Extravagant Stranger: a Reading by Daniel Roy Connelly

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Professor Daniel Roy Connelly

Professor Daniel Roy Connelly

On Wednesday, September 20, the JCU Institute of Creative Writing and Literary Translation hosted a reading by JCU English Professor Daniel Roy Connelly, actor, theater director, and Shakespeare scholar, as well as former diplomat. He has directed theater on three continents and was until 2010 the Artistic Director of Zuloo Theatre in Shanghai, where his production of David Henry Hwang’s ‘M Butterfly’ was forced to close down by the Chinese secret police.

Prof. Connelly presented his memoir Extravagant Stranger, written in 75 blocks of poetic text, mostly under 300 words, launched in London last July. According to the publisher’s synopsis, “At once personal and hauntingly universal, Extravagant Stranger is the compelling memoir of self-professed ‘global scalliwag’ Daniel Roy Connelly […].”

Prof. Connelly began his presentation by confessing that it was going to be a journey into his intimate life experiences and shared a few details about how he came to write the memoir. He explained that the decision to write Extravagant Stranger was simply the result of collating over 20 years’ worth of material.

When asked why he chose this particular genre, Connelly replied, “Prose poems allow for a certain controlled randomness, for developing a narrative in a way that I find line-broken poetry denies. It’s not that I have a preference for one form over another, just that these blocks of text are how my stories came to mind.”

The central part of the book is devoted to Connelly’s life in Italy, in particular, Rome and Florence. In the poem “Immaculate,” Connelly describes a quintessential Roman scene:

It is a December morning in Rome for which the world Immaculate exists. The sky is baby blue and spotless. In my long-sleeved shirt I could be a general returned from the Gallic Wars, pine trees arching my entry to the Villa Borghese, weeds waving scrolls in the breeze, ancient statues of gods and great men living up to shake my hand, the gravel patch cracking beneath my feet as I parade from one side of the park to the other. This is how to live, like the sun, triumphal, whatever.

“It was such a pleasure hosting a reading for one of our colleagues. Professor Connelly is a mesmerizing reader and his poems are breathtakingly frank,” said Professor Carlos Dews, Director of the Institute for Creative Writing and Literary Translation.