April 15, 2011

The Greyfriar Living Literature Series, April 14

This occasional series takes place at Siena College in Loundonville, NY & the reader tonight was Gary Soto.

Naton Leslie from the English Department did the brief, biographical introduction to a room filled mostly with students & faculty of Siena College, with a handful of community poets.

Soto read a selection of his poems, many dealing with his experiences in school, such as "Stars," "Starching Clothes" (attending a concert for music appreciation class), & "Seventh Grade Shoes." His poems are often humorous, or as he described them, tongue-in-cheek, & the narratives are laid out in colloquial language spiced with bright metaphors.  Even his animal poems (such as "Dime-Store Parakeet" & a poem about a dog in a car eating an apple) avoided the sentimental & stuck to vivid (& therefore memorable) images.

 But a couple times he censored himself & decided to not read or truncate poems because of the audience. This was particularly ironic in his reading of "Our Five Senses" which was about going to junior college, learning about Aristotle & then (apparently, since he cut these parts out) having sex with a girl in a car, the irony being that the experiences he was describing in the poem took place when he was about the age of most of the people in the audience. Did he think that kids today don't get laid? Or that the older folks in the audience would be offended? Another poem he started to introduce, then decided not to read. Too bad, it probably would've been a crowd pleaser. He also interrupted his reading twice to elicit questions from the audience, which were quite good & led to interesting discussions of his writing technique & habits.

Other poems included among others the much-anthologized "Oranges," "Copper" & the early "Field Poem." I particularly liked "Pompeii & the Uses of the Imagination" with its humor & incongruous images. He said this was his first time traveling to this part of New York State. Too bad he couldn't stick around for the Albany WordFest this weekend.

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