Last night I had the great pleasure of hearing former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins read at the Hoover (Alabama) Library as part of the Southern Voices literary conference. Collins gave a very funny reading, ranging from playful to fanciful to surreal to satirical, at the end of which he reminded the audience that "all literature is about death," so "English majors are really majoring in death." (He noted that a number of the poems he had just read were set in cemeteries.) But we come to literature, he said, because, though the content may be sad, the form is happy--in other words, we will endure and even welcome dark subjects when they come to us with the satisfactions of literary form.
Collins' anthology of contemporary poetry,Poetry 180, developed for use in high schools but which I've used happily in both prison and university classrooms, is a fine resource for teachers but also an excellent choice for anyone who wants to read poetry but doesn't know where to start. Collins' avowed purpose with this book is "to beckon people back to poetry by offering them a variety of poems that might snag their interest. I am convinced that for every nonreader of poetry there is a poem waiting to reconnect them to poetry."
Last night's audience was already connected--in fact, we were an audience of early birds, as it turned out that tickets for the reading had sold out in the first four hours--but judging by the enthusiasm of the standing ovation and one "Whoo-hooer" sitting in the next row, lovers of poetry are all around us.
- Jennifer Horne
- Jennifer Horne grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas, and has lived in Alabama since 1986. The author of a book of poems, Bottle Tree (WordTech Publications, 2010), and a poetry chapbook, Miss Betty’s School of Dance (bluestocking press, 1997), she is also the editor of Working the Dirt: An Anthology of Southern Poets (NewSouth Books, 2003) and co-editor, with Wendy Reed, of All Out of Faith: Southern Women on Spirituality (University of Alabama Press, 2006). She has worked as a teacher in elementary, high school, college, international, and prison classrooms, and as a journal, magazine, and book editor, and has received fellowships from the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the Seaside Institute. She holds a BA in the Humanities from Hendrix College, and an MA in English, an MFA in Creative Writing, and an MA in Community Counseling, all from the University of Alabama. She is married to Don Noble, a writer, editor, and literary interviewer.
Monday, February 15, 2010
This past weekend I attended the On the Brink literary conference at Jacksonville State University. Despite a rare snowfall which kept some of the invited authors from getting to Jacksonville, this small conference was well-attended and very enjoyable. The Center for Public Television crew and host Don Noble filmed three Bookmark episodes that will be shown this summer. Bookmark Producer Wendy Reed took this nighttime photo of the JSU campus.