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Surgical Assistant Turned English Professor to Discuss How Research Enriches Creative Process

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NWU English professor Mary Hickman will discuss her new book, Rayfish, at the annual Faculty Scholarship Presentation on Jan. 25.

A former surgical assistant and current Nebraska Wesleyan University English professor who found herself more interested in writing about surgery than performing it, will deliver the university’s annual Faculty Scholarship Presentation on Wednesday, January 25.

Mary Hickman, visiting professor of English, will present, “Rayfish, Writing Across the Disciplines.” The free lecture begins at 7 p.m. in Olin B Lecture Hall, located one block east of 50th Street and St. Paul Ave.

In her new book of poems, Rayfish, Hickman engages with history, medicine, and art, writing about her family’s house arrest and escape during the Tiananmen Square massacre, her experiences living in the hyper-modern cities of Shenzhen and Taipei, and the years she spent working as a surgical assistant in open-heart surgeries in her twenties. These memories surface among meditations on various works of art and the lives and artistic practices of painters, sculptors, dancers, and filmmakers in order to think about what it means to make art, to encounter the work of art, and so encounter our own fragility and contingency.

In this presentation, she will read poems from the book and present on the historical events, artworks, and medical procedures that inform the book in order to demonstrate how various forms of research enrich the creative process.

Copies of Rayfish will be available for purchase following the lecture. The book will be available to the public in April.

In September Hickman was awarded one of America’s most coveted poetry prizes, the Academy of American Poets’ James Laughlin Award. The honor provides a generous cash prize, a week-long residency in Miami, and the distribution of her book to thousands of Academy of American Poets members.

Hickman’s work was selected as this year’s Faculty Scholarship Presentation, which is presented by the university’s Forum Committee to highlight the scholarship of NWU faculty. Faculty are nominated and selected by the Forum Committee and provost.