“Colorful as a rainbow.”
This was how senior Mary Slebodnik described the work of Mark Brazaitis, an award-winning poet, in her introduction on Jan. 26 when Brazaitis read from his collected works in the Bayley Room of Beeghly Library.
Slebodnik also introduced him as a father, the basketball coach of his daughter’s team, and a political columnist in Cleveland.
Brazaitis is also the director of the creative writing program at West Virginia University and the winner of the ABZ Poetry Prize.
He was also awarded the Benedum Distinguished Scholar Award by West Virginia University.
His book of poetry, “The Other Language,” is composed of work inspired by his time spent in Guatemala.
Brazaitis was sent to Guatemala as a Peace Corps volunteer, turning what might be considered a cliché out-of-college experience into a collection of literary merit.
Some of the poems delve into the effects of a 36 year civil war in Guatemala, recounting tales from the people he encountered.
Brazaitis also examines the complications of being American in Guatemala.
In his poem, “Conversations in Wartime,” Brazaitis talks about Americans he met who “…spent their careers amid this war that isn’t theirs.”
He posed the audience with a question:
“When you’re abroad and you see something you don’t like, what do you do?”
His reading ended with a less serious but engaging story called, “The Boy Behind the Tree,” a piece about a son wanting to live up to his father’s ideals.
Senior Diane Bizarro was fond of Brazaitis’ reading.
“I really enjoyed the range of things he read. The subject matter crossed a lot of genres,” Bizarro said.
Senior Steffany King had a preference for his poetry over his other work.
“The themes related to my recent experiences abroad,” said King, who had recently studied in Germany.
English majors such as Bizarro and King are required to attend 10 of these poet and writers’ readings hosted by the English department. The styles and genres of authors greatly vary, exposing students to a wide range of work.
When Brazaitis was asked about advice for aspiring writers he said, “It is important to write often. Whether it’s writing in a journal, or old-fashioned letters to friends, or long emails, or even writing for the newspaper.”
He also emphasized the need to have “meaningful experiences.” His last bit of advice was to “have an adventure after graduation.”