Many of us have dreams of visiting faraway places, and a new book by one English professor at Rochester Institute of Technology offers readers a chance to make that a virtual reality.
Vincent F.A. Golphin, an associate professor of creative writing at RIT, was inspired to write the poetry collection titled 10 Stories Down, by six-month stays in 2010 and 2011 at Beijing’s Capital Normal University. As the title suggests, he lived in a suite on the 10th floor of the campus’ International Culture Center while educating Chinese language and culture educators about U.S. teaching methods and culture.
“Writing from the perspective of one who had only seen the world from where the sun sets, I wanted to illustrate the dramatic shift that occurred in me and people I met in China as we tried to look, think and experience the planet from reverse angles,” Golphin says. “The poems in 10 Stories Down immerse readers in many of the sights, sounds, smells and emotions I confronted in Beijing.”
The collection of 42 poems details his interactions with his university students and people of all ages outside the university. The shift in perspective he mentions is evident in “Child’s Play,” where he talks about an encounter with a group of grade-schoolers fascinated by his black skin. He reflects on the flood of bicycles he encounters on China’s streets in “Bike Lane.” Readers gain a sense of the sensual in his experience of a sumptuous meal of “Peking Duck.”
Each poem is also paired with one of 12 Chinese symbols that represent values such as love, spirit, friendship, peace and clarity.
“When I read 10 Stories Down, many of the students’ faces, conversations, inter-cultural challenges and emotions roll into my mind,” Golphin says. “I hope everyone who reads this book will be inspired to look at life from a different angle, and perhaps to visit China or some other place on the globe.”
Note: Audio available for this story