UH Moment

UH Moment: “Mat Johnson”

Three decades of writers.  Learn more about the UH Creative Writing Program in this UH Moment.

“March 9

Another wave of ash now falls on us continually.  It hangs on Garth’s Afro and over the straight greasy strands of Pym’s raven mane as well.  It sits on our clothes and our skin and our boat and all of our possessions.  Everything is the same color under its volcanic weight. There is only gray.”

                                                                        –from “Pym,” by Mat Johnson

Mat Johnson's Pym“I think the role of the writer is to gestate the information that we have in society and actually pause the moment and look at what is happening in our lives and the changes in our lives and what those changes mean.”

Author Mat Johnson is an associate professor in the UH Creative Writing Program.  The author of “Pym” and the graphic novel “Incognegro,” Johnson says we all come from stories.

“A lot of what I do as a writer and as a teacher is teach people to understand their own story and how to shape their story and figure out what a story is,” he said.

For 30 years, the Creative Writing Program has attracted top writing students for graduate and doctoral programs taught by masters of the craft.  Johnson recently joined Graham Greene and Tom Wolfe as a recipient of the Dos Passos Prize for literature

“The best writing for me, instead of giving answers, asks better questions and really challenges the reader to think about things in a different way,” he said.

Johnson calls it an honor to guide the  next generation of writers whose stories and “better questions” will be felt for years to come.

“I only have so much impact with my students as a writer.  Some people may read my books or graphic novels or hear me speak, but my impact becomes so much greater because I get to help all these other writers who are going to spread out all over the world.  And that’s a really special experience.” 

Mat Johnson is part of what’s happening at the University of Houston.  I’m Marisa Ramirez.

Telling the stories of the University of Houston, this UH Moment is brought to you by KUHF, listener supported radio from the University of Houston.