By Cait Turner
The final installation of the 2015 4×4 reading series brought together members of Colorado’s collegiate community of creative writers. Readers from Colorado State University, CU Boulder, University of Denver, and Naropa University performed their poetry and fiction at the Performing Arts Center on Naropa’s Arapahoe campus.
The evening’s first reader was Katie Naughton, an MFA student at Colorado State University. Naughton performed a series of unnamed, interrelated poems drawing upon environmental, political, pastoral, and erotic themes. Naughton’s tightly coiled language transformed domestic/pastoral images of boiling water, burning trash, and sprouting sunflowers into percussive anaphoras meant to situate the listener into the space between rural poverty and poetic intimacy. In one piece, Naughton compared the passage of time to a “small money restaurant”; in another, she asserted that “the disaster comes in sunflowers, in hunting rust.” The musicality of Naughton’s language did not distract from the power of her imagery. Her pieces described poems environmental and emotional spaces where landscapes and faces are “flat and made of lakes, making water where everyone knows there’s none.” Katie Naughton’s poetry deconstructed the pastoral myth and re-introduced the face of America’s rural enclaves back to itself, “warning ending what it may persist.”
The work of Brandi Homan, a doctoral student and adjunct faculty member at Denver University, also drew inspiration from familial enclaves of the rural Midwest. Homan’s short story, “Green Green Corn”, examined the “dangerous and dumb” teenage fascination with the “other side of town.” Homan’s use of second person narration allowed listeners to connect and identify with the voice of her adolescent narrator, who just began a summer job “de-flowering” female corn plants—a summer rite of passage in the American Midwest. The sexual awakening of the narrator coincides with her introduction to the world of physical labor; the end of the day finds her sprawled across her bed, sweating, repeating “Jesus. Jesus. Jesus” in a state of both physical exhaustion and sensual ecstasy. The subtext of “Green Green Corn” involves class and gender imbalances; the middle class narrator feels superior to the working class boys with whom she shares the fields, but her emergent femininity renders her simultaneously in awe of and in thrall to her handsome, college-age foreman. Homan’s narrative lovingly mocked her characters at times—they tease their hair and wear layers of makeup and foundation to perform back-breaking labor in sweltering summer heat—but ultimately, Homan presented a realistic and moving picture of a young woman’s coming of age.
Mac Goad, the third reader of the evening, performed a series of short poems exploring the relationship between music, witchcraft, romantic love, addiction, and the act of writing. Her first poem “One Part Harmony” described the “muscle memory” involved in practicing the guitar as an “act” similar to that of lovemaking. Alone, the speaker strikes the “clearest chords.” Goad’s second piece, “Amateur Spellcraft” re-imagines love and friendship as the magical consequences of a “teenage witchcraft come true”—the poems ends with a dedication to an unnamed other, conjured up through images and Goad’s uniquely rhythmic delivery. Her third and final piece of the evening re-views addiction as a practical craft, like musicianship or writing. Indeed, all of our human practices, from writing to lovemaking to songcraft and spellcasting can be seen as a sort of repetitive action. Humans, Goad implies through her poetry, are addicted to creation, and “recovery is death.”
The final reader of the evening was Ella Longpre, an MFA candidate at Naropa University. Longpre’s poems are “hallways lit with memory”; language itself is simply “a dream collapsed into another dream.” Her poems kept returning to the “I in question” suggesting a sort of rupture and conflation between poetic objects, poetic subjects, poetic speakers, and poets themselves. “We all have apocryphal texts”, she claims, “I am an icon.” Longpre’s poetic language is gorgeous; her delivery was melodic without overt musicality, which leant her language a soporific edge wherein the listener eases in to her collage of images and memories as though into a warm bath of ether. Longpre’s poetry suggests that memory is a form of ruin—it is always already decaying. “The voice carries the weight of the body”, Longpre states, “through blue dusks and wet forests.”
The final 4×4 reading of 2015 at Naropa University was a collage of different geographic and psychological landscapes, where common language can be found in the interstitial space between image and memory, self and other, speech and silence.
Cait Turner is a first year MFA candidate at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University. Her research interests include jazz poetry, activist writing, and critical pedagogy. Cait’s poetry has been published in the online ‘zine “The Potomac” and the print journal “Lungfull!” When not working or studying, Cait enjoys playing music, especially drums and piano.