March 14, 2011. Elizabeth Fodaski dips a toe and then takes a nervy leap into work with a personal edge. Nervy for her, I think, because her poems would not be classified as "lyric," but are rather the sort that test out words to see what they could possibly do beside each other. (As in much of her new book, Document: "A palimpsest of fruity horizons harangues the interloper"). She starts with an elegy to her father ("reader, I married him to my memory"), followed by poems from Document. She then reads a kind of minuet on the couple, with the recurring image of a husband's face at the dining room table (place of family meals, sex, arguments, apologies), taking Dickinson's line "I like a look of agony" as its point of departure. The kind of poem, she confesses, that is difficult to return to once written. Language frissons: "shaky custard," "a glass of noise," "your designated tough-guy novel moment."
Edward Hirsch comes with a collection of new and selected, The Living Fire, which spans seven previous books and a life lived in the company of poetry. In contrast, Hirsch's work could serve as the definition of "lyric" (as a category). He, too, begins with an elegy to his father ("Special Orders") and offers a poem that takes a line from Petrarch as its point of departure: "The times my sad heart knew a little sweetness." He describes the summer of being a young poet in New York and writing the first breakthrough poems, ones he knew would stick around, and shares one ("Song"). There's a nervy poem, too, involving breast milk and "a mirrored room off Highway 59" (called "Milk"... that's all I'll say!). And "Green Couch", a kind of ode to the object, a repository of "difficult reading," and the silent witness to the end of a marriage. It ends with the wonderfully simple stanza:
I go back and forth to work.
I walk in the botanical gardens on weekends
and take a narrow green path to the clearing.
Join us next week, March 21, when we co-hosts (Laura Cronk, Megin Jimenez and Michael Quattrone) take over for our own reading. To see the complete Spring 2011 series, click here.