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'Like having two wives'
Poet Gordon Osing speaks at the Telfair on writing and teaching
Gordon Osing

" Poetry should teach you to trust your inner self" -Gordon Osing

Gordon Osing, a writer of 13 published works of poetry - although “it’s too vain to count,” he says - was in Savannah last week to conduct a reading in association with the Poetry Society of Georgia and the Telfair Museum of Art.

Osing explains his involvement with the Poetry Society and how he was selected to read:
“At the Sun Coast Writer’s Conference in Florida I met one of the board members, and she must have liked a cut of my jib and thought that I would be good for this event.”

Osing read several pieces, including “Deliberate Dreams”, “How to Film Jazz,” “Less Than an Incident,” “Tilt–A–Whirl,” and “On an Ancient Chinese Line.” He read a variety of poems, “some that go way, way back to even 35 years ago, just because I like to see how they sound after many years later,” he explained. “I’m older than I was when I wrote them, on the other hand, the issues still seem vital to me and are still a part of myself.”

Several of his writings, such as those from The Water Radical, were inspired by his travels to Asia. He spent three years living in China.

“I went there in the fall of 1986 as an exchange professor on behalf of my university. That experience definitely got me some publication opportunities, which I took. A couple of years later, in 1989, I was invited to come to Hong Kong to be an American Studies Lecturer in the Comparative Literature Department for the British University in Hong Kong. I was there for two years,” said Osing.

The Water Radical is based off of the diaries and journals Osing kept while living in Asia.

Osing recently retired from 30 years of teaching at the University of Memphis. “For many years, I was a teacher who also wrote, now I’m a writer who sometimes teaches,” he said. “Teaching can be complementary to writing, but sometimes, it isn’t. It’s something like having two wives, I suppose. Not that it’s against the law - it’s very hard to do.”

Osing still writes for four hours everyday. He also reads as much as he writes.

“Samuel Johnson said once, ‘Never trust an author who writes more that he reads’,” said Osing. “Reading inspires my interests, although, quite often the reading I do is not in any sense connected to what I write; it’s just different. I get ideas from what I read.”

Osing strives to portray his inner self in his poetry. “That’s what poetry should do; poetry should teach you to trust your inner self,” says Osing. “Poetry writing is a dedication. It is a vital agent of art and expression,” he says.

“The Poetry Society of Georgia’s central goal is to promote poetry in all aspects,” said Tony Morris, the society’s president. The series of poetry readings began four years ago, as Morris explained:

“We decided that in order to get the city of Savannah involved, we would bring in quality poets from around the nation and give them the opportunity to share with the citizens of Savannah their work.

“Poetry is a mixture of sounds, rhythms, meters, and meaning that are all coming together. So, we thought that we would bring in some great poets, people with national reputations, and advertise, so that we can build the poetry audience back up in Savannah.”

Vaughnette Goode–Walker, director of cultural diversity for the Telfair, explained that the location of the reading had historical significance for the Poetry Society.

“The Society started here at the Telfair in 1923,” she said. “They met in the front parlor of the Academy.”

For more information on upcoming poetry readings and events visit: