The poetry reading at the bookstore was called for 7:30, but when I got there people were still milling around. To occupy myself, I bought a slim paperback of Kant for 5 dollars. He talked a lot about the duty of morals and the human will, but it seemed a grim duty with very little love and a lot of law. At 8:10, someone murmured, “Maybe we should get started.”
First, Karen Rivers Hattrup read an essay, a sweet memento-mori about the transience and beauty she found as a guest at a Catholic girls’ high school dance: “the girl who had cancer and lived, the girl who had cystic fibrosis and did not.”
Jennifer Fortin, who grew up in Gaithersburg and went to Goucher, read work from her 2011 book Miner Muzzle Velocity. This is a collection of postcard-shaped poems written from a narrator, somewhere abroad, to her lover-friend-recipient, addressed only as “Dear.” Each is signed “Yrs.” and each, like a postcard, wends its way in a confined space while referring to the world outside in either oblique or explicit ways. The writer is always on the road, scribbling on the fly while connecting to her correspondent. “On the road again, Dear. Decide on stakes.”
Then came Nate Pritts, who dedicated some of his work to Def Leppard. So is Nate’s work stadium rock poetry, wearing its heart on its sleeve and demanding to be sung? Sure:
Give thanks for what’s beautiful and the fact that it ends
I’m hot with the duty to build it again
That’s the duty we need, that’s what Kant is missing! This is the poet-philosopher: “The assumption we can define the way our surroundings continue/after our absence/is the ultimate arrogance.”
The evening’s host, Jeremy Hoevenaar, read last. A recent chapbook of his is available for free on the website of H_NGM_N, Pritts’s journal. There’s witticism – “You’re not in time. You’re too late. You missed it./ God’s not only dead, he’s completely decomposed.” There is Lucretianism: “Following a series of repeatedly failing gestures,/I hit upon the idea of addressing atoms individually.” In many of these poems, there is also love, disintegration, and anatomy.
To take some of Hoevenaar’s words out of context – the reading was both “a historical moment and an object of entertained fascination.” Let’s build it all again.