Hallie Ford Literary Series features poet Arisa White at WU Sept. 25

by University Communications,

“As writers, don’t be afraid of your lives, your way of looking at the world,” says poet and writer Arisa White, advising aspiring authors. “Really learn to trust your voice. Sometimes that can be scary, but it’s going to teach you about who you are.”

Through the Hallie Ford Literary Series, White will give a free reading of her work Sept. 25 at 7:30 p.m. in the Hatfield Room of the Hatfield Library.

White will read from her two most recent publications, “Hurrah’s Nest” and “A Penny Saved.” “Hurrah’s Nest” is a collection of poems that explore White’s childhood in Brooklyn, N.Y., where she makes sense of her Caribbean and African-American heritage, her parents’ abusive relationship, and the struggles she faces as the oldest daughter of seven children.

Her other poetic publication, “A Penny Saved,” addresses the concept of captivity while in a domestic relationship. The collection is inspired by the story of Polly Mitchell, a woman held captive for 10 years in her own home with her children in Omaha, Neb.

“The subject matter is used to look critically at ourselves as a society and as individuals,” White says. “I wanted to look at the role of violence as an entity in relationships and ask how we shape ourselves around these social issues.”

Scott Nadelson, assistant professor of English and Hallie Ford Chair in Writing, says he’s pleased to introduce the community to White. To him, the series serves two key functions; to give students an educational learning experience with professional writers and to show students that writing is a vibrant, living thing. Because Salem has few opportunities for students to meet and work with professional writers, he says the series provides a central place for literary life.

Looking forward to meeting with members of the Willamette community, White says she encourages students and future writers to step out of their comfort zones and allow themselves to “open up to things far more glorious.”

“We are here to do something,” she says. “Figure out what that is and do it.”

The Hallie Ford Literary Series features poets, novelists, short story writers and others, who are brought to campus each semester by members of the English Department to meet with students and to discuss the writing process and the significance of writing.

The next presenter is Lydia Davis, winner of the Man Booker International Prize, who will visit Willamette Oct. 24.