Every day at the College of Southern Maryland, professors work to broaden the minds and widen the perspective of students in the classroom. The annual Connections Literary Series is a chance for these lessons to be offered to a much wider audience – including both students and the Southern Maryland community through the experiences and perspectives of authors, poets and writers. On Feb. 17, CSM will kick off the Spring 2017 Connections Literary Series as Michael Archer reads from his works and speaks about his experiences at 7:30 p.m. on the Leonardtown Campus, Building A, Auditorium.
Two of Archer's books are about his own experiences in the Vietnam War as a U.S. Marine and the war's aftermath. Archer served in Vietnam in 1967 and 1968, when his closest friend was killed during the battle of Khe Sanh. As he researched his third book “The Long Goodbye: Khe Sanh Revisited,” Archer returned to the scene of the battle to search for his friend's remains, which had never been found, and later he encountered one of the men who had killed his friend and dragged his friend's body away.
“Forty years later I met these guys we had fought against and I had a real epiphany,” Archer said in a telephone interview. “I found out they were just guys like me.” The man he met described being able to hear the American soldiers in their bunkers. “He said he could smell our cigarette smoke. … He was never the demon that our government and our military tried to make him out to be,” Archer said.
For Neal Dwyer, professor of Languages and Literature at CSM, who arranges the Connections series each year, epiphanies like Archer's are the exact reason the speaker series is important. Dwyer hopes to see the audience think of things in a new way, or gain a new perspective, and learn from the experiences of others. Archer's speech, Dwyer said, is likely to show that the aftermath of war goes far beyond the veterans who have left the battlefield and come home.
Dwyer said Archer's talk will resonate with the large veteran population in Southern Maryland, many of whom attend classes at CSM. “When students and the community come together for these events, I have seen people become very moved by the stories that are taught and shared by real people,” Dwyer said. “We cannot replicate that kind of direct learning in the classroom.”
Archer said he is looking forward to the reading and to share a presentation of photos from his trip to Vietnam, along with the history of the Vietnam War and the government actions that led to America's involvement. He will read an excerpt from his book, but what's important to Archer is that he will get a chance to connect with the audience in a way that could make a difference.
“I want to convey that there's a lot of survivors' guilt for the veterans of all wars,” he said. “I want all veterans to know that they're not alone. You can get past it, but you have to learn to accept things that you might not want to acknowledge at first.”
One of the biggest tragedies of the Vietnam War, Archer said, was that the war continued on in the minds of so many veterans, even after they were home. “Some researchers believe that twice as many American combatants later died by their own hand than were killed by the enemy in war,” he said. By writing his books and speaking at events like Connections, Archer said he wants to show people that the reality of war is different than what is portrayed in the media. “Regardless of the necessity of it, war is never glorious. The people who fight are never the same again,” Archer said.
For the veterans who become writers, they are serving the country in a whole new way. Dwyer said authors like Archer give their readers a chance to see the horrors of war without being on the front lines themselves. The idea is to make sure people understand what is really happening, and hopefully learn from the lessons of the people who lived these experiences.
“We can inform and engage the public, but it's not just an outreach; it's a forum for sharing ideas and learning through literature as a springboard,” Dwyer said. “We're doing what we can in our little corner of Southern Maryland, and I know it works. I've seen the effect that programs like this have. … I believe in this.”
After Archer's presentation, the series will continue on March 3 with Novelist Sunil Yapa at the Prince Frederick Campus and on April 7 with Poet Frank X Walker at the La Plata Campus.
Yapa's first novel, “Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist,” is one of Time Magazine's Best Books of the Year as well as one of Amazon's Best Books of the Year, a Barnes & Noble's Discover Great New Writers Pick, and an Indies Next Pick.
Walker, voted one of the most creative professors in the south, is the originator of the word, Affrilachia, and is dedicated to deconstructing and forcing a new definition of what it means to be Appalachian.
On May 5, the spring literary series will conclude with the Connections Literary Magazine reading, where contributors to the magazine will read and discuss their works. The Connections Literary Magazine is a regional literary journal published twice a year that features poems, stories, artwork, and photography. The deadline to submit for the spring issue is March 17.
Tickets for the Archer and Yapa readings are $3 in advance, $5 at the event, or $3 with a CSM student ID. There is no admission fee for Walker or the Spring 2017 Connections Literary Magazine reading. The Walker reading is sponsored in part by a grant from the Charles County Arts Alliance, Maryland State Arts Council and the Diversity Institute at the College of Southern Maryland. For advance tickets to Connections events, contact the CSM Box Office at email@example.com or call 301-934-7828. Visit www.csmd.edu/Connections for more information on the above events.
CSM Spring 2017 Connections Literary Series: Novelist Michael Archer. 7:30 p.m., Feb. 17. College of Southern Maryland, Leonardtown Campus, Building A, Auditorium, 22950 Hollywood Road, Leonardtown. $3 in advance; $5 at the event; or $3 with CSM student ID. firstname.lastname@example.org, 301-934-7828, http://www.csmd.edu/Connections.
CSM Spring 2017 Connections Literary Series: Novelist Sunil Yapa. 7:30 p.m., March 3. College of Southern Maryland, Prince Frederick Campus, Building A, Room 119, 115 J.W. Williams Road, Prince Frederick. $3 in advance; $5 at the event; or $3 with CSM student ID. email@example.com, 301-934-7828, http://www.csmd.edu/Connections.
CSM Spring 2017 Connections Literary Series: Poet Frank X Walker. 7:30 p.m., April 7. College of Southern Maryland, La Plata Campus, Center for Business and Industry (BI) Building, Dr. John M. Sine Conference Room (Room 103), 8730 Mitchell Road, La Plata. Free. This event is sponsored in part by a grant from the Charles County Arts Alliance, Maryland State Arts Council and the Diversity Institute at the College of Southern Maryland. 301-934-7828, http://www.csmd.edu/Connections.
CSM Connections Magazine Submission Deadline. March 17 is the submission deadline for the spring edition of CSM's Connections Literary Magazine. Poetry, short stories and black and white photography are accepted for consideration. For submission guidelines, see http://www.csmd.edu/community/connections-literary-series/connections-magazine/. A reading of the magazine will be held May 5 at the College of Southern Maryland, La Plata Campus. For more information, call 301-934-7828 or see http://www.csmd.edu/Connections.
CSM Spring 2017 Connections Literary Series: Connections Literary Magazine Publication Reading. 7:30 p.m., May 5. College of Southern Maryland, La Plata Campus, Center for Business and Industry (BI) Building, Dr. John M. Sine Conference Room (Room 103), 8730 Mitchell Road, La Plata. Free. Hear the contributors to the Spring 2017 Connections Literary Magazine read and discuss their published works. firstname.lastname@example.org, 301-934-7828, http://www.csmd.edu/Connections.