A spoken word artist and a returning American Book Review author will bring their passion for expression through poetry to Victoria as part of the University of Houston-Victoria Downtown Arts Series.
E. Ethelbert Miller and Teré Fowler-Chapman will read some of their poetry to the community at 7 p.m. March 25 at the UHV Center for the Arts, 204 N. Main St. After the reading, there will be a question-and-answer session. The event is free and open to the public.
Miller first came to UHV in 2011 as part of the UHV/ABR Reading Series. At that time, the Washington, D.C.-based writer and poet shared some of his love poems and spoke about how they related to issues of the day. This time, he plans to address topics that have been in the news the past few months.
“I use my work as a way to have and inspire dialogue,” Miller said. “I want to get people to think, even if we disagree. If I can get people talking, then I think I’ve done my job.”
He started his writing career in college in 1968, the year Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated. For Miller, writing was a way to express what he was seeing and how it impacted himself and others.
“There was a lot happening, including some major political issues, that became my baptism into writing and activism,” he said. “I started by reflecting on what was going on around me, and that gave me a better appreciation for the world and what it means to be a writer.”
Today, Miller writes about what he sees as America faces a different struggle: what does it mean to be American? He sees the division in the country demonstrated by protests and knows many people in the country are no longer communicating.
“E. Ethelbert Miller’s work has a beautiful focus on the importance of connections and relationships, especially in context of the world we occupy,” said Jeffrey Di Leo, ABR editor and publisher, and dean of the UHV School of Arts & Sciences. “I am excited to see him return to Victoria, and I encourage everyone to come hear him share his work and perspective.”
Miller hopes attendees will be inspired to return to his work and take the time to meditate on the message he shares.
“If someone wants to appreciate a poem, it’s best to read it more than once,” Miller said. “Take it in slowly, and let that deep listening create an understanding and build bridges between communities.”
For Fowler-Chapman, a spoken word artist and creative writing teacher at East Pointe High School in Tucson, her writing stems from a desire to tell her own story. Her creative perspective blossomed early in life, and she learned that she expresses herself best through writing.
“It’s important for me to share my own story because I’m the only one who can,” Fowler-Chapman said. “I try to make myself available to listen to the journey of life and be open to wherever it goes.”
Her poetry often stems from personal observations or experiences, which then are recreated through the lens of poetry. Over time, that writing developed into sharing her poetry through spoken word performances.
“I try to give a voice to the voiceless, especially with things not typically spoken about,” Fowler-Chapman said. “I want to show how people can relate to different aspects of society, particularly things outside their comfort zones.”
It was during a spoken word performance in Tucson that Fowler-Chapman met Charles Alexander and Cynthia Miller, co-founders of the UHV Downtown Arts Series.
“Teré Fowler-Chapman seems to live poetry, seeing and breathing it everywhere, in our streets, our culture, our environment,” Alexander said. “It bubbles up in her performances that give you something you’ve never heard before, yet lives in rhythms that seem to have always been there. She expresses deep care for this often difficult, always demanding human universe.”
During her presentation, Fowler-Chapman hopes attendees simply will enjoy themselves.
“I want people to take away a moment that touches them,” she said. “I want them to hear a multidimensional story, think about the world we live in and share some laughter.”
The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region, offers courses leading to 70 bachelor’s and master’s degree programs and concentrations in the schools of Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus, as well as a teaching site in Katy, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. Since its founding in 1973, UHV has provided students with a quality university education from excellent faculty at an affordable price.