In Which We Read Poems And Listen To Poets Read Their Poems

Posted by on October 16, 2009 at 11:51 am

Louise Glück

Louise Glück

On Wednesday October 14, 2009, poetry junkies like myself flocked to Houghton Library to see a truly stunning event. Organized by Christina Davis via the Woodberry Poetry Room (located in Lamont where poetry workshops are held for student work each Friday), spectators had the privilege of listening in on some of the most poignant poetic voices of our time. Louise Glück, Pulitzer Prize winner and former U.S. poet laureate along with Michael Dickman, whose first collection of poems “The End of the West,” came out this year along with his debut in the New Yorker, each read a select number of poems to an eager and packed audience.

Both poets were eloquently introduced by Joanna Klink, a very-well established, award-winning poet in addition to being a professor here at Harvard. Dickman read first, with such vulnerable honesty, from his collection “The End of the West.” His poems are deeply personal but still have the capacity to resonate with any listener willing to be absorbed by the depth of his words. His poetry so gracefully walked the line of deceptive simplicity and density that one could argue he cast a spell over the entire room. Indeed, not a noise could be heard throughout both readings (perhaps this is due in part to the fact that the Woodberry Room records these sessions, and has done so for decades). Glück appeared at the podium next and seamlessly wove through selected pieces from her newest collection “A Village Life.” She insisted upon not stopping between poems to create a narrative effect—even a chronology, given the thought she put into the order to which the poems are published. Her voice was deliberate and haunting—and her piece, “At the River,” incited a few hushed murmurs of wonder in its closing.

Michael Dickman

Michael Dickman

I had the pleasure of meeting both of them at the end of the reading while they were signing multitudes of viewer’s books—some new, some tattered from years of rifling through cherished pages. I approached Dickman first, nervously of course—worried I might say something absurd like, “You have really great hair,” but his smile was comforting and put me at ease. It was only as such until after he asked for my name and then, quite simply, stated, “How are you? You fucked up?” and, without thinking, I answered, “Well no, not yet?” So, I have a book from Michael Dickman in my room that currently reads “For Kathleen – Not Fucked Up! Love, Michael Dickman.” Needless to say, I’m keeping that one forever. I met Glück next and she acted with such poise and grace, seeming quite humbled by all of the thanks she was receiving for reading her work.

Overall, the night was one not to be missed. But, if you were not there fellow poet junkies, don’t fret! There is so much more coming up! The Woodberry Room puts on a huge number of events each month that can be accessed here, and the next reading at Houghton Library will feature Olga Broumas and Pulitzer Prize winning poet Franz Wright on October 28th at 6:00 p.m. Hope to see you there to hear voices at their best.

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