Although Arthur Flowers’s move to Upstate New York for SU’s creative writing program in 1996 helped launch his career, he did not like the change nor the city at first. Originally from Memphis, he had spent most of his life in New York City and failed to appreciate the Salt City’s charms. “Then I decided that this was a chance to treat Syracuse like a writer’s retreat and focus on getting work done, and it’s been productive ever since,” he says. He also admits he partied too much in New York City with other budding writers and literary figures. “The best place to go as a writer is New York City,” Flowers says. “But I was living way too hard there. Moving to Syracuse probably saved my life.”
And his writing career. After moving to Syracuse, he has written Another Good Loving Blues, De Mojo Blues, and Mojo Rising: Confessions of a 21st Century Conjureman, among other works. His fiction explores themes of love, jazz, magic, and humanity in the Deep South. He’s currently working on a nonfiction book, The Hoodoo Book of Flowers, and calls himself a conjure man — someone in touch with literary hoodoo, which includes magic, myth work, and the oral tradition of African-American literature. Flowers performs his fiction all over the world through blues-style performances with ankle bells and a finger piano. He transports listeners to another era when spoken word was one of the only sources of entertainment, weaving chapters of his novels into a spoken-folk rhythm.
But despite the magic Syracuse brought to his career, Flowers, an associate professor in the English and textual studies department, suggests to all his students that they try out the city. “In Los Angeles, you have to go out looking for experiences to write about,” Flowers says. “In New York City, you stand on the corner and duck them.”
Flowers believes that as a 21st-century writer, he must connect with his readers through the digital space and writes Rootsblog, a cyberhoodoo webspace.
Here, an excerpt from Another Good Loving Blues:
“I am Flowers of the delta clan Flowers and the line of O Killens — I am hoodoo, I am griot, I am a man of power. My story is a true story, my words are true words, my lie is a true lie — a fine old delta table about a mad blues piano player and a Arkansas conjure woman on a hoodoo mission. Lucas Bodeen and Melvira Dupree. Plan to show you they found the good thing. True love. That once-in-a-lifetime love. Now few folk find the good thing; most folk struggle through life making do — you can learn to love most anybody that’s good people. Truth be told it’s probably best that way because when you find true love my friend it’s strictly do or die. ”
— Kait Hobson