Institute for Creative Writing and Literary Translation Welcomes Poet James Arthur
On May 24, the JCU Institute for Creative Writing and Literary Translation welcomed renowned poet and Summer 2022 Writer in Residence, James Arthur, for a reading of his poetry. Having been a student in Rome himself 20 years prior, Arthur said, “I can’t wait to meet the students, staff, and faculty of the Creative Writing Institute. I’m also thrilled at the thought of spending two months living and writing in Rome. I’ve always wanted to return.”
Arthur has written two poetry books, The Suicide’s Son (Véhicule Press, 2019) and Charms Against Lightning (Copper Canyon Press, 2012), and intends to publish a third. His poems have also appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry, The New York Review of Books, The American Poetry Review, The New Republic, and The London Review of Books. He has received the Amy Lowell Travelling Poetry Scholarship, a Hodder Fellowship, a Stegner Fellowship, a Discovery/The Nation Prize, a Fulbright Scholarship to Northern Ireland, and a Visiting Fellowship at Exeter College, Oxford.
Confessing that this was his first in-person reading since before the Covid-19 pandemic, Arthur began to present various poems from his two published works. Drawing from themes he witnesses in his own life, Arthur explained that his poetry is a reflection of the world as he experiences it. One common theme of his is the desire to articulate intricately human feelings and capture them in his writings.
One of his poems, Nostalgia, was inspired by a news story he read about the statue Adam by 15th-century Venetian sculptor Tullio Lombardo crashing to the ground at New York’s Metropolitan Museum. It was painstakingly reconstructed over the course of nearly two decades: “no public images exist/ of the curators sifting/ through every fragment, hoping to rebuild Adam/ from the wreck, but you can imagine/ the disconnected hand/ still gripping the apple.” The image of piecing together the shattered statue helped the audience imagine a similar process in which the author pieces his feelings into the written word.
James Arthur explained that he discovered his love for language and desire to be a writer at age eight, when his father read him the Lord of the Rings trilogy. He found his path to pursue writing in his mid-twenties, but it was not until later, at 28 years old, that he realized he was a poetry writer.
As a professor in the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University, Arthur always encourages his students to discover their own voice and pushes them to question themselves by trying new things. Having been told by a professor during his studies that he was only suited for prose writing, Arthur decided to take the opposite approach in his teaching, as he believes that “if you have a love for it, you can do it.”
After the reading, a reception was held in which Arthur met with the audience and signed copies of his work Suicide’s Son.