By RAVEN JACKSON | Staff Writer
The director for the Center of Excellence for the Creative Arts, Christopher Burawa, recently won the coveted 2010 Joy Harjo Poetry Award, given by the journal Cutthroat: A Journal of the Arts, for his poem “Agrimensura of the Mire: Árnessýsla.”
Burawa was elated to have been selected by noted American poet Marvin Bell, who he has admired for some time.
“The night before my birthday, I got the call from the journal editor that I won the award. It’s hard to describe the thrill when you get a call like [that].”
“The poem began as something else entirely,” Burawa said, “My early drafts of the poem were about St. Francis of Assisi and his sermon to the sparrows. But after another two drafts, St. Francis was gone, the sparrows were absent, and I was writing about a landscape.
“Ultimately, the poem became about a place in Iceland I dearly love, the country of Arnes where I spent all of my summers until I was 20 years old.”
Burawa cites two things as pivotal events that led him on his journey to becoming a writer and translator.
The first was his reading of Lawrence Ferlengetti’s poem “Coney Island of the Mind.”
“Great art can sometimes change us, and I knew after reading that poem that my life had changed all at once.”
The second event happened about a year later as Burawa listened to a live broadcast of a lecture given by Argentinean writer Jorge Luis Borges.
“I was transfixed by how broad his interests were and where his curiosity had led him.”
Burawa also began to translate poems from Icelandic during this time.
“It was all fun but also work and I enjoyed entering this place of creativity. In my opinion, there’s nothing like it.”
For Burawa, creativity and inspiration is something that can strike at any moment.
“I carry a small notebook with me all the time. I never know when a line will come to me.
“Most of the time what I write never makes it into a poem, but the act of writing, I find, prepares me for writing a poem,” Burawa said.
“I believe it was E.M. Forster who asked, ‘How can I know what I think until I see what I say?’”
Burawa enjoys his position on campus and the interactions he has with students and faculty alike.
“I have been at Austin Peay for two years and what I continue to enjoy is working with the faculty [and] supporting them as they continue to inspire our students through their teaching and programming and also seeing how our student body is discovering the benefits of the creative arts through the efforts of the faculty.”
“Who wouldn’t love coming to work at a place where new and exciting things are happening almost every day?” TAS