On Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m., English Professor Robert Vivian gave a reading of poems from his latest book, “Immortal Soft Spoken,” a collection of what he dubs “dervish essays;” the book is his second written in this style.
The dervish essay, as conceived by Vivian, is a prose poem “driven by anaphora [the repetition of a word or phrase] and a strong energy… to be honest I don’t fully understand where this energy comes from, but it’s very lyrical, urgent and physical.”
Vivian performed his poems in the library’s Anderson Reading Area before an intimate crowd of students and colleagues. Reading for about forty-five minutes, he demonstrated the physicality of the poems in the way only a reading can.
The reading was energetic and expressive, Vivian’s delivery fast and rhythmic, his body constantly in motion. The emphasis on anaphora, as well as the strong phonetic flow of the poems can cause them to become all the more effective when heard rather than read. And, for Vivian, it’s an enjoyable time.
“It’s always fun, always a privilege to read in front of people. But I don’t really make any distinction between reading at an event or reading at home for [my wife]. Or Rumi Hour for that matter. It’s a moveable feast, really. The joy is within the writing,” Vivian said.
For Vivian, the writing is the most important part. An avid creator and consumer of poetry, writing any less than each and every day is not an option. Combine that with chairing the English department and teaching and, unsurprisingly, with that much focus on writing, writing a book becomes a somewhat easier process.
“It was very organic. It just reached a certain point where I said ‘hey, I think I have a collection,’” Vivian said. “It wasn’t a conscious ‘I am writing a book’ thing.”
After finishing the reading, questions were taken. Among the topics asked about, one was revision habits. Vivian said that he revises where he needs to, but that he can usually tell if a poem will need a lot of work if he spends a lot of time thinking about it after writing.
“If I’ve written something in the morning and I can’t remember what it is in the afternoon, I know it’s good,” he said.
As for moving on after this book, Vivian has no trouble at all keeping busy creatively. “My friend Joel and I are editing a collection called “Wild Gods.” I’m sending out another collection of Dervish pieces. I just keep on truckin’.”