USF English professors Christina Lopez and Bruce Snider joined together Oct. 7 for the English Faculty Fall Colloquium to read excerpts from books they are currently working on. Lopez, a literary scholar, and Snider, a poet, shared these works in progress “to show students that we struggle as well,” demonstrating that creative work is not always polished.
The desire behind the event was to create a communal experience among writers as the vulnerability that comes from sharing one’s work can benefit both the listener and the writer. Mallory Shafer, a junior English major who attended the event, said, “Before choosing this major, I was slightly put off by it, thinking that studying English was pretty uniform, but the colloquium showed how diverse English can be. The presentations explored culture, spirituality, aesthetics, identity, and the human experience.”
Lopez, who is also the director of Chicanx-Latinx studies at USF, shared a book proposal for “Picturing Spiritual Ecologies: Environmental Relations in Latinx Children’s Picture Books.” She said her work highlights how children’s books can be a radical act, and she is interested in what these books say about human relationships to the environment, as well as what they tell us about the relationship between text and image. Her book will touch on Latinx studies, children’s and young adult studies, environmental and ecological studies, and religious studies. In writing, Lopez hopes to connect children’s picture books with ecological theory, and treat them like “Literature with a capital L.”
One example of Lopez’s work centers on the book “Little Night/Nochecita,” a bilingual picture book by Yuyi Morales focusing on Black and Latina women. In the book, Morales associates women with the night sky as a form of productive myth storytelling, where fantastical images are used to create positive and empowering associations. Lopez shared images from the project because she wanted the audience to imagine the kind of beauty that can exist in these picture books.
Snider’s book, “High Lonesome Sound,” is a collection of poetry Snider described as a long, personal story, including thinking poems, in which he philosophizes on ideas of sound, high and low culture, and the relationship between country music and queerness. Snider read three poems from his book, “Reading the Book of American Murder Ballads I Remember Reading,” “When our Father Forgets the Last Verse of George Straight’s ‘Foolhardy Memory’,” and “Listening to ‘I’m so Lonesome I Could Cry’ on my iPhone.” Snider described his poetry as a combination of different elements, including references to country music, literary authors, scientific language, and the idea of embodying a story.
Snider explained that country music, which he grew up with, is often dismissed as a lower class art form. He also expressed the idea that as he grew up, he believed that urban queer culture was the only legitimate queer culture, and so he wrote poems about what he thought he was supposed to write about. Snider wants to encourage young writers to write about their true experiences, rather than performing their identity in the way they feel is expected of them.
Throughout the event, the two writers’ works were placed side by side, inviting the audience to see the similarities between them. The creators wanted to include examples of literary scholarship and creative work, both of which are central elements of the English department at USF. Lopez says that Snider’s work “gives me things to think about —the idea of listening and sound is what we do as literary scholars.”
Snider agreed that their works complemented each other. “Despite all the differences in our forms and our approaches, both my and Professor Lopez’s work seems engaged with how literature is a bodily/embodied experience,” said Snider in an email.
Explaining what she took away from the event, Jessie Lee, a senior nursing major, said, “Through poetry, and art itself, many people can come together with seemingly different interests, but there’s always a common ground in all of us that we live through human experiences. I felt like my humanity was celebrated in this event.”