May 25, 2024

Poet finds inspiration in world issues

UT’s Writers in the Library series continued on March 7 with award-winning poet and former Mixed Martial Arts fighter Cameron Conaway.

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UT’s Writers in the Library series continued Monday, March 7 in the Hodges Library Auditorium with award-winning poet and former Mixed Martial Arts fighter Cameron Conaway. He read selected works from his newest book, “Chittagong: Poems & Essays.”

Conaway is the author of five books and is also an accomplished journalist, with his work appearing in publications such as “Harvard Business Review,” “Newsweek,” “Stanford Social Innovation Review” and “The Guardian.”  Aside from being a poet and journalist, Conaway is also a teacher and public speaker.

His influences derive from a wide range of themes such as science and religion, with Zen Buddhism being the most prevalent. His background in journalism also helped him discover some of the future themes that would influence his work which include encountering illness such as malaria. Conaway would use this disease as a driving factor for much of his work in “Chittagong: Poems & Essays.”

“If you’re in the city and worked in the jobs people cared about, you’re cool, you’re gonna be okay,” Conaway said. “If you’re in the rural areas doing the silent jobs that nobody really cares about, you don’t really get the support you need to deal with this horrible illness.”

Conaway added that the drugs used to treat malaria are no longer as effective as they were in the past.

Patients that are coming in with cerebral malaria that they [doctors] used to cure in a week, now can’t be cured at all,” Conaway said. “They have to watch them die even though they’re giving them all the resources that they have.”

This issue also struck a cord with Christopher Mirren, who attended the event.

“I definitely enjoyed hearing the stories of his time overseas and what he saw,” he said. “I wasn’t particularly interested in poetry before, but I enjoyed it more than I originally thought I would.”

Conaway also read a poem titled “Stillborn” which was inspired by a grief stricken Cambodian mother who carried her stillborn child around. This was common for many of the Cambodian women he saw during his time overseas.

For more information about Conaway, click here.

The next Writers in the Library event will feature Marilyn Hacker on Monday, March 28 at 7 p.m. in the Lindsay Young Auditorium at the Hodges Library.

Featured image by Thomas Delgado

Edited by Taylor Owens

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Tiara Holt is a senior at the University of Tennessee majoring in Journalism and Electronic Media with a minor in Cinema Studies. Aside from being a rock music enthusiast and food lover, her pastimes include drawing, painting, reading and watching The X-Files.