Former OU professor publishes new book

An award winning poet and author of nine books, Michael Heffernan is coming to Oakland University on Nov. 7 to read a variety of his works aloud from 4:30 to 6 p.m. in the Oakland Center Banquet Rooms.

Heffernan, an OU English instructor from 1967-1969, has received national recognition for his poetry. He has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, two Pushcart Prizes and the Porter Prize for Literary Excellence.

“Six of my books have been published by university presses in the United States three by a major poetry press in Ireland. A tenth is in the works for publication in Ireland next spring,” Heffernan said.

Attendees will hear an array of Heffernan’s work — some of what he may read dates back to the late 1970s.

“On the evening of Nov. 7, I will give a one-hour poetry reading from ‘At the Bureau of Divine Music’, along with possibly some earlier books,” Heffernan said. “The new book is my ninth, so I have a fair backlog of material going back to my first book, published in 1979.”

Brian Connery, professor of English, is organizing the event.

Connery read Heffernan’s new material in preparation for the event and he said the book perplexed and delighted him.

“Perplexed because the poems seem to operate within their own reality, which overlaps considerably with reality as most of us understand it, but which also opens up without warning to allow wonderful imaginary events,” he said.

Connery said the poems have been carefully crafted and have the ability to surprise readers.

“The poems keep the reader a little bit off-balance because anything can happen within them and sometimes does,” Connery said. “At the same time, the voice of the poems never registers the slightest bit of surprise at what’s going on … the poems have a wonderful imaginative content.”

According to Connery, the reading is a good learning experience for students because in addition to the fun and entertainment, there is wisdom and a chance to learn from the poems.

“They don’t preach, and they don’t make grand moral statements, but you can tell that the poems are the products of experience and reflection,” he said. “You feel like you’re learning something and you feel good about learning it, even though you’d be hard pressed to say exactly what it is that you’re learning.”

Heffernan recommends that students attend the reading to see the poems come alive.

“A reading is an occasion for poetry to come to life in a public setting through the poet’s voice,” Heffernan said. “I try to make my poems more than print artifacts — they should sound themselves off the page into the reader’s ear. A reading is an … opportunity to make that happen. I want to awaken my poems from the slumber of the page.”

The event is free and open to the public. Heffernan’s new book “At the Bureau of Divine Music” will be available for

purchase there.