UNO’s Reading Series Features Poet, Traci Brimhall

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March 30th, 2017

Omaha, NE—UNO’s Writer’s Workshop hosted poet Traci Brimhall on March 15 as part of the school’s Reading Series. The reading Series offers students and the public a chance to learn more about contemporary authors and the craft of writing.

Brimhall’s poetry is born out of imagination, weaving images and fantastical stories to create something like mythology in verse.

She has written three collections of poetry and a children’s book. After the reading, Brimhall stopped by the studio to talk more about her work and thoughts on writing. Among the topics discussed: Brazil, dancing, X-Men and more.

Brimhall’s latest collection, Saudade will come out in the fall this year. She explained the origin of the title, a Portuguese word with no direct English translation.

“People will say it’s this inexpressible longing or this longing that’s impossible,” Brimhall said, “and my sense of it too is in Portugal—European Portuguese—it was very much about longing for a person, and in Brazilian Portuguese there was more of a longing for a place attached to it, and when I was down in Brazil a couple years ago, I met a man who said he comes back every few years to ‘matar a saudades,”which is to kill the longing. So you have to go to the place, and it’s only an approximation of the place that you long for, so I think it’s close to this nostalgia word.”

Speaking on the title, Brimhall elaborated on the inspiration behind the collection.

“My mom would tell me stories about Brazil growing up all the time and it was key to my imaginative formation,” Brimhall said. “And so I had all these stories, and I came up with all these ideas, and I had a whole setting for my mom and the way that I imagined her childhood and the way you imagine your parents who are sort of Gods to you when you’re a child in their childhood, or how do you imagine your gods when they were innocent.”

“And so the place was very formative for me,” Brimhall explained, “ so when I started to write this book—I’d never been—and it was about this place that I’d never been to but longed for, and I sort of used some of my mom’s stories but just transformed them with my imagination.”

During the reading and her time in the studio, Brimhall discussed her process of writing and some advice that might help other writers.

“I think to be any kind of artist,” Brimhall said, “you have to have an ancestry. There are people that just out of nowhere, no one’s ever heard of them and they produce this mind blowing visionary art, but I think usually people are reading other people if they’re writers or if they’re artists they’re viewing other art. If you’re a musician you’re probaby listening to music and if not, why wouldn’t you? Also, I think people are afraid to be influenced. They don’t want to go to anyone else’s closet. They want to reinvent fashion right out the gate rather than going in looking at other people’s closets and yeah, we don’t wear corsets anymore, but they’re kind of fun to try on. Let’s see what that restrictive form does for you. What does that teach you about your body, how you wear clothes, of course, still using the metaphor of influence and style and how that changes. But I want to have that heritage.”

Brimhall’s next book of poetry, Saudade, will arrive in the fall this year. Her recent children’s book and companion to Saudade, Sophia & the Boy Who Fell, is available now.

The Reading Series continues with two UNO alumni, poets Michael Catherwood and Tim Greenup, on Wednesday, March 29th. For more information about the reading, search “UNO Writer’s Workshop” online. Check below to hear more of our conversation with Traci Brimhall.

Brimhall on dancing.

Brimhall on inspiration.

Brimhall on TV vs poetry

Brimhall on visual art.

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