Eugene Gloria begins Adamson writers series

The creative writing program offered its first speaker of the year in the Adamson Visiting Writers Series last Thursday night, welcoming accomplished poet Eugene Gloria. Introducing Gloria, faculty member Yona Harvey said, “His poems combine history, heritage, vulnerability, and art alongside myth.” Harvey also mentioned the glowing review of Gloria’s second collection, Hoodlum Birds, by United States Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky.

Terrance Hayes, a creative writing professor, explained how Carnegie Mellon pursued Gloria. The department tends to look for “interesting work across the country,” often drawing from work professors use in their classes.

Hayes admitted being apprehensive because no one on the faculty had seen Gloria read. “It was a gamble just based on his work, but it was a risk rewarded,” he said. Hayes had read Gloria’s books, but was unsure of if the speaker would hold the audience’s attention with his performance. Hayes was pleased with the result: “He told jokes; people laughed.”

Gloria is a professor at DePauw University and a teacher of both English and creative writing. After receiving his bachelor’s degree from San Francisco State University and his M.A. from The Ohio State University, he became a graduate student at the University of Oregon working toward his MFA.

Gloria, a Pushcart Prize and American Society of Poetry award recipient, recommended graduate school to his audience, remembering how positive it felt to be treated as a writer before actually becoming one. His days, he recalled, were full of sunshine, but after recounting a story about a crappy car he owned at that time, he admitted, “Maybe they weren’t happy times. I was just stupid.”

During his reading, Gloria read from both Hoodlum Birds (2006) and its predecessor, Drivers at the Short-Time Motel (2000), both published by Penguin. Drivers at the Short-Time Motel was short-listed for both the 1999 National Poetry Series and the 2001 Asian American Literary Award.

Gloria opened with a work-in-progress titled “Apple,” explaining that it was merely a test and not a finished product, before continuing with works from his two books. Gloria’s poems discussed his childhood as a Filipino in the San Francisco Bay area and the imagined troubles of his brother, a veteran, during the Vietnam War. (Gloria grinned later, saying, “The poem makes it seem like he died, but he didn’t. He’s alive. Don’t worry.”) He read several poems about visiting and exploring Spain before retreating to the reception in the Gladys Schmidt Creative Writing Center, where audience members enjoyed pizza and mingled. Gloria sold both of his books and was available to sign copies.

“I was excited for what [his reading] meant for the students,” Hayes said. “He’s Asian-American, and he’s younger. He writes about saints, sex, and being young. I was happy for our audience.”

The Adamson Visiting Writers Series continues Jan. 28, 2008 with Dave Eggers, recently named recipient of one of six Heinz Awards.