memorial for a brilliant woman

Thursday, April 10, 2008

poetry readings and such...why go?

here's some thoughts on poetry readings from poet Mark Wallace and from the James Branch Cabell annual lecture.

Which I attended last night at VCU- A Party of Poets - Keynote speaker: Ellen Bryant Voigt with panelists: Buffy Morgan, Deborah Nystrom, Lucinda Roy, Ron Smith and David Wojahn and moderator: Mary Flinn, senior editor for the online literary journal Blackbird.

Voight delivered an long lecture on Dave Smith and Charles Wright (both of whom I find just tedious and stuck firmly in place- as in, no heart, just observations of their lives- yawn) after which she read one of her poems, a poem so much better than any of theirs it was almost painful. Though her scholarship is indisputable, I wish she'd read poems- HER poems.

The discussion afterwards was a mutual masturbatory celebration of how wonderfully Virginia nurtures poets, apparently because it is swamped with MFA programs that turn out scads of poets to flood the country with their same-same poetry (even when it's not the same, it's the same). I have significant disagreement about how poets are nurtured here- if you aren't in the MFA clan, you don't count (sometimes even after you graduate, as I heard someone behind me whisper).

None of the panel were born in Virginia, and Voight has lived in Vermont forever.

Buffy Morgan and Lucinda Roy stood out as panelists- I do get a little peeved at Morgan's Southern graciousness sometimes- though her remarks are always dead on- she brought up women poets and how the deep south embarrasses her. Roy, now at Virginia Tech from London, reminded us of race, class, and economic disconnects from poetry- a good point, true, but she came off a little one-issue IMO, though she is obviously brilliant- everything she said was well-considered and you could see her listening carefully to the other panelists.

Smith and Wojahn were affable as always but I don't think added much content to the event- I do like them both, they just seemed out of place. Nystrom, in the grand tradition of UVA participants, said little. I don't think they travel well (or play with others).

I believe the whole thing was recorded for Blackbird if you want to hear for yourself. It may be a few days/weeks before they put it up and we'll all have forgotten by then.

The room was full of poets and IMPORTANT people. I wouldn't call it fun, exactly. The buffet was very nice, seemed like mostly townies took advantage and I didn't see an undergrad in site so there was plenty.

No one seemed really happy (except Buffy). Maybe they should all read Wallace's blog.

1 comment:

Sandra said...

Well, I'm glad you summoned your spirits to go to a reading the very next night. = )

It was really good to meet you, Shann, and I'd love to do another reading in Richmond--especially now, with the book in hand!

Good luck on's a slog for me right now, too. Hang in there, damn it.