Writing center holds Sept. 11 spoken-word event

Amy Hackbarth

On Sept. 12 University professor Michael Dennis Browne wrote a letter to his older sister Angela.

Angela, who died less than a year before the terrorist attacks, remained Browne’s inspiration and compelled him to write a series of prose and poetry about the Sept. 11 attacks.

Browne read one of his poems to Angela, titled “Report to Angela,” at a spoken-word event held in Folwell Hall on Thursday night.

University faculty and students gathered to read excerpts from their writings and share thoughts about the terrorist attacks.

The Center for Interdisciplinary Studies of Writing hosted the event, which stemmed from a staff meeting less than a week after Sept. 11.

“We just looked at each other and asked, ‘What do we do about this?'” said Pamela Flash, associate director of the center.

Unlike previous events where people read about their personal experiences and feelings, Flash said, the center wanted to explore the rhetoric of writing about the war.

“We wanted something different,” Flash said. “We wanted to look at the way we were working around the event.”

Flash said government officials such as Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld have used new definitions of war and terrorism since the attacks.

“There’s a new glossary from this war,” she said. “We wanted to look at that language and define its characteristics.”

Center director Lillian Bridwell-Bowles read a piece that explored her understanding of the definition of “holy war.”

While her parents’ influence convinced her that World War II was a Christian holy war, she said the Vietnam War altered her perception of necessary wars. The attacks on Afghanistan have changed her perception again, she said.

“And now the rhetoric of the holy war returns again, but I no longer know what a holy war is,” Bridwell-Bowles said. “I believe it is an oxymoron.”

In addition to Browne, three other University faculty members were asked to read at the event.

Al Carillo, an adjunct English professor, read a series of short poetic letters written from the viewpoint of an Aztec god of war, Huitzilopochtli.

University professor Mark Pedelty and Tom Fisher, dean of the College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, read excerpts from articles they wrote for separate publications.

In an excerpt from an article he wrote for the magazine Index on Censorship, Pedelty implored journalists to consider other narratives in times of war.

Fisher, who is working with several New York architects to determine how to use the World Trade Center site, read an article he wrote for Architecture Minnesota about his experiences at ground zero.

Fisher recalled seeing lines of refrigerated trucks containing body parts and streets full of squad cars left by police officers who died in the attacks.

Several students read their own writings, and audience members talked after the event about the importance of free speech in the United States.

“It’s important to keep talking about this because that’s supposedly what we’re fighting to protect,” said Richard McCormick, a professor of German.

Amy Hackbarth welcomes comments at [email protected]