The Genesee Reading Series: Catherine Faurot and Chen Chen 8/13/2019

Review by Jennifer Maloney

I’m so pleased I was able to attend the Genesee Reading Series! Once again, Wanda Schubmehl knocks it outta the park with her inspired pairing of these two poets. 

Catherine Faurot’s garden was in the room with us tonight, the texture of each bulb bumping beneath my fingertips, the curved and sensual blooms filling the night with scent. She drew the First Garden into the space as well, with a series of poems about Adam and Eve. The line “juncture is always at the place of fracture” juxtaposes the separation of the sexes with their longing to be joined: “the fumbling magnetism of what is cloven.” Her work was poignant and rich and completely satisfying. 

This is the first time I’ve heard Chen Chen read—what a delight! Nearly every line an utter surprise. What at first seems an outrageous observation is almost instantly transformed by some linguistic alchemy into resonant insight. The poems are often funny, often sweet. “For I Will Consider My Boyfriend Jeffrey” made me laugh out loud because Jeffrey thinks a cassowary looks “like a goddamn velociraptor,” then tear up because “he looks happy & doesn’t know I’m looking & that makes his happiness free.” Sometimes they will break your heart; still, the poet’s touch is light, easy, a conversation between friends. I didn’t know I was reeling from this work until I was driving home crying. That’s pretty darn amazing. I’m still processing. 

The Genesee Reading Series continues to be a must-see in the monthly rotation of readings around town, and in my humble opinion, it’s curator’s instincts about poetry, and poets, is a big piece of what has made this series so important to Rochester. Thank you, Wanda, for all your hard work in finding such powerful voices to share with us. Tonight’s event was another great success in what’s been a very long string of them. I look forward to what’s in store for us in the coming months.