Campus News

Author, poets discuss writing perspectives

For writer James Cobb and poets Alfred Corn and Kevin Young, the South isn’t just a place. It’s a way of life.

“Being a native Georgian has given me some distinct advantages in terms of an anchor and perspective,” said Cobb. “Georgia has, in many ways, been part of my window on the world. It might be smudged here and there, but it opened me up to a lot of things that helped me as a Southern historian and writer and kept me grounded.”

The three discussed their thoughts on writing and Southern perspectives during the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame Author Discussion, held Nov. 5 at the Richard B. Russell Building Special Collections Libraries as part of the fall 2017 Signature Lecture series.

Hugh Ruppersburg, University Professor Emeritus in the UGA English department, moderated the discussion between Cobb, the B. Phinizy Spalding Professor of History Emeritus at UGA; Corn; and Young, who also directs the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at the New York Public Library.

“I don’t know that I thought it [writing] would be a profession,” Corn said. “It’s just something I enjoy doing.”

Each of the participants started writing in his own way, but the common theme for all of them was an insatiable appetite for books in their formative years. Young said he started writing as part of a summer program. Cobb said he read frequently as a child and often wondered what it would be like to craft sentences that others would read. He began writing more seriously in high school. Corn recalled being inspired to write poetry in eighth grade and short stories around age 12.

“To me, writing is like a bare-knuckled, nose-biting, eye-gouging fight with a bunch of words to make them say, by God, what you want them to say,” said Cobb. “It became this all-encompassing urge to write.”

The panelists also discussed who they think about when writing.

“Audience is a tricky business if you start thinking too much about it because you can end up tricking yourself,” Young said, mentioning that broad stories might be taken personally and vice versa.

Cobb’s “target” is writing for educated, interested public audiences to make a difference. Corn writes for himself and for others while trying to keep a range of tastes in mind.

The participants, along with the late Eugenia Price, an historical novelist many credit with helping to preserve the history of coastal Georgia, were inducted into the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame during a ceremony on Nov. 6.