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1000 Black Lines

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Review of Friday night's reading

The latest volume of The American Poetry Review arrived in my mailbox Friday afternoon. So I tucked under my arm and drove off into the rain to the Fellowship Hall feeling very smart and silly at the same time. I don't consider myself academic. So the act of trying to look smart in a room full of academics is a foolish charade on my part. Nevertheless, I did read the first few selections while waiting for the reading to begin. I'm still not sure what I think of Mary Kinzie's poem.

Anyway, Jennifer Grotz, a poet, began the evening by reading two translations by a French poet. She reads slowly, deliberately pronouncing each word as if reading role call for a high school home room or like the Economics Teacher in the movie Ferris Bueller: "Bueller?... Bueller?... Bueller?" She bridged each poem with a bubbly, conversational introduction which the audience seemed to appreciate. Maybe her poems are better read on paper. Her work just didn't resonate with me at all.

Danzy Senna, a novelist, read from her novel Autobody and read with drama; shifting narrator voice to character voices. She has a subtle lisp when pronouncing "innocence" and "success" and "stare." Her narrative is captivating and populated with warm approachable characters and full of tense lines like: "the conversation went from ironic to earnest." I really enjoyed her reading.

Brooks Haxton, poet, began with a humoristic, absurd, controversial (you had to be there to enjoy it) poem about the planning of a large mall in Syracuse. That poem pleased the audience greatly and they responded to all the right lines with loud laughter. Haxton presents his work as recitations, more or less, with the expert use of eye contact; makes one feel like each poem is a conversation or gift to listeners. I like this approach. He delivers the poems to the listener, not the pages on the lecturn.

Kevin McIlvoy read a delightful short fiction monologue from the point of view of a kid playing little league baseball. His animated presentation, complete with humming, singing, raising his left hand to catch a ball, revealed his master storytelling ability.

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