On Oct. 22, Jeff Newberry, a professor at ABAC, held a reading of his poetry book, Cross Country at the Fulwood Garden Center in Tifton. The event was sponsored by the ABAC Department of English and Communication. At the event, Newberry read excerpts from the book and held a signing afterward.
His poems ranged from his love of Roy Orbison to one from the perspective of his abusive father. He also explained some of the meanings behind his poetry. Newberry said, “My father shows up in a lot of these poems. It’s like if you’re a Christian, you can’t not write a Christian poem. The things that obsess you follow you, no matter what you do.”
His father and Newberry’s relationship with him did appear frequently in the poetry, but another source of inspiration comes from his uniquely southern perspective. Newberry commented “[In college] my poems were less edgy New York School and more Faulkner. I’m the type of guy who likes to go fishing and listen to Lynyrd Skynyrd.” His southern mindset shows in his poetry. His poems are filled with imagery of the outdoors and southern living.
Newberry spoke about how his southern upbringing influenced his writing. “I think that that storytelling tradition runs pretty strongly throughout all human cultures, but I think its more on the surface of the skin in the South. One thing I try to do is be a distinctly southern storyteller.” He also talked about his implementation of the music theory of modality in his poetry.
Newberry stated, “[In music] Generally speaking, you want to follow the moves of that progression and stay in the scale. Modality denies that and says you can put any note you want to anywhere. It’s more about the driving feel of the music than it is any logical structure.” Newberry quoted the poet and essayist, Michael S. Harper when he stated that, “Our lives are modal. Right, it all belongs there. So that’s what I had in mind when I wrote these poems.”
ABAC’s Dean of Arts and Sciences, Matthew Anderson, spoke about the benefits of having a real author teaching English at ABAC. Anderson stated, “It’s a tremendous benefit. Our students are learning from a gifted artist and you just can’t put a price on that. Our students are going to be learning from a guy who has published poems and novels. He’s an immensely talented man who’s very gifted at bringing student’s creativity out of them and helping foster the growth of our student writers.”
“Cross Country” is available for sale now wherever books are sold.