Genesee Reading Series: Colleen Powderly & Kristen Gentry

Two women: one an author of short stories, one a poet; years separating their perspective on life; an interesting and enlightening evening at Writers & Books—Genesee Reading Series last night (August 8th).

Poet Colleen Powderly came with that podium ease that so entices the audience to engage, laugh and make that “hmmm”sound when a line hits its target (poets do that). It was a pleasure to travel through her love affairs, her ekphrastic poems based on a Vincent Van Gogh day calendar, and her strong “Ten Penny (nail)” poem about returning to Ireland with her aging father. Powderly’s poems are clear, eagle eyed, honest, and tell a story. They also work because there is craft in her work. But it is her ability to see “new”: in relationships; “My Lovers’ Hips”; see the daylight; “I watched light grow into the trees outside…” and on Van Gogh’s paintings of women working in the field; “He began to ‘see’ while painting them...” ; this is where one finds the word “profound.” 

Short story writer, Kristen Gentry, associate English professor at SUNY Geneseo, read “Mama Said” her lead piece in her upcoming collection of linked stories. “Mama Said” is a look inside the strain of daughters and mothers tied to addiction. Gentry read with animation and insight about that egg-shell walk around parental addiction; lines like “touching her arm to see if she is alive,” and the daughter’s feelings “of wishing she could run her mother over with the car, not to die, but to let her know how mad she was…” set that fear and anger in good passage.  Her comeback- overture line Gentry brought throughout the story was “you can’t fix her.”  But Gentry’s protagonist and story find a fixing strength and a worthy conclusion.    

A good reading last night.

Review by David Delaney