Poet mixes writings, humor in talk

Sherman Alexie was in town Thursday as part of a Whitman College reading series.


WALLA WALLA -- "I am willing to tell you anything, so you should trust me," Sherman Alexie, author of short stories and poetry, said in a comedic presentation Thursday at Whitman College.

Visiting from his home in Seattle, Alexie shared pieces of poetry from his collections to a full house in Cordiner Hall for the Visiting Writers Reading Series.

"I am a small town kid from Eastern Washington," Alexie said.

But after living 15 years in Seattle, Alexie claims to have become urban and now wears ties and pink shirts, which are much different than his years growing up as a Spokane/Coeur d'Alene Indian.

This small town kid has published many collections of poetry and short stories. He has also completed a screenplay for the film "Smoke Signals" and wrote the screenplay and directed "The Business of Fancydancing."

Alexie has won the World Heavyweight Poetry Bout, the 2009 Swedish Peter Pan Award, 2009 Mason Award, and had some of his work appear in "The Best American Short Stories 2004." He has also appeared on "60 Minutes" and "Politically Incorrect."

During his presentation Thursday Alexie shared pieces such as "Ode to Coffee," "Unsacred Sonnet," and "Verminators," all receiving enthusiastic applause and cheers from the large crowd.

He is well known for his ability to include comedy throughout his presentations and had audiences laughing often during this performance.

Joking about his previous trips to Walla Walla, Alexie proudly announced that none of his family currently resides in the penitentiary, though to be sure, he phoned his mother on stage, soliciting hundreds of laughs from the audience.

Before reading "Unsacred Sonnett," Alexie prepared the audience for the poem.

"It's a combination of pretention and accessibility. Which is pretty much the story of my writing career," Alexie said.

Alexie shared embarrassing moments from his recent past hoping to connect and be accessible to the audience.

He spoke on current issues such as gay marriage, sex, technology, and race. One comment about gay marriage drew loud reactions from the audience.

"You want gay people to stop having sex? Let them get married," Alexie said.

After a final poem requested by an audience member who called Alexie her hero, the presentation concluded and Alexie signed books in the foyer for the fans.


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