October 5, 2018

The Rev, September 27

Two nights in a row to Troy, for poetry! Matthew Klane has over the last few years made Russell Sage College in Troy a center of poetry & other new writing with a series of readings by visiting writers as well as open mics for students & readings by contributors to The Russell Sage Review. The series takes its name from the student literary zine. The program tonight presented, not quite by design, 2 writers from Chicago to a packed house of mostly students, with a few faculty & staff, & a couple of us community poets.

Alix Anne Shaw read from her forthcoming collection from Etruscan Press, Rough Ground, in which, as she explained, she contemplates the nature of language, playing off the texts of Ludwig Wittgenstein. She began with the prologue, “An Argument” about whether it is a “cup” or a “mug,” then on to a selection representing different aspects of the book; there is a central female character, a bomb blast that is part of the narrative, the main character moving from the country to the city; some titles such as “No Body Can Be Separate from its Bruise” (“bodies” is a word that recurs), “Forensic Scene,” “Nest” (the bomb blast), “A Labyrinth of Houses,” “An Empty Superstition” (rain & fire also figure in a lot). The poems were plain spoken, in simple language, almost like essays, read in a quiet, precise voice that matched the text. She concluded with a poem not in the book, interlacing physics (“the mean free path”) & the political, with a more emotional reading than the poems from Rough Ground.

In between tonight’s readers, Matthew read a poem “From the Book of Dust” by Cynthia Hogue, who had originally been scheduled for this reading.

In contrast, the next writer Jac Jemc read from her novel The Grip of It (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017) about a young couple moving ton a new suburban house that turns out to be haunted. Interestingly enough, the author uses a quote from Ludwig Wittgenstein as the epigraph. The story is told in short chapters, alternating between the husband, James, & the wife, Julie. Jemc gave us a sample of the voices & outlined the plot. She said later during the Q&A that she always liked haunted house horror stories & a wanted to try her hand at one.

Although the room was filled mostly with students, most of the questions seemed to come from faculty or community members — &, as is so characteristic of poetry readings in academic settings, no one applauds between poems, unlike the readings out in the community.

The series will continue throughout the semester; you can check their Facebook page for more information.

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