Poet to share observations with community through verse

The final speaker in the University of Houston-Victoria/American Book Review Reading Series will bring a bit of the Pacific Northwest to South Texas.

Duane Niatum

Duane Niatum, a poet and writer who lives in Washington, turns his observations of the physical world into poetic expression, and he finds inspiration everywhere, including nature, dreams, art, travel and human rights.

“I was part of a lot of human rights movements during the ’60s and ’70s, and I still participate in them today,” he said. “From the Civil Rights movement to anti-Vietnam War, indigenous rights and women’s liberation movements, there’s been a lot of marching and letter writing, and those experiences tend to show up on the page.”

Niatum is the final author in the spring UHV/American Book Review Reading Series. His reading will begin at noon April 27 in the UHV University West Alcorn Auditorium, 3007 N. Ben Wilson St. It is free and open to the public.

“Duane Niatum’s poetry has an inspiring feeling of connection through observation,” said Jeffrey Di Leo, dean of the UHV School of Arts & Sciences, and ABR editor and publisher. “His perspective on the world and commitment to civic involvement are encouraging for everyone.”

Jeffrey Di Leo

Niatum didn’t originally set out to be a writer. At first, he wanted to be a jazz musician, but he had trouble mastering the alto saxophone. He started writing poetry when he was in the Navy in the late 1950s and kept it up through college. When he set aside the instrument, he decided to focus on poetry.

Finding inspiration for a poem is simple, Niatum said. He sees what is happening around him and then begins the process of turning it into verse. The writing process involves a lot of working with words and images and rhythms; a combination of inspiration and the craft of writing, which he has been developing for decades.

Nature is a common subject in his poems, such as “Snowy Owl Near Ocean Shores,” written after Niatum watched an owl sit on a stump in the wind and sleet for hours. Another poem, “December Rose,” tells a tale of endurance despite adversity.

“One of the toughest storms in decades hit my area,” Niatum said. “This storm was blowing down trees. But right outside my window was this strong, single-stemmed rose, and it stood tall despite the storm.”

When he writes a poem, Niatum likes to let the work stand on its own without further explanation. Any messages or important thoughts already are expressed in the piece. However, he has been known to revise his poems, sometimes through several years.

“Once I’m satisfied that a piece is the best it can be, I let it go,” he said. “I let it pass into time and stand on its own. I hope people will read them in a way that opens their eyes, ears and dreams so they feel connected to the world.”

ABR is a nonprofit, internationally distributed literary journal published six times a year. It began in 1977, moved to UHV 10 years ago and has a circulation of about 8,000. The journal specializes in reviews of works published by small presses.

For more information about the UHV/ABR Reading Series, call the ABR office at 361-570-4101 or go to www.americanbookreview.org.

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.