Brooks will be joined by local musician Clayton Jones on stage for the evening’s musical performance. The event is free for
those who wish to attend, and Brooks will have copies of his collection “The Draw of Broken Eyes and Whirling Metaphysics” available for sale.
Excited about returning to Rome, Brooks said that he continues to feel a deep connection to where the roads and river’s meet in Northwest Georgia because of family ties.
“Rome runs deep in my blood. My momma’s family is from, and is still in, Rome,” Brooks said. “My best memories are living with my Granny during my senior year at Shorter. Going back there now I am shocked by how much it has grown but retained its small town allure. It’s one of the few places on Earth I’d move to again.”
Brooks and Avery are both graduates of Shorter back when it was still the college, and both have started their writing careers in prose.
Brooks moved to poetry from fiction and non-fiction essays as his main form of writing in the early 2000s when his publisher suggested he move into the form because there was a lack of current Southern voices like his in the market at the time.
“My literary agent saw my portfolio, which included my novel synopsis, short stories and poetry,” Brooks said. “His opinion was that there was very little poetry coming out of the South in the current age like mine, and it was important to get it into the hands of the public. From that point on I devoted my full attention to poetry.”
The hard work has paid off for Brooks during the years. Along with a Pulitzer prize nomination in poetry for “The Draw of Broken Eyes and Whirling Metaphysics,” he also received nominations for the Pushcart prize and for Georgia Author of the Year. He said the award nominations haven’t changed him much, except for being involved in a reading tour for the collection like his recent guest reading at the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville, Tenn.
“It is an honor to be nominated for a Pulitzer, but without standing on a soapbox, it’s important to retain humility,” Brooks said. “I’m currently putting together my next book of poetry, “Athena Departs,” and the only focus is to take what I’ve learned from writing and editing my current book into what’s next. If you let awards and public opinion into your thought process it shoves an artist into thinking about what will make a broad audience happy, not what is true to you. At that point everything becomes vanilla.”
Touring around the South with his work has also been adventurous for Brooks, who has slept on a lot of couches during the months traveling from his current home in Athens, where he works on his poetry and also freelance writes for magazines and newspapers.
“One of the biggest pleasures of reading to the public is seeing my words give folks a momentary escape from bills, chores and general stress,” he said. “The escape has been a major factor in why I wrote the book at all.”
Avery has been a writer of fiction from her earliest years in school, mainly focusing on novels. Lately she has begun her own foray into the world of poetry.
She said that both mediums have their merit, but that she works on her novels more than writing anything else.
“I don’t prefer one medium over the other,” Avery said. “Mainly I try to focus on my novels, and I write poems when the mood strikes.”
She said the bulk of her writing work focuses on the relationships between people and the emotions behind them.
“In all my work, I like to combine all the things that are important to me,” Avery said. “Intangible things like the variety of personality in one barroom, how people relate and communicate with each other, and to capture the heart of the matter.”
“I also like to maintain a Southern accent in all my work in hopes that the intelligence of that accent is apparent,” said Avery. “I’m tired of Southerners being colored as undereducated or ridiculous in literature and pop culture.”
Saturday’s reading will begin with poetry from Avery, followed by musical interludes from Jones and readings from Brooks and from Rome News-Tribune writer Kevin Myrick.