A Slice of Time

By Robert Laurence

“A slice of time.” That’s what Adam Vines, assistant professor of English at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, is looking for in his poems. A slice of time to capture, to describe, to hold up for inspection, before it flees into the past. And not just the moment alone, but to find the right words, the right rhythm, and what he calls “the friction of the line,” to do the moment justice.

Adam Vines will be the Featured Writer at the next meeting of the Ozarks Poets and Writers Collective at Nightbird Books on Dickson Street at 7 p.m. Tuesday. The public is invited.

Vines was a finalist for the 2012 Miller Williams Poetry Prize, and his collection, “The Coal Life,” was recently issued by the University of Arkansas Press, as part of the UA Press Poetry Series. He is well-published, his work having appeared in a diverse collection of more than 70 journals, from The American Review to Unsplendid. Mary Jo Salter, the well-known poet and past co-editor of The Norton Anthology of Poetry writes “Adam Vines’ command of the sounds of the English language is delicious, but it never prettifies what he sees in the world.”

Vines has been a professor in UAB’s Department of English for five years, after receiving his MFA in Poetry from the University of Florida. While there, he was assigned, as a mere graduate assistant, to teach the Honors College poetry workshop, and in that class was Lizzie Paulus, now an MFA candidate in poetry at the University of Arkansas.

Vines almost scared her off, Paulus says, with his 16-page syllabus, his demand that they write in meter and rhyme, and “inhale the grass” along with Walt Whitman. But she stuck with it — she needed the course — and found Vines pulled off a “deft raveling of words, language and image,” making her read, write and eventually think about pursuing a future in poetry herself.

Vines has a large class load at UAB, is on staff at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference in the summer and in the Ada Long Honors Program for Birmingham high schoolers, edits the Birmingham Poetry Review, wrangles a 5-year-old at home and advises the UAB competitive fishing team. All of this leaves him less time to write than he would like, but still he pursues that “slice of time.”

“The day frays at the hem . . .” he writes in “Tracks,” included in “The Coal Life.” “Return to Steinhatchee,” in the same collection, begins “No sunset hovered over the bay as I remember it …”

Join the Ozark Poets and Writers Collective at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Nightbird Books as Vines reads from his work. Before and after there will be an open mic where writers may share four minutes worth of prose or poetry with the audience. Guests should remember that, while the collective is a family-friendly group of people, the writers’ themes are often adult, and their language is uncensored and sometimes, shall we say, forceful.

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