September 9, 2010

Julia Alvarez Relates Her Struggle as Author, Finding Writer’s Voice

Print More

Famed writer and poet Julia Alvarez spoke to a packed Hollis Auditorium Thursday to relate her experiences as an acclaimed author.Alvarez was introduced by Prof. Helena Viramontes, English, who said that the current Middlebury College writer-in-residence if partly responsible  for the “reconfiguring of the American Literature cannon.Alvarez is the first writer of the annual Fall Reading Series, which brings distinguished writers to share their work. Alvarez used her time to showcase some of her earlier pieces in an attempt to connect with the crowd of mostly undergraduate and graduate students.“I always struggled to find my voice,” Alvarez said, recounting a story of her early days as a writer in the Yaddo Writers Colony. “I struggled early on because my first language was Spanish and when I came here I read all these great male writers who’s voices sounded important, so I tried to model my own voice after them.”According to Alvarez, a large portion of her early poetry — she is a poet by trade — was a remodeling of some of her favorite poets such as William Butler Yeats. Alvarez noted that channeling the styles of authors such as Yeats got her through graduate school and a residency, but at age 33, she found herself unpublished and unemployed. It was at that point she began to bring together the influences that would form her distinctive style and writer’s voice.“I began to listen to the voices of my childhood and the rhythms of the language.”That year she went on to publish one of her first books of poetry entitled “TheHousekeeping Book.” Alvarez read a few selections from “Housekeeping,” as well as other early publishing efforts, giving those in attendance a literal sense of how her voice developed.“I was thinking about what I felt like when I was the age of some of these people; when I was first getting started,” says Alvarez, who afterwards held a book signing. “I know they probably think I know everything because of who I am, but to this day I still feel like I’m finding my voice and I wanted them to realize that.”The message was clear for students like Kim Williams grad, who is in her first year in the Master of Fine Arts program, concentrating in poetry.“I loved the fact that she utilized her life experiences in finding her voice,” said Williams, “it assured me that my own experiences can be relevant too.”

Original Author: Andrew Boryga