Poet and scholar Lee Herrick will give Augustana College a taste of his literary acumen when he travels to campus Wednesday, Oct. 16 to celebrate the publication of his second poetry collection.
Herrick’s poetry draws from a myriad of poetic heritages. Some are renowned, some obscure, and all blend into a unique cross-section of world culture. Herrick will read from his most recent collection, Gardening Secrets of the Dead.
Herrick’s appearance is the contrivance of Patrick Hicks, who tries to bring one author to Augustana every semester.
When selecting an author, “I have two rules,” Hicks said. “I have to like their work, and I have to suspect that I will enjoy their company,” Hicks organizes the whole affair, from flights, tickets and hotels, to acting as an honorary chauffeur and tour guide.
Gardening Secrets of the Dead is Herrick’s second book. His first, This Many Miles from Desire, was published in 2007 after years of appearing in literary magazines and anthologies.
Originally born in Korea, he was adopted at 10 months by an American painter and her husband. This early relocation would prove instrumental to his literary career, immersing him in an artistic household almost immediately.
After meeting through a mutual friend, Herrick accepted the offer to speak to Augustana students about his life, his adoption, his travel, his teaching and his life in general.
“I suspect many students don’t know what a poetry reading is all about,” Hicks said. “It’s just storytelling.”
Herrick will use both his poems and his personal experiences to do just that.
“I was inspired by my mother and by musicians and writers whose use of language reflected the world as they saw it,” Herrick said. “I wanted to be part of that experience and give shape to my own views and experiences of the world.”
Herrick’s birthplace and adoptive background have played as much a role in his work as his new home. While displaying a “natural curiosity” about his roots from an early age, his first major self-explorations occurred in college. He delved into Korean literature, began to study its culture and embarked on multiple journeys to the country itself.
In the years since, he has written extensively about his homeland and the intricacies of adoption as a whole. Poems such as “Self Portrait” weave these themes (“Brothers, we are Korean so we know/ about fracture — family, culture tongue”) into a surreptitious declaration of love. Herrick also guest-edited New Truths, a compendium of 21st century writing from Korean-American adoptees.
“[Herrick] is one of the most prominent voices of the adult adoptee community — the international adult adoptee community,” Hicks said.
The poetry reading will be an opportunity for students and community members alike to discover poetry in their own way.
“It’s a great opportunity for students to see what a poet is like,” Hicks said.
For Herrick, it goes much further than that. This is an opportunity to experience a poet. Life is an opportunity to live and make poetry.
“Read widely and deeply into history cultures and experiences,” Herrick said. “Travel, live fully, seek and make use of conversations with experience writers. And always, of course, write,”
Herrick will give a free reading Wednesday, Oct. 16 at 7 p.m. in Humanities Room 123 with a book signing to follow.