Who Is Greg Brownderville?

Award-winning Poet Visits Cistercian's Creative Writing Class

Photo via www.smu.edu

Photo via www.smu.edu

Fielding Brown, Nest Editor

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You know that guest speakers are a big deal when five faculty members sit in on the class during their own off periods. Mr. Gregg’s creative writing elective, which normally consisted of 6 students, now almost took up half of room VIIB. Everyone was eagerly waiting for what our guest had to say.

When Greg Brownderville — poet, SMU creative writing teacher, new editor of the Southwest Review — entered our classroom, the audience was presented a bearded man in a brown tweed jacket who, at first glance, looked nothing like the imagined poet. Appearance aside, he had a country accent so authentic that it could only have come from Pumpkin Bend, Arkansas. He was a country boy, but he was also a poet through and through.

He began his lecture by challenging our notion of what it meant to be a poet. Greg Brownderville called himself a “collector of words”, and this, he said, was exactly what a poet was. Through out his life, Mr. Brownderville had been writing down the dialect of the world around him and began storing the memories that came along with it. He had compiled hundreds and hundreds of pages, chock full of words and phrases he had heard in Pumpkin Bend and other places where his life had taken him.

He painted a picture of an old woman who used to collect driftwood to make sculptures out of. He introduced us to a botanist that would take him through the woods, pointing out the names of the trees and what they were useful for. He shared the emotion of a passing of an old friend who he would sing gospel music with. He would recount all of these wonderful stories and then he would read his poetry, and almost every aspect of the verse was taken straight from his own life experiences.

He ended his talk by issuing a challenge: “Become a collector of language. Date the world like a clingy girlfriend, and jot down everything it has to say so that you can hold on to it. Because if you collect enough words, at some point you start to see connections, and the seemingly unrelated things that you wrote down seem to stick together. Poetry can come from anyone, anywhere, and all you need to create it are the images around you.”

Mr. Brownderville’s Bio on SMU

Greg Brownderville has published a book of poems titled Gust (Northwestern University Press/TriQuarterly, 2011) and a book of folkloristic poems and paintings titled Deep Down in the Delta (Butler Center Books, 2012). His third book, a collection of poems titled A Horse with Holes in It (LSU Press, Southern Messenger Poets series), is slated for release in fall 2016. Brownderville teaches  Introduction to Creative Writing and upper-level poetry workshop.

brownderville

Greg Brownderville (third from left) visits with students Jose Baquero, Jimmy Garda, Fielding Brown, Nick Williamson, Jake FitzGerald, and Patrick McClain

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1 Comment

One Response to “Who Is Greg Brownderville?”

  1. Lisa Hernandez on January 13th, 2016 11:06 am

    Getting to sit in on Mr. Brownderville’s talk was a fantastic experience. I found what he had to say captivating and inspirational. Taking the time to attend the elective alongside students was well worth it. Mr. Brownderville has a way of speaking that I found quite pleasant; not everyone can speak as he does and clearly convey such vivid images, “country-boy” accent and all. It has been a long time since I bothered writing poetry, as I had shelved it as something I did as a passionate, reckless, confused teenager and there was no time or need to pick it up again. But I was wrong. Poetry is not just for communicating emotions, but rather a way to use words, phrases, and experiences to paint images–to preserve and connect memories.

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