Arts & Culture

Alums honored for arts achievements

By
Senior Staff Writer
Monday, March 1, 2010

The Rhode Island State Council on the Arts recognized Visiting Lecturer in English Michael Stewart MFA’07 for fiction and poetry and Jamie Jewett PhD’08 for choreography and film this year.

Stewart was featured in the 2010 RISCA Fellowship Exhibition at the Imago Gallery in Warren.

Jewett, the director of a multimedia dance theater company, received the 2010 Fellowship Merit Award in Choreography as well as a 2010 Project Grant for his film project, “Melt.”

Receiving this award feels “wonderful,” Stewart said. It is a “big award,” he added.

It is nice to “get recognition within the state,” he said. “The state’s very supportive.”

Stewart started his reading at the Fellowship Exhibition on Feb. 19 with narrative fiction and then progressed into poetry to provide “a mixture of the two,” he said.

Stewart combines prose and poetry because he likes the reader to not be sure how to read his work and to have to pay close attention, he said.

In his writing, Stewart likes to focus on topics with a “fairy tale view,” he said. He uses themes such as the “history of stage magic” and “parallels between spells and cookbooks,” he said, adding that he also is willing to write about topics usually reserved for women.

His writing is meant to convey a “sense of wonder” and a “loose distance from realism,”  he said.

This includes working on a common object and finding it not so common, he added, and making everyday things seem unfamiliar.

Currently, Stewart teaches classes at Brown in creative nonfiction. Stewart said he liked the program because it “really puts an emphasis on research.”

“I really like the attitude that students come in with,” he said.

In addition to teaching, Stewart is writing a book based on the life of a man who studies Egyptian hieroglyphics, he said.

Stewart said he has been and plans to continue writing about Kyoto, Japan. He plans on traveling to Kyoto and spending a few months there while he writes about southern Japanese superstitions and beliefs, he said.

The inspiration for his writing comes from “everything,” Stewart said, including “childhood experiences and dreams.”

Working at Brown has definitely helped to improve his writing, Stewart said. Colleagues showed him how to tighten his lines and advised him, “don’t pause, just keep pushing further and further.”

Stewart said he also benefits from students’ comments on their assigned readings.

Each time he brings a piece of literature into the classroom, his students help to “open it up in a way that wouldn’t have been possible” by just using his own perceptions, he said.