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Pair of poets to bring creative perspectives to Downtown Arts Series

Poetry first entered Ash Smith’s life in the form of song lyrics.

Ash Smith

When she was growing up in Central Texas, the future poet spent a lot of time in local dance halls, where she was inspired to write songs. She enjoyed writing in that structure, and in middle school, she made some money by selling love poems to other students.

“I kept being pulled back to that style of writing,” Smith said. “Poetry has its own music, and I had some great teachers who allowed me to keep writing and developing my work. For me, it wasn’t so much that I started writing poetry but that I was allowed to keep doing it.”

Melissa Studdard

Smith and Melissa Studdard, a fellow Texas poet, will deliver readings of their poetry as part of the University of Houston-Victoria Downtown Arts Series at 7 p.m. Feb. 20 in the UHV Center for the Arts, 204 N. Main St. The event is free and open to the public.

“Ash Smith and Melissa Studdard both show a commitment to the art of writing as something that can be questioned,” said Charles Alexander, UHV poet and designer in residence and co-curator of the series. “They are advocates for experimentation and innovation, and they encourage writers to make new discoveries.”

For Studdard, the inspiration to write poems is based in her personal love of poetry. She enjoys the opportunity to use figurative and metaphorical language in forms outside the typical literal perspective of prose writing.

Charles Alexander

“I love poetry as an art form,” she said. “It’s beautiful in its sublimity. Poems have the ability to transform what’s not always positive into something aesthetically pleasing. Poetry helps readers glean meaning from experiences and facets of existence they might not otherwise contemplate.”

Smith sees the adaptability of poetry as one of the elements that makes it interesting. Her writing has covered a wide range of topics, including wars and global experiences, as well as personal subjects such as motherhood and intimate relationships.

“I think of writing as an invitation to think deeply about things,” Smith said. “It’s exciting to think about sharing my own experiences with people in Victoria. Exciting things are happening there, and I’m looking forward to taking part. I hope my sharing will inspire others to bring their own talents to the table.”

In addition to her writing, Studdard also works with VIDA, an organization that works to increase critical attention to women’s writing and encourage more transparency in gender equality in literature. The group encourages parity in literary arts through a variety of ways, including releasing videos about people involved in activism, writing columns and conducting the VIDA count, which tracks rates of women, men, minorities and disabled writers who have had their work published in journals, magazines and other publications through the past year.

This political involvement has turned some of her poetry toward a focus on social concerns. But she also explores spiritual themes, including the cyclical path of birth, death and rebirth.

“Life is messy and difficult, but also astonishing and beautiful,” she said. “There’s the potential to make it beautiful and harness beauty through poetry. I love the celebratory and joyous nature of sharing literature, and I’m looking forward to the opportunity to share my work with Victoria.”

The Downtown Arts Series presents an array of groundbreaking arts practices to the Victoria community and stimulates dialogue about the arts as a presence in people’s lives. For more information about the series, contact Alexander or co-curator Cynthia Miller at 361-703-5147.

The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973, offers courses leading to 70 bachelor’s, master’s and specialist 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 center in Katy, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. UHV supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Opportunities for All initiative to increase awareness about state colleges and universities, and the important role they have in providing a high-quality and accessible education to an increasingly diverse student population, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.