A&M-Commerce’s Literature and Languages Department welcomed two southern writers as part of the author series initiated by Department Head Hunter Hayes last year. Novelist Michael Farris Smith and poet R. Flowers Rivera read from their works and chatted with students and faculty members after their readings.
“We just have different stories to tell in the South,” Smith tells a student who’s asked him to compare New York writers and southern writers. His book “Rivers” (Simon & Schuster), a dystopian novel inspired by Hurricane Katrina and the Gulf Coast in general, has been praised widely. After Smith reads a selection, it is easy to see that the praise is well-deserved. Simon & Schuster recently announced a commission for Smith to write a prequel to “Rivers.”
In addition to being a famous novelist, Smith is also an associate professor of English at Mississippi University for Women.
Like Smith, poet and fiction writer R. Flowers Rivera draws on southern imagery and mythology in her poetry collection “Troubling Accents” (Xavier Review Press). During her reading, Rivera turns a little speaker toward her audience of literature and language students, and a few chords of Bessie Smith’s singing fill the room. She sets the stage for each of her poems by talking about what inspired her or by playing a bit of music. A student asks her about publishing and contests. Rivera smiles and says, “I am the queen of almost. I was constantly getting honorable mention or runner up. I’m too old to wait around for all of that. If you want to publish, you can do it the traditional way, but there are all sorts of other ways.” “Troubling Accents” has proven to be so popular that Xavier Review Press is going into a third printing.