Stories directly related to VCFA’s MFA in Writing & Publishing program

Fiction, Memoir, and Poetry–Oh My!

Welcome back to the Frontmatter for spring 2019 here in wintry Montpelier, Vermont! After a restful and re-energizing break, our writers are back on campus! As someone who stayed in the area for most of the holiday break, I can’t tell you how lovely it’s been to begin classes again with my brilliant cohort and our thought-provoking faculty. I was starting to feel like I was haunting the place.

After a few weeks back in classes, our 2019 faculty reading series officially began with a tour de force of fascinating readers: former Program Director and current faculty member Miciah Bay Gault, poet Bianca Stone, and writer and artist Frances Cannon.

Miciah Bay Gault began by introducing her upcoming debut novel Goodnight Stranger, which comes out, she announced to much applause, in July. After a quick introduction of the storyline and set-up, she launched us headlong into the story, choosing to read from a section right in the middle of the action.

In addition to this reading, I was also fortunate enough to have heard Gault read last year, when Goodnight Stranger was still somewhat in progress. I won’t reveal too much, but it was a treat to slip into the mysterious narrative that Gault has woven together. With its idyllic small-town setting (a quaint New England island, with all the trappings one might imagine!) and the appeal of the characters that inhabit it, the slivers I have been privy to have been fraught with tension and complexity. I—and, it’s safe to say the rest of the audience—eagerly await returning to it after its release.

Earlier in the day, we were treated to a discussion between Frances Cannon and Bianca Stone on the role of art and illustration in their work. I have no doubt that I would have been caught up in their readings regardless, but it was fascinating to have a different lens, a tutorial on the intersection of the written word and graphic art. As a selection of Cannon’s illustrations flashed on a screen beside the podium throughout the evening, it was easy to sense the intimate connection between her visual and verbal storytelling. Visually, her style is relatively minimal, perhaps sometimes encouraging the reader to color between the lines themselves. As she read from her recent graphic memoir, The Highs and Lows of Shapeshift Ma and Big-Little Frank (which, sidenote, “easily has the best title to any book ever,” according to introducer Kayleigh Marinelli, ’19), and her images accompanied her, we were allowed a unique step into a writer’s psyche.

I don’t think I’ve ever commented on a reader’s voice before—perhaps I should more often, as they are always so affecting—but I can’t help but mention it when it comes to Bianca Stone.

She presents her words slowly, deliberately, allowing her audience to savor every syllable. She speaks at a low register, so it doesn’t feel very much more significant in sound than a whisper, but with a rich resonance that requires attention. How do you make that happen? I found myself wondering over and over, as she executed each one of her pieces with such confidence, a calm sort of calculated boldness. How does one get there? How does one dominate a podium so gracefully, let alone create such entrancing pieces?

When you figure it out, will you let me know?

Pursuing Those Emotional Questions

On Friday, November 9th, we welcomed a trio of writers to campus for another reading. This time, James Scott, faculty member and author of The Kept, Sean Prentiss, faculty member and author of Finding Abbey: A Search for Edward Abbey and His Hidden Desert Grave, and Alex Marzano-Lesnevich, author of The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir each read us excerpts of their work.

A surprise snow shower started just before our evening began. Through the windows of Café Anna, we could see the flurries swirl across the campus green, settling on the fountain that has been drained in anticipation of our dropping temperatures. It all served as another poignant backdrop to the words our readers shared with us.

“We all started a class here with [James Scott] this week, and yesterday,” Mariah Hopkins, ’19 began candidly, “James taught us that there is an emotional question behind every piece of writing…and the emotional question behind this piece of writing,” she said, gesturing to the introduction she had written for Scott, her thesis advisor, “is how to do James and his work justice in such a short paragraph.”

After detailing his recent literary successes, Mariah welcomed Scott to the podium.

“I love writing because writing is like having a daydream—you can go wherever you want,” Scott began, recalling an exchange he had had with a friend who works with fourth-graders, one of whom offered the insight. After wondering aloud what the appropriate gif to send in response to such a declaration might be, he continued: “It made me think about what I’m working on now, and that it really started with some daydreams that occurred here in Vermont.”

As you may imagine, all Vermonters—natural-born or recent converts—blushed to ourselves in the audience. There’s simply no way around it: Vermont is a pretty dreamy place. It’s always nice to get a little validation, isn’t it?

James Scott then transitioned into reading the prologue for his current work-in-progress. I won’t reveal too much, except to say that it’s eerie, cold, and wet—and desperately mysterious. If that’s not an enticing combination of adjectives, I don’t know what is.

“At the end of my first year here at VCFA, every one of my classmates seemed to know what they were working on for their thesis project. I did not.” Mike Demyan began in introduction of our next reader, Sean Prentiss. He went on to confess that an essay he wrote in Prentiss’ nature and environmental class became the seed to what his thesis has evolved to today. He related Prentiss’ self-described relentless work ethic, prevalent talent in the creative non-fiction scene, and expansion into other areas of the writing world—a perfect example of the cross-genre exploration we students are expected to delve into ourselves during our time here.

“Every once in a while, I enter a fugue state and write a short story,” Prentiss started. “And by ‘once in a while,’ I mean like every third year. I know nothing about fiction…and I call this the dark art of fiction.”

Demonstrating his flexibility (even in the dark arts!) he went on to read a piece of short fiction about the intersection of young love and math. He raced through the story at breakneck speed, describing the bizarre conditions of infatuation and equations (and axioms, quadratics, and algebra) with the perfect frenzied feel, entirely evocative of what attraction feels like.

Alex Marzano-Lesnevich began with a disclaimer.

Because their work, The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir is non-fiction, some of which pertains to the murder of a six-year-old in Louisiana in 1992, Marzano-Lesnevich was artfully direct about their sources and their opinions in the process of writing their book. In haunting narration, Marzano-Lesnevich continued, detailing the conditions of the boy’s murder.

“I trained as a lawyer before doing an MFA, and when I was in my law program, I took a job in Louisiana, helping to defend men accused of murder,” they said after finishing the difficult passage. “Now, I am the child of two lawyers. I grew up talking about the Constitution over the dinner table. I remember the moment when I learned about the death penalty. I was horrified by it—felt right away that it was wrong. I have since learned that that is not a formative memory for most American schoolchildren, but it was for me.”

Before finishing their reading with a section from the memoir portion of their book that is woven into the account of the murder and its consequences, Marzano-Lesnevich paused, allowing us to step into their thought-process in going about this project. Needless to say, the subject-matter was stark and disturbing, but their self-reflective line of questioning was stunningly relatable: “Is who we are determined by the past,” they asked us, “or is who we are determined by what we believe?”

Photo credits to Bianca Viñas. 

Mining Interiority & the “Everybody Test”

Because the campus has been hopping with various events and other residencies lately, our normal Friday night reading venue, Café Anna, was suspended this week, and we relocated to the Chapel on the second floor of College Hall. Framed by the giant pipe organ and ornate finished wood accents, our reading took on an oddly reverent feel. This is not to imply that we do not revere our visiting writers normally—quite the contrary. But, as you may imagine, the juxtaposition of discussing the poetic nature of mystery feces and the surreal disappearance of a dear sibling was particularly curious in this space.

Our most recent guests to campus were poet Diana Goetsch and author Lesley Nneka Arimah. Both spent time in and out of classes with our Writing & Publishing students, offering their advice for their area of the writing industry and creative mentorship. The work and expertise they shared with us were invaluable.

“Diana Goetsch—pronounced like “fetch,” or “kvetch”—is the author of eight collections of poetry, including her most recent chapbook, “In America,” published in 2017.” Christa Guild, ’19 introduced our first reader. “She received her MFA from some school you’ve probably never heard of—the Vermont College of Fine Arts.”

Hearing Diana read her work was a striking experience. Not just because of her deliberate, graceful diction, or the complexity behind every syllable she spoke, but because she was one of us. Diana Goetsch did her time at the Vermont College of Fine Arts, like all of my peers in the audience. She had put in the long nights editing; she had dived into her personal experience and shared her intimate thoughts; she had probably negotiated a few of our formidable winters for her work. And, as with our other visiting artists and writers, she inspires.

“The challenge always is to be a writer—that’s my identity,” Goetsch said at one point in between poems. “It’s how I write something that satisfies what I call the ‘everybody test,’ the faith that when you write, it’s never for you, it’s not self-expression, and yet the subjects can be so specific. Who passes the everybody test is really for you to decide.”

’When Enebeli Okwara sent his girl out in the world, he did not know what the world did to daughters.’ This exquisite sentence begins the story of Light, my first introduction to Lesley Arimah’s work back in 2015,” Samuel Kolawole, ’19 began, introducing Arimah. “The final sentence hit me so hard that I immediately started the story all over again.  Such is the calm, lightness, and power of Lesley’s fiction.”

We have had the pleasure of having Lesley Nneka Arimah on campus with us for the last three weeks as a visiting professor teaching our Fireside Chats (professional development for those of you not in the know!) and a fiction craft module centered around the concept of world-building.

One of the lessons that keeps surfacing as I review my experiences with Lesley is “mining one’s own interiority” for material. It’s a simple enough concept to grasp: tapping in on personal experience, thought, and emotion to inform your writing. We have read and discussed so much over our last few weeks with Lesley, and I can’t help wondering which bits and pieces authors and poets have sampled from their own brains for their material. I wish I could properly convey the deep impression she has left on her students—we are so sad that her time with us (for now!) is up.

As promised, I have a few more additions to our running reading companion playlist. This week, all contributed by Diana Goetsch: Roberta Flack’s “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” (belted out under the cover of an arriving train) The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby,” (a song about loneliness) and “Ziggy Stardust” by David (“wow, isn’t this a blahhhst!”) Bowie.

Photo credits to Bianca Viñas.

Musicality & Mistaken Identity: An Evening With Justin Bigos and Matthew Olzmann

This past Friday, we had the pleasure of hosting two poets for our reading series in Café Anna: Justin Bigos, current faculty member here at VCFA, author of Mad River and chapbook Twenty Thousand Pigeons and co-founder of Waxwing Literary magazine, and Dartmouth poet Matthew Olzmann, author of Mezzanines and Contradictions in the Design.

After mingling with the other attendees over drinks and hors d’oeuvres (pro tip: look out for the double-chocolate cookies—they are positively sinful) introductions began.

“I picked up Mad River and opened it randomly, landed on a poem involving masturbation and a candlestick,” Lennie DeCerce, ’19 said in her opening introduction of Bigos, pausing for a laugh. “I obviously had to have it immediately because I’m that kind of reader.”

“I think I should probably move that to the front for a second edition, maybe,” Bigos responded as he straightened his pages in preparation for his read. “For people like y’all—a new word here in Vermont.”

Justin Bigos’ poems are delicious—you can taste them. Not just because he uses a language of food—splitting sardines with his two-and-a-half-year-old daughter, breakfasting on coffee and watermelon, pickling kohlrabi, and musing on kabocha squash and pipián verde, for instance—but also because one is simply encouraged to sit in a moment and consider with him.

His reading primarily came from his current project, a book-length poem with dated sections. “I wanted to do something very different than I had done before, and so I decided to write daily, and to make that something that I went to like work, like labor,” He said in preface. “I also decided I wanted it to be something very multi-voice, very polyphonic.”

In this vein, Bigos dissected moments in time with references to pop culture, bits of then-current events, and above all—music. It’s fitting that Bigos sometimes dipped in and out of a lexicon of song titles and artists, once mentioning a Roy Orbison phase, then The Cramps (“real ghoulish rockabilly business. They took a genre they loved and fucked it in the mouth. I salute them.”) and Wanda Jackson’s “Fujiyama Mama” (“comparing her overpowering passion for a lover to the atomic bombs that killed over 200,000 people in Japan—but she didn’t write the song.”) His words have a musicality of their own.

Before our second reader started, we had one of those strange “art imitates life imitates art” moments. Bianca Vinas, ’19, who introduced Matthew Olzmann, began with an anecdote about mistaking another man for him around town.

“In wonderful poetic nature, Matthew,” She began, “I confused you with another human last week.”

She detailed a figure—“tall, gallant, dark-rimmed glasses, a chesterfield top coat”—who she “immediately prescribed…to be poetic,” and who she and a few others watched for hours, knowing that Olzmann would soon be visiting campus. “This is what I gathered: his huge strides in leather booties were poetic, forgetting the code to the front door was also poetic, walking in circles around the coffee machine was poetic.” She finished by describing his disappearance, which she thought “the most poetic gesture of his whole arrival.”

“So now that I know who you are, Matthew,” she finished, letting the audience laugh with her, “I want to thank you […] and promise I will never confuse you again.”

At this point, Matthew Olzmann took the podium.

“This is a poem also about being mistaken for someone else,” he said, not skipping a beat. The first piece delved into questioning identity and spiritual experience, weaving in and out of humor and solemnity at a deft, breakneck pace. He, unlike Bianca, compared himself to the musician Moby (“who, like me, is bald and wears glasses. I am not Moby. I am the man who is mistaken for the man who is mistaken for Moby.”) What followed were a series of hilarious and moving pieces delivered in sharp deadpan.

“If you’re trying to figure out where exactly we are and where exactly this whole thing is going to end,” Olzmann said in transition at one point, “when a cow falls through the roof, we’re probably halfway done, and when I start talking about an invisible horse, it’s probably time to go home.”

After we broke for the evening, I had so many song titles and artists bouncing around in my head that I could have made my own mixtape—so, essentially, that’s what I’ve done! Should you like to sink deeper into our readings, I’ve curated a playlist of all songs and artists referenced so far, and I hope to keep updating it with new additions whenever possible. So today, we have “Fujiyama Mama,” “Goo Goo Muck” by The Cramps, Roy Orbison’s “Crying,” and “Porcelain” by Moby (not Matthew Olzmann). I’ll keep you posted as time goes on.

For now, though–I think we’ve hit that invisible horse point.

Photo credits to Bianca Vinas and Blake Z. Rong. 

And We’re Back: The First Reading of Another Year at VCFA

On Friday the 14th we had our first open reading of the 2018-2019 school year. The evening featured the poetry and prose of the three individuals who lead our program: Associate Director Lizzy Fox, faculty member and Editor of the college’s literary magazine Hunger Mountain Erin Stalcup, and Director Rita Banerjee.

MFA in Writing & Publishing candidate Cammie Finch introduces Associate Director Lizzy Fox.

Associate Director Lizzy Fox reads at the September 14th open reading in Café Anna.

Looking back a year ago when I started the program, I remember that the first reading set the tone for the semester to come. This year, as students, faculty, and community members mixed over glasses of wine, I wondered where we would be heading under this new leadership, and what glimpses into their writing lives the evening in Café Anna would bring us.

Introduced by several of my peers, each writer delivered beautiful and interesting words, delving into both in-progress and long-published works, their subjects ranging from a personal reaction to the events of 9/11, to a study on the ritual of mourning the dead, to a retelling of a simple, poignant exchange at the fountain in front of College Hall.

MFA in Writing & Publishing candidate Lindsay Gacad introduces faculty member and Editor of literary magazine Hunger Mountain Erin Stalcup.

Faculty member and Editor of Hunger Mountain Erin Stalcup.

MFA in Writing & Publishing candidate Nick Howard introduces Director Rita Banerjee.

Director Rita Banerjee.

“Already?” I heard one of my fellow students whisper to their neighbor as the evening came to a close.

Over the last few days, I’ve been thinking about how Lizzy Fox talked about keeping gratitude lists as a springboard for one of her pieces. Ever since, I’ve been mulling over my own little list: I’m grateful for a cohort of kind, brilliant, and curious people; I’m grateful for a team of inspirational and thought-provoking mentors and writers at the helm; I’m grateful for summers away from VCFA, and for the opportunity to come back to it again, rested and ready to write.

Welcome back to another year of writing and publishing in our little corner of the world.

A Student Reading, Before The Final Farewell

The final reading of the semester—the entire year, really—was held in the Chapel, the night before graduation. It was the perfect opportunity for us to re-familiarize ourselves with our classmates’ work. After a year in each other’s company, we can identify everyone in our humble cohort by subjects and genres: tennis, addiction, magic realism, speculative fiction, dinosaurs.

But the graduating students led hermit-like existences while finishing their theses. And our cohort was divided into separate workshops. Hence, we might have not seen each other’s work. For some, the reading affirmed their thesis projects, while for others, it was a chance to try something new.

It had been too long. The reading was so well-attended that we had no choice but to move from Cafe Anna, where all of our readings went down, to the Chapel, already set up for graduation. Under the warm lights, we were all stars.

A Night at the Theater

Just before graduating from the MFA in Writing & Publishing program, Dan Cretaro staged a reading of his thesis, a two-act play entitled “Yet, Not There.” In the play, two couples spend a secluded weekend in the woods. They navigate the intricacies of childhood friendships, starting families, careers and the lack thereof, inside jokes, and Nineties wrestling references. It was a play worthy of reflecting the involvement and nuances that a long thesis project takes.

Your humble chronicler got the chance to photograph the play as well as backstage. Suffice to say, nobody broke an actual leg.

Students Cammie Finch, Brianna Stallings, Jeremy Wolf, and Michael Demyan all had starring roles, with Tierney Ray reading stage directions. Plus, Captain Nemo guest-starred as a slice of pizza.

Boston Bound for Books!

Get on the bus; it’s field trip time! Students from the MFA in Writing and Publishing program recently spent the weekend in Boston. We met with editors, publishers, and directors: Sven Birkerts and William Pierce of AGNI, Christina Thompson of the Harvard Review, Janaka Stucky of Black Ocean Press, and Christopher Castellani and Dariel Suarez of GrubStreet.

It was illuminating to visit the places where we might pursue publication of our own work. But after a long winter in Vermont, it was also illuminating to see Boston in the spring: we visited bookstores. We visited the Museum of Fine Arts. We visited restaurants whipping up cuisine we’ve missed.

I asked everyone what they really liked about the trip. Some illuminating answers:

Our hip Airbnb in Dorchester

Hangin’ out with Laura and Mariah! Photo by Blake Z. Rong.

Mariah Hopkins: Aside from it being very spacious and luxurious, it was a nice big area for all of us to hang out in and watch movies and K-dramas. The record collection was great! It had that Pat Benatar album with the song “Hell Is For Children” in it. I love that song.

AGNI

Samuel Kolawole: I just liked the fact that the two editors had this kind of working relationship, rapport, that is interesting in the sense that they definitely know their tastes. One of them could have made a decision for the other. Maybe because they were working together for years. So that was one of the things that was fascinating. Also I think that is a nice space.

Harvard Review

Laura Kujawa: It was a delight. It was a bonding experience, and it was a chance to learn so many things. It was inspirational to talk to editor Christina Thompson.

Ma’ayan D’Antonio: I loved meeting the Harvard Review editor. I kept on asking questions. I liked the fact that she asked people what they were writing. The fact that she was in Australia—I thought, to do this in Australia would be wicked! I loved how she was willing to help people, especially if they’re contributing something. She sounded very invested in the literary community and the people who are contributing to her. For now, personally, I’d be happy being a reader for the magazine.

Black Ocean Press

Lennie Decerce: You know how we had to watch that TED Talk about the why of selling products, you’re selling the why, you’re not selling the actual product? Janaka to me was that. He was the embodiment of love and passion for poetry. I find it incredibly inspirational and heartwarming that someone takes that love and puts it out there like that.

GrubStreet

Paul Acciavatti: The feeling of community and that there’s so much excitement around people learning to write. The idea of a community hub. It wasn’t just for classes; it was a chill spot; there are readings. Samuel and I are going to build one for Montpelier, and we’re looking forward to it.

The Museum of Fine Arts

Samuel Kolawole in front of a Yorua statue at the MFA. Photo by Paul Acciavatti.

Paul Acciavatti: It was awesome to be close to actual Monets and the sketches that Escher made while working on a lot of his most famous pieces. I took a picture of cool vases in a mirror box. I don’t know who did them or what their relevance is. But they’re cool. Samuel was like a toddler and wanted to leave after an hour and a half…

Historic bookstores

Staring at Balzacs inside Brattle Book Shop’s rare book room. Photo by Cammie Finch.

Cammie Finch: I loved the Brattle Book Shop and its rare book room and the murals outside. I loved that there was a space outside for books to live, every day—it feels accessible, but it also feels like a secret. The Harvard Book Shop feels like a sacred book spot. We saw the poet Sarah Kay read: the event was so crowded that the event space was full, and so Lennie and I sat in the poetry section, listening to the event while reading other poetry books. The bookstore was crowded with Harvard students—it was awesome to see so many students there on a Thursday night.

Boston, where everybody knows your name

Lauren Lang, Laura Kujawa, Christa Guild, and Kayleigh Martinelli. Photo by Cammie Finch.

Christa Guild: We saw the Cheers bar, and an albino squirrel in the Boston Common. We walked around the harbor and saw the USS Constitution, which was really neat. We made it over to Fenway Park. We had a cool dim sum experience! It was just really good food all around. I met Cammie’s dad.

Captain Nemo, the official mascot of VCFA

O Captain, My Captain. Photo by Blake Z. Rong.

Bianca Vinas: Nemo was just so happy to get to the Airbnb; he was sniffing it all out. And then I put him on the queen bed, and he felt the need to undo it completely, tear up the sheets and throw the pillows around and go, “ahh, I feel good.” He was mostly in my backpack. There were a few people who told me, “your dog has one eye” and I was like, “oh, not this again.” When we were walking, he would go up the steps of every house thinking, “we’re home!”

Blake Z. Rong: He did bite my face once. I’m ok.

Riots, Rattlesnakes, and Rare Beasts

How time flies: we’re already at our last reading of the semester! And for this one, three extremely accomplished guests brought their finest work.

First up, Matthew Dickman—Oregon Book Award winner and Guggenheim Fellow, reading from his latest collection of poetry, Wonderland. It is one of the three books you should read before you perish from this earth. It is a collection “charged with raw beauty and heartbreak,” said fellow poet and MFA candidate Jad Yassine, introducing him. “He talks about poetry like he’s just discovered how great it is.”

“I promised certain family members I wouldn’t embarrass myself for saying ridiculous shit,” said Dickman just before he began, adding, “but you know, it’s unavoidable.”

In describing his childhood, Dickman writes with spare and honest language: in one poem,  “Transubstantiation,” he describes a trip to the supermarket and an encounter with a strange man. In “The Order of Things,” he questions his superiors (nuns at a Catholic school, aka “Gods’ adults”) and their brutal punishments. In “Teenage Riot” he talks of “flipping off cops and skinheads,” doing teenage stuff, and eventually swirling down into acts of violence. He read: “The man, startled, sat down, right there on the asphalt, / right in the middle of his new consciousness, / kind of looking around.”

It ends without exaggeration—something Dickman has drilled into our minds through his craft course. “Don’t exaggerate,” he told us. When writing about lived (and dramatic) events, his message is: do not romanticize, stay anchored in the occurrence of violence.

Melissa Febos read next. Febos, who in a TED Talk extolls the virtues of revealing your secrets, wrote the 2010 memoir Whip Smart, where she reveals her secret life as a dominatrix. Last year, her book Abandon Me debuted: a collection of essays related to her search for her bioloical father. She teaches at Monmouth University and has earned fellowships from MacDowell Colony as well as awards from Prairie Schooner.

To give us a preview of what she would read, she told a story: before a recent reading in another city, she asked a friend, “should I read an essay about how much I love hickies or how much I cried as a kid?”

“Is Portland more of a hickie city or a crying city?” her friend responded.

In unison, the two decided: “crying.”

That night, at the podium, she observed: “colleges are hotbeds of both hickies and crying.”

The essay she read concerned both. In it, Febos and a lover journey to West Texas, listen to the train horns echo across the desert, and stop at the World’s Largest Rattlesnake Exhibit—which is a real place. She read, “When a human makes such a sound, it expresses only a few things: Terrible grief, earth-shattering climax, triumph, or pain…that kind of sound is all body, all heart, out of mind.”

Then she stopped. “How do you guys feel about emotional needs?”

“Yes,” said Donika. Matthew gave a thumbs up.

“Then this is not for you.”

She continued with the essay.

Donika Kelly was our final reader that evening. Kelly, described by the New York Times as “a descendant of Sylvia Plath by way of the wintry Louise Glück,” just debuted with Gray Wolf Press her first-ever collection of poetry: Bestiary. In the slim volume, she encounters wild and mythical beasts alike: whales and centaurs, hermit thrushes and chimeras. (Hey, Everyday Chimeras!)

Before reading “Love Poem: Chimera,” she described the creature: “Body of a lion, tail of a snake. Middle of the back is a goat’s head. Just so we’re on the same page.” Then, she read:

What clamor

we made in the birthing. What hiss and rumble

at the splitting, at the horns and beard,

at the glottal beat. What bridges our back.

 

What strong neck, what bright eye. What menagerie

are we. What we’re made of ourselves.

In Kelly’s poetry, Perseus cuts off Medusa’s head; from the wound springs a horse with wings, “foaled, fully grown, from my mother’s neck…my first cry, a beating of wings.” With a hint of sarcasm, Kelly calls out the misogyny that ancient Greeks never had to answer for, writing:

What beast

will your blade free next? What call will you loose

from another woman’s throat?

Kelly describes her family, her brothers, her father as a winged boar, her childhood in the 1990s when “her parents still loved one another,” and of the summer in 2011 when she was in Nashville at the same time a 17-year old brood of cicadas emerged from their hidden places, their little exoskeletons clinging to everything in sight.

This is what you pay attention to when you’re a poet, or when you’re in love, or both.

Poem City: Lorca Comes Alive! At Café Anna

Every April, the city of Montpelier magically transforms into Poem City and comes alive with the art of language. Storefronts downtown tape poems on their windows—local poems by poets hailing from Montpelier, Essex, South Burlington, and other Vermont towns. Elementary school children grow a garden of haikus outside of Hunger Mountain Co-op. Local institutions like Bear Pond Books and the Kellogg-Hubbard Library host readings every week.

The Vermont College of Fine Arts is a proud Poem City sponsor. On April 5th, five days into the month-long celebration, poets Partridge Boswell and Peter Money descended upon Café Anna to host Los Lorcas: Poetry in Concert—a celebration of the legendary Spanish poet Federico García Lorca.

Boswell, whose debut collection Some Far Country won the Grolier Poetry Prize, hails from Woodstock, Vermont, about an hour south of Café Anna. Money, who has already displayed his musical talents at VCFA, runs Harbor Mountain Press in nearby White River Junction, also an hour away. The two, both talented musicians in their own right, were joined by guitarist Nat Williams.

MFA Candidate in Writing and Publishing Bianca Viňas attended the concert, while fellow classmate Jad Yassine took photos. For Poem City’s blog, Bianca wrote:

The first song brought the Café to a thoughtful and resonant silence, an Andalusian serenade inspired by Lorca’s original poetry. It was followed by a rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Suzanne, a song that captured the attention of the audience. The people sitting at my table, in a section of the Café facing the college’s frozen basketball court, was taken with the next performance, a melodious version of W.B. Yeats The Lake Isle of Innisfree. The rest of the audience was taken by an indie folk eulogy to Evil Knievel.

Of all the songs dedicated, none were more passionately unified in their inspiration than the original ballads that followed. Produced by the band and performed by Peter Money, these songs represented storytelling and an emotional lyricism that could only be reckoned by all three artists and their individual attention to performance: Boswell’s ocean-like vowel intonation, Williams’ calm out-stare to certain integral notes and Money’s sing-song of dramatized poetry.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BhdK4khFbgQ/?hl=en&taken-by=tupelolanterns