SAN MARCOS — Looking for some fresh spice in your reading material? Then look no further than Imported Breads: Literature of Cultural Exchange, the new anthology flavored with a generous dose of writing from Southwest Texas State University.
Imported Breads features works by 38 writers who have lived abroad for extended periods on Fulbright grants. Published by Mammoth Books, the 362-page tome boasts 56 poems, seven stories and 12 essays/memoirs recount experiences from 31 countries and reflect the influence of foreign culture on contemporary American literature. SWT is represented in the book by three authors--Steve Wilson and Robert Randolph, both professors in the Department of English, and Elizabeth Weiser, a recent graduate of the Master of Fine Arts program in Creative Writing. The trio comprise the largest representation of any single institution in the volume.
“ I’ve always used my travels as inspiration for my poetry, and so when I saw a call for writing by former Fulbrighters, I sent the editor some of my poetry,” explained Wilson, who taught in Romania in 1994-95 and Slovenia in 2002 as a Fulbright scholar. “I’m delighted to be a part of the book, especially right now as international tensions seem on the rise.”
In addition to Wilson’s stints in Romania and Slovenia, Randolph visited Finland in 1990 and Greece in 1994, while Weiser traveled to Turkey in 1999-2000.
The different locations had profoundly different effects on his work, said Randolph. While Greece was a beautiful country, events across the border prompted him to write a poem reflecting the darkness he saw, which is featured in Imported Breads.
“ I was up in the north of Greece, not too far from the troubles in the Balkans,” he explained. “One of the things that struck me was the children among the refugees that been injured and crippled by the war. I thought, nomatter who wins the war, the effect on the children has been terrible.
“ You could call my poem ‘A Modern, Modest Proposal,’ although that’s not its name,” Randolph said. “It talks about a river flowing with dead children, as society is trying to build a community next to that river. That’s the predominant imagery.”
By contrast, the poems inspired by his time in Finland boast a much pleasanter aesthetic.
“ I made a great number of lasting friendships there, and those poems are more celebratory,” Randolph said. “I played chess with the chair of the English department. We played at the end of day, after class was over. More often than not snow would be falling outside the windows. It was a very pleasant experience. The three Finnish poems in the book celebrate that experience, while the Greek poem is more of an outrage.”