Distinguished poets lead discussion

Christian Wiman expressed his spiritual beliefs and values on Monday in the library. |  Robert Z. Easley/The Daily Cougar

Christian Wiman expressed his spiritual beliefs and values on Monday in the library. | Robert Z. Easley/The Daily Cougar

Award-winning poets Rae Armantrout and Christian Wiman shared their works Monday at the Alley Theater’s Neuhaus Stage for the fifth reading in the 2011/2012 Inprint Margarett Root Brown Reading Series.

Both also discussed the process of writing poetry at Inprint’s first Craft Talk/Q-and-A Session of the year held as a separate event before the reading in the Honors College commons.

Armantrout, winner of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize in poetry as well as the 2009 National Book Critics Circle Award for her collection Versed, spoke first at the Craft Talk.

She used writings by Emily Dickinson and Sigmund Freud to expound on the uncanny, which she feels is a strong element of her own poetry.

“Something is uncanny when it works but we don’t know how, or when something appears from nowhere,” said Armantrout. “If someone we know suddenly acts like a different person, that’s deeply uncanny. Unexplained repetitions can be uncanny and we often see those in poetry.”

Her work has been identified by many as experimental poetry because of her often short lines and fragmented sections. It seems that her poetry tends to be a commentary on something real that she is observing fused with her imagination.

“In my poetry, I like to bring things that don’t belong together into close proximity,” said Armantrout. “I’m interested in the intersection of the public and what’s left of the private. I like to join them together in my poems as jarringly as possible.”

This was apparent as Armantrout took on a slightly-elevated voice and steady tone while reading works varyingly inspired by the United States financial crisis, infomercials and literature among other things.

Wiman followed Armantrout at the Craft Talk and revealed the large role that his faith plays in his self-classified “anti-devotional devotional poems.”

He is the recipient of the Nicholas Roerich Poetry Prize for his debut collection “The Long Home” and current editor of Poetry magazine.

“There is something that any artist is in pursuit of and is answerable to,” said Wiman. “Some nexus of one’s being, one’s material and being itself. Inspiration is when these three things collide. For any artist alert to his own soul, this (collision) is the only call that matters. I know no name for it besides God.”

His speech included quotations of various authors but consisted mostly of prose poems from his upcoming novel to be published in 2013. Most focused on the intricate, emotional aspects of writing and where one’s inspiration comes from.

“I think there is an elegiac tone in almost all poetry, even happy poetry,” said Wiman. “I think of that as a source of joy and happiness. That language leads beyond itself is always suggesting some other reality.”

Diagnosed with a rare and incurable blood cancer in 2005, Wiman had a passionate and almost mythical tone as he shared works from several of his collections at the reading.

Although Wiman explained that most of his poetry is not based on moments in his life, his work still seemed to share some insight into his personal world.

“God can sometimes call a person to Godlessness so faith can take new forms,” said Wiman. “I am overcome by a kind of existential loneliness sometimes, which I understand as spiritual and as just part of the package. I write out of that sometimes.”

Creative writing senior Reyes Ramirez was impressed by both poets’ readings and found that Wiman’s speaking style would likely infiltrate his own readings of the poems.

“Christian Wiman has a strength in the way he reads. I imagine when I sit down and read these poems, I’ll read them exactly the way he did,” said Ramirez.

The craft talk left a mark on many attendees, including public relations junior Kevin Boone. While not entirely invested in the creative writing world, Boone is taking Introduction to Poetry and was encouraged to attend by his professor.

“Both poets put the meaning of poetry into a good perspective, even if you’re only slightly interested in poetry,” said Boone. “They tried their best to generalize it, so I think everybody here could relate a little bit to what they had to talk about.”

[email protected]

Leave a Comment