7 pm | FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 23
The Yavapai College Literary Southwest Series presents memoirist, poet, journalist, and cultural ambassador, Christopher Merrill, who will read excerpts from his works. A discussion will follow. The author’s books will be available for purchase at the event and at the Peregrine Book Company.
EVENT LOCATION: Yavapai College Library, Susan N. Webb Community Room, Building 19, Room 147. All readings are free and open to the public.
About the Author
Christopher Merrill has published six collections of poetry, including Watch Fire, for which he received the Lavan Younger Poets Award from the Academy of American Poets; many edited volumes and translations; and six books of nonfiction, among them, Only the Nails Remain: Scenes from the Balkan Wars, Things of the Hidden God: Journey to the Holy Mountain, and The Tree of the Doves: Ceremony, Expedition, War. His most recent book is the memoir Self-Portrait with Dogwood. His writings have been translated into nearly forty languages and his journalism appears widely. His honors include a Chevalier from the French government in the Order of Arts and Letters. As director of the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa, Merrill has conducted cultural diplomacy missions to more than fifty countries. He serves on the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO, and, in April 2012, President Barack Obama appointed him to the National Council on the Humanities.
About the Author's Books
Self-Portrait with Dogwood • In the course of researching dogwood trees, beloved poet and essayist Christopher Merrill realized that a number of formative moments in his life had some connection to the tree named--according to one writer--because its fruit was not fit for a dog. As he approached his sixtieth birthday, Merrill began to compose a self-portrait alongside this tree whose lifespan is comparable to a human's and that, from an early age, he's regarded as a talisman. Dogwoods have never been far from Merrill's view at significant moments throughout his life, helping to shape his understanding of place in the great chain of being; entwined in his experience is the conviction that our relationship to the natural world is central to our walk in the sun. The feeling of a connection to nature has become more acute as his life has taken him to distant corners of the earth, often to war zones where he has witnessed not only humankind's propensity for violence and evil but also the enduring power of connections that can be forged across languages, borders, and politics. Dogwoods teach us persistence humility and wonder. Self-Portrait with Dogwood is no ordinary memoir, but rather the work of a traveler who has crisscrossed the country and the globe in search of ways to make sense of his time here. Merrill provides new ways of thinking about personal history, the environment, politics, faith, and the power of the written word. In his descriptions of places far and near, many outside of the average American's purview—a besieged city in Bosnia, a hidden path in a Taiwanese park, Tolstoy's country house in Russia, a castle in Slovakia, a blossoming dogwood at daybreak in Seattle—the reader's understanding of the world will flourish as well.
Things of the Hidden God • "If I had learned anything during the war, it was that our walk in the sun is brief, and so I resolved to wander from monastery to monastery, a sojourner in the world of last things." So poet and journalist Christopher Merrill tells us near the beginning of this gripping account of the transforming pilgrimages he made to Mount Athos, in Greece, in the aftermath of the Balkan wars of the 1990s. "It was time for me to come to terms with the way my life had turned out: the love I had squandered, the misgivings I had about my vocation and my faith, the dread I felt at every turn." In despair and longing to end his spiritual desolation, Merrill became one of a handful of visitors permitted entry to Mount Athos—a mysterious land that for more than a thousand years has been the secret heart of the Eastern Orthodox Church. There, amid the beautiful terrain, the ancient rhythms, and the spiritual rigor of this holy place, he found a haven.
Watch Fire • Winner of the Peter I. B. Lavan Younger Poets Award from the Academy of American Poets.
Watch Fire is a collection including poems from Christopher Merrill's first two books as well as later poems. It concludes with his exquisite long poem "Luck," which begins "For those not born to wealth or royalty, / Luck's a language learned by fits and starts." Merrill treats the fickleness of fate—and humanity's attempts to define fate—with both poignancy and humor. His imagery enters the mind like a new dialect, not with trite or clichéd metaphors, but startling and uncommon word pictures that heighten the mood as well as the senses, such as in "The Rope": "Your eyes, when you turn away, burn black—before you disappear, / leaving on the sidewalk a trail of charcoal."