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Hudgins' Poetry Balances Humor and Pathos, Reading at Murray State

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Book Cover, goodreads.com
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Poet and essayist Andrew Hudgins is a guest author for the 2015 July Reading Series of the Murray State University MFA in Creative Writing Program, presenting Sunday at 6 p.m. in Clara M. Eagle Gallery. He was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for his collection Saints and Strangers and winner of the Poetry Prize for After the Lost War. Murray State professor of English and published poet Peter Murphy speaks with Hudgins about his art on Sounds Good.

People tend to fall into either the formalist or free verse camps of writing poetry. While largely a formalist, Hudgins says there are many great free verse writers and a good number of people who move between the two like Donald Justice. Some of the formalists he admires are Richard Wilbur and Anthony Hicks.

On his work A Clown at Midnight, Hudgins says a lot of jokes have a dark twist or amoral edge that expose the limits of our thinking and understanding of morality and mortality. We laugh because we are shocked. Sometimes it's a reversal of thinking that shocks us and we realize we are holding two separate ways of thinking. In the piece, the clown is not in his proper place, and yet we're told that laughter is a happy expression. Many things that give rise to humor are things that come from serious topics.

Hudgins' memoir The Joker was about growing up male in the South in the 1960s and 70s. "It was a very masculine world, a world where our roles were very determined for you by society as was to a large extent one's faith. These were things that I struggled with and thought about and hearing jokes and actually thinking about jokes, parsing them and pulling them apart was a crucial part of my growing up."

For people just getting started out in their writing, Hudgins' advice is to read. Read what you enjoy, he says, and let that reading expand what you enjoy. He suggests not just reading poems, but reading things about the poetry. You'd be surprised how deep other people's insights take you into something, he says.

Hudgins' first poetry collection, Saints and Strangers, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 1985. His book-length narrative poem, After the Lost War, won the Poetry Prize in 1988 and he has written seven other volumes of poetry; three volumes of non-fiction. Hudgins teaches creative writing at Ohio State University and is a frequent faculty member for summer Sewanee Writers' Conferences at The University of the South.

The July Reading series of the Murray State MFA program in creative writing features poet and essayist Andrew Hudgins of Ohio State University, Sunday at 6 p.m. in Clara M. Eagle Gallery, sixth floor, Price Doyle Fine Arts Building, near 15th and Olive. The reading is not only for participants in the degree program, it's open to everyone.

Murray State Professor of English and poet Peter Murphy is our guest interviewer.

Matt Markgraf joined the WKMS team as a student in January 2007. He's served in a variety of roles over the years: as News Director March 2016-September 2019 and previously as the New Media & Promotions Coordinator beginning in 2011. Prior to that, he was a graduate and undergraduate assistant. He is currently the host of the international music show Imported on Sunday nights at 10 p.m.
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