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September 25, 2012

Texas poet laureate reads poems, prose for Blinn students

Brenham campus hosts noted poet

Dr. Paul RuffinDr. Paul Ruffin, the 2009 Texas state poet laureate, read selections of his poetry and essays in front of roughly 100 Blinn College students Tuesday afternoon at its Brenham campus.

“Poetry can be about anything if you write about the world that you live in,” Ruffin said. “You can write about yourself if you want to, but therein lay all kinds of traps you can slip into. It’s better to write about other people and other things.”

Ruffin told the students that after he was selected as the Texas state poet laureate, he was asked by the TCU Press to provide a collection of new poems for publication in a book called “Paul Ruffin:

New and Selected Poems.” But with editing and newspaper column duties taking much of his recent time, he told them he had no new, unpublished poetry to provide. The publisher, in response, told him he had three weeks.

In a panic, Ruffin looked over old files, searching for old works to polish and submit, but he quickly realized it would impossible to turn his old poetry into 30 pages of new, publishable material Instead, in increasing desperation, he turned to his old newspaper columns.

“I thought, ‘Wait a minute, Ruffin. What if you wrote some of those old columns as poems?’” he said. “Before I knew what was happening, I was rewriting old newspaper columns in iambic pentameter.”

It resulted in a diverse collection of poetry that included topics such as mummies, chickens, Wal-Mart and his children.

Ruffin is a distinguished professor of English at Sam Houston State University and the founding editor and editor-in-chief of “The Texas Review.” He is also founder and director of the Texas Review Press.

During his extensive writing career, Ruffin has published almost 800 poems, more than 100 stories and more than 50 essays in magazines and journals throughout the world. His work has also appeared in numerous anthologies and textbooks. He also writes a weekly column, “Ruffin-It,” which appears in a small number of papers.

His books include two novels, three short story collections, three essay books, six poetry collections and 11 edited or co-edited books on topics such as Southern fiction, New England poetry, William Goyen and John Steinbeck.

The reading was sponsored by Sigma Kappa Delta, a student organization dedicated to stimulating interest in the English studies.