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April 20, 2014

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Pablo Medina: novelist, poet, visiting UNLV professor

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Leila Navidi

Novelist and poet Pablo Medina has found living in the desert surprisingly pleasant. He says he loves the starkness of what’s there.

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Pablo Medina, novelist, poet and translator, joined UNLV as a visiting professor in fall 2006 after spending a decade writing and teaching at The New School in Manhattan. Born in Cuba and raised there and in New York City, Medina had not lived out west before moving to Las Vegas. He became a tenured professor in UNLV’s highly regarded creative writing program in the fall, but is already on his way out, having accepted a job at Boston’s Emerson College.

What did you hear first about UNLV?

I first heard about UNLV many years ago during the Jerry Tarkanian era, when it was a basketball powerhouse. Then, I heard numerous things about the writing program, which was becoming important in the world of writing. The program had a number of innovations. Students had to spend some time abroad and take on a translation project.

What did you think about moving to Las Vegas?

I thought Las Vegas was one of these cities that was just coming into its own as an urban center. I’m an urban creature, so that appealed to me. I’ve never lived in a desert before. It turned out to be a very pleasant surprise.

What was pleasant about the surprise?

The stark nature that one finds in the desert is quite surprising, and either you hate it or you love it. And I love it. It became my escape, my new way of dealing with daily life. As I told people, I don’t go to churches on Sunday. I go hiking.

How has living here influenced your work?

The desert, the light here, the starkness of the landscape have entered my poetry. I’m a poet of place, so I’m always influenced by my surroundings in a very intimate way.

Why are you leaving?

My family is back east. But I also feel like the university and the programs that I came for are being severely challenged and hurt by the budgetary crisis and the way Carson City is dealing with it. I would have seen no reason to leave if the program and university were on solid footing.

What will you miss about this place?

The light, the mild winters, the desert and a number of friends that I’ve made here, good people who are really dedicated to this city.

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