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Wilson Auditorium Gets a Visit From Nick Flynn

Nick Flynn Visits WilsonThe University’s Visiting Writers Series presented its second author of the year by bringing Nick Flynn to Wilson Auditorium on Thursday, October 6. The audience was comprised of students and professors alike, who were both eager to understand the mind and works of this accomplished writer.

Among Flynn’s published works are poetry collections like “Some Ether” and “Blind Huber” as well as two memoirs.

His earliest memoir, “Another Bullshit Night in Suck City,” was published in 2004 and tells the story of Flynn and his unanticipated encounter with a father who, until then, has been in prison for robbery. In the upcoming year, this literary work will appear as a feature film, currently called Being Flynn, starring Robert De Niro, Julianne Moore, and Liv Tyler and directed by Paul Weitz.

While at the University, Flynn shared his thoughts about seeing his story reenacted on set and the inspirations behind many of his other works.

Michael Thomas, Director of the Visiting Writers Series and Assistant Dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, was the first to welcome the crowd and introduce Flynn.

For those unfamiliar with the author’s poetry and memoirs, Thomas gave a brief introduction with high regard to Flynn’s writing and talked about the writer’s “renowned sense of poetry and fiction.”

The next speaker was Laura McCullough, a writer and professor from Brookdale Community College, who presented an eloquent introduction referencing one of Flynn’s poems from his collection, “Blind Huber.” “From bees come honey; from art comes sometimes a way to go on,” she said, characterizing the themes of his work.

Flynn approached the podium as his character from his bestselling memoir and started describing his out of body experience while on set. Reenactments became a recurring theme throughout his entire presentation. The crowd viewed this again when he talked about Amir, an ex-detainee from Istanbul in reference to another of his poems.

Flynn wrote how Amir stood up with his arms out as if he had been crucified on a cross. “The scribe has nothing to write; the painter has nothing to paint,” he read aloud in reaction to Amir’s pose. The audience could read the memory and emotion in his eyes as he read his experiences aloud.

However, Flynn became a real and relatable human being when comic relief seemed necessary. He was humble, joking that we should all have been protesting on Wall Street rather than listening to him speak and briefly mentioning his daughter and family at home.

Reading his poem, “Box of Dolls,” Flynn shared his thoughts on becoming a father. The imagery used to describe the dolls in a parenting class represented the unrealistic feeling he felt. He used terms like “rubber faces” to emphasize their fakeness, as well as mentioning dialogue with the instructor about how she took the dolls home and boiled them for sanitation.

Flynn proved his ability to make real situations feel like a dream through his writing. He alluded to the Catholic tradition of Lent, though he himself is not Catholic. He was not aware that Lent had started until a member of the cast came to set with the ashes on her forehead, marked by a priest. They filmed for 40 days straight, the length of time many people give up something for lent. Flynn writes: “Welcome to the desert; here comes the rain.”

On the set of Being Flynn, Flynn was an inspiration. Liam Broggy, the actor who played young Nick Flynn in the film looked up to him, asking how someone becomes a writer. Flynn gave the simple answer of telling him to write in the styles and genres he likes to read, an obvious answer for Flynn. He spoke about his writing out of honesty rather than pride, while still keeping a deep connection with his work.

When people would ask him how he came up with the character of his father in the memoir, it would bother Flynn that they believed that the story was fictional and that the events and people portrayed in the film were unreal.

Seeing Flynn in person showed this talented writer as a personable man and happy father, too. His memoirs or poetry are available for reading, and stay on the lookout for Being Flynn, which is set to be released sometime in the next year.

The next writer scheduled for the Visiting Writer Series is Michael Waters on Tuesday, November 8.

PHOTO COURTESY of poetryfoundation.org