Sunday, April 17, 2011

Lost in a Reading

"I thank you all for coming in out of the pollen," poet Brian Henry began this afternoon's reading at the Visual Arts Center.

I'll take poetry over pollen any day of the week, even on a gorgeously sunny Sunday afternoon. And today's reading showed off two very different poetical styles to a large crowd gathered in the gallery foyer, the first time I'd ever heard poetry there (music, yes, poetry, no).

With sun streaming in from the front and back doors, it made for an allergy-free zone while still feeling connected to the day.

Many of the poems from Henry's new book were written in the late '90s and early aughts and dealt with violence in different kinds of ways.

"Even your dust shatters, even your air" from "Even, Even" and "A smattering of cirrus, no rain today" from "Elegy Belated" show the kind of evocative words Henry uses to draw mental pictures.

Acknowledging yesterday's violent weather, he read  "You weep into my hands at the wind's first rush" from "Tornado Warning," referencing waiting out a storm in the clay basements of Atlanta.

David Wojahn began his part of the reading with a piece about his introduction to Richmond: Hurricane Isabel ("Not easy to wait that long, but possible") back in 2003. His references to downed power lines and toppled trees took me back to that pioneer period when I had no power for twelve days.

"Now it's the future that's bathed in possibility" from "Fetish Value" undoubtedly resonated differently for every person in the room, while ""Trite is the story, but in it we are lost" seemed to me a statement on the human condition.

After being fortified by such poetry, I was ready to head back into the allergen-filled afternoon to see what possibilities might bathe my future under the cirrus-less sky, open to anything.

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