March 18, 2008

Frequency North, March 13

At The College of St. Rose, Albany, NY, curated by Daniel Nester.

The third in this year's series of four readings featured Gregory Pardlo & Darcey Steinke.

Gregory Pardlo's book of poems, Totem, was published by Copper Canyon Press in 2007. The poems he read tonight were accessible, discursive & often about his own experience. His "Landscape with Intervention" dealt with the appropriation of images, art versus corporate control. A couple poems used historical content, such as "Restoring O'Keefe," a wonderful piece about Georgia O'Keefe's brief affair with the writer Jean Toomer; another, "Vanitas: Camden Ferry," combined his musings on the ferry with the underground railroad. One of his more personal pieces, "Suburban Passionale," brought me back to my days delivering newspapers, but whereas his customer was a neighborhood beauty smoking pot & listening to Miles Davis, the best I could come up with was the housewife buttoning her blouse giving me a blessed view of her lace bra as she opened the door.

Darcey Steinke has written a novel, Suicide Blonde, & short fiction, but tonight she read from a memoir, Easter Everywhere (Bloomsbury, 2007). She read 3 excerpts, one about visiting a poor family to deliver food with her minister father at age 3 (!), another at age 5, and the third, & most compelling because of its humor, about going to speech therapy for a stutter at age 13. None of the pieces showed any evidence of the "stumble back toward faith" that Nester described in his opening remarks. And how she can remember anything from age 3 begs the question of memoir v. novel. It's like if any of Kerouac's novels were published today, they would be marketed as "memoirs" by the corporate booksellers. The thinly disguised autobiographical novels of the past have become today's thinly disguised fictional memoirs. Nonetheless, Steinke's work was well-written & enjoyable.

Check out www.frequencynorth.com for more information.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

from Therese Broderick--I agree with Dan about the unreliability of the memory of a three-year old. But nowadays "memoir" is also called "creative non-fiction" which allows the author to do research (ex., asking older sisters, brothers, parents) and then to weave the research findings into an autobiographical account. But if that's the case with this author, she should have written "according to my sisters and brothers" etc. Regarding Gregory Pardlo--I have also blogged about his reading (with a focus on his art-related poems) at poetry.wordpress.com. And I think it's two "f"s in O'Keeffe.

Anonymous said...

from Therese again--WOOPS! In my last comment I left an incorrect URL for my own blog! Here it is again, correctly--
poetryaboutart.wordpress.com

Daniel Nester said...

Yeah memoir has become a dicey subject, but safe to say Darcey did skads of research for her book --interviews with relatives, historical research. All of which has been standard practice for ages. I think where people get tripped up is that mimetic moment where we readers think that this narrator must have a great memory. Some might call it the magic of writing, even.

Hey -- quick plug since this doesn't appear on the Albany Poets site -- April 3 for Frequency North is Cristin Aptowicz and Shappy Seaholtz -- two slam poets who know how to hold your attention and hearts. Check out the details here.

Daniel Nester said...

Seasholtz, I meant. Dammit.

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