There was plenty of meaty reading today at Emory. What a pleasure to hear Deborah Warren’s astounding, elegant lines and New England e’s as o’s first thing in the morning, followed by Clive Watkins, whose poem about language and autism (“black hooks”) stuck its barbs under my fingernails. Eric McHenry, wonderful fellow, compelling poet of conscience, was there with a large chunk of his family. Jeffrey Harrison wrote his delighttfully anti-rock-star-poet-prof “Fork,” as well as “Medusa,” a poem I adore (and came to know thanks to Beth Gylys). I’d never heard McClatchy read before, and his reading was quite short (three poems, if I recall correctly?), but he took me back to the early days o the AIDS crisis. Mary Jo Salter, who along with Jon Stallworthy and Margaret Ferguson, revamped the venerable Norton Anthology of Poetry a few years ago, read a stunning poem, in which a pilot muses to his passengers about their plane’s pending crash–it reminded me of James Dickey’s poem “Falling.”
Today’s interviewees were Mark Strand, who has a hilarious, smart, dry wit, and W. D. Snodgrass, who throws his head back periodically and gives a great belly laugh when something amuses him. Snodgrass spoke at some length about interviewing Nazi architect Albert Speer as part of his research for The Fuehrer Bunker–specifically making the point that the evil and hatred that the Nazis carried within themselves also lives in the rest of us, which is why we try to vilify them. Unfortunately, the Nazis were all too human.
Strand capped the day by reading from his work, which clearly contains echoes of Latin American surrealismo, modulated by gringo sensibility.
Nearly all of the GSU graduate poetry workshop was there at one point or another throughout the day (so I wasn’t the only one “representing” The People’s University): Leon Stokesbury, Beth Gylys, Kathy Kincer, Cheryl Stiles, Austin Segrest, and Corey Green. Who else was there? John Stone, Turner Cassity, Georgia S., Janice Moore, Kevin Young (of course), Chelsea Rathburn and Jim May… a bunch of other folks (feel free to name them/yourself).
A few pix to come, along with the rest of the notes from Gioia’s interview, after which I’d like to pick up on a couple of the salient points he made. Try to restrain yourselves from this season’s terribly fashionable ad hominem attacks until you hear what he had to say.