An Afternoon with Michael Klein:Exposing Students to Local Color

Adam, our guest blogger, attended Michael Klein's
reading on Oct. 8. He reminds us that great literature might be right
next door. Should we take Adam's advice and invite it in?

by Adam
ODU students gathered at the University Theatre for a poetry reading by Michael Klein as part of the 36th Annual Literary Festival.  Klein read both old and new works of poetry from his books and answered questions following the event.  Much of Klein’s contemporary works covered sexuality, love, fear, personal loss and death. 

 Klein spoke candidly about his notoriety, “I won an award and thought more people will read my books, but it’s poetry, the most mysterious of the arts.” Klein’s wit and self-deprecating humor drew energy from the crowd of students.  Klein was described by colleagues as having an “intense presence, even when he doesn’t intend to.” Klein dominates the stage with his presence and witty banter.  He remarked to the crowd, “The poetry is nothing, my patter is more important” as he engaged in lighthearted affair. 

Klein believes all poetry stems, “not from life and death, but love and fear.” He read works regarding abuse, homosexuality, and even the death of his twin brother.  “It’s hard to write about my brother, because he’s always a ghost […] I can’t bring him back to life.” 

 Klein reminded everyone including myself how much poetry allows for the writer to bear one’s soul upon the page.  He remarked how difficult it was to read his work aloud, and it is a testament to his strength of character that he was willing to share aloud the inner workings of his mind, heart and soul. 

Local authors can help students relate to literature by putting a face onto the black and white tundra of a written work.  Klein stresses the importance of taking the time to just, “read, read, read” in order to find one’s voice and appreciate poetry.  The opportunity for educators to expose students to local color is an ideal way to encourage an appreciation for the arts.  True art can come from anywhere, even from their neighbors and colleagues.  Exposing students to local authors makes poetry and other written works come alive.

In closing, local authors can be a valuable resource to educators, enhancing the way we teach literature by providing written works which reflect the flavor and local color of their community.
Bringing these local artists into the classroom puts literature into a new perspective: literature is a living, breathing art which belongs to everyone.
Local authors allow us to put literary works, which can be so distant to our students, within their grasp. More than anything else, we as educators can allow our students to connect to and reflect upon how literature reflects their own life experiences.

How can we incorporate more local works into our lesson plans?

Do you agree/disagree with bringing more local color into our classrooms? Is literature limited to just "the classics"?

How can we promote local works/writers to our students?