Compliments to Wanda Schubmehl, host of Writers & Books’ Genesee Reading Series, for October’s pairing: St John Fisher Professor M.J. Iuppa and SUNY Geneseo Professor Lytton Smith. Damn it was good. You know that drag-your-feet-to-a-reading feeling that sometimes accompanies a long day? These two poets washed it away in seconds.
M.J. set an easy tone, talking about each poem she read, engaging the audience, a truly warm reflection on and off the page. The title poem of her latest book, Small Worlds Floating, is so light filled, you’ll want to hear it again and again. Here’s the fourth stanza:
My desire-to lie down on the spine
of a green canoe that’s set adrift
on a pond full of water lilies
and golden carp and sunlight
tracing its transparent map.
This poem is controlled, subtly rhymed, gently grasps the passion she holds like a confident runner in the starting blocks. She is well-published for a reason.
Lytton Smith read mostly from his book The All-Purpose Magical Tent, the winner of the 2007 Nightboat Poetry Prize. Is he good? Poet Terrance Hayes says on the book’s back cover; “Whoa…” and in the book’s foreword, written by Hayes, he notes: “…Ultimately, I love this collection for its crafty displacements. As the opening line of the sequence Monster Theory suggests "It is always at the onset a displacement –."
Lytton read several poems basted in a sort of tangy truth: a mix of pun, wit, and play, with a discordant harshness that holds the listener. And I, too, found the book’s seven-poem series Monster Theory gripping. His look at us through the monsters we create—the monsters we need—could stop you from blinking. There’s a heart deep in that series that rises and falls as he leads us through this Frankensteinian, Beowulfian allusions. And his last line of the series tells you of the leash he has on his craft.
Wanda, nice work. Another great night for poets and fans of poetry.