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Maymester Reading with Joseph Millar, Cecilia Woloch and Dorianne Laux

Maymester Reading with Joseph Millar, Cecilia Woloch and Dorianne Laux

Review and photographs by Kate Noakes.

The first of four University of Southern California’s Maymester Poet in Paris programme readings kicked off the series in fine style on 23 May with three super poets.

The audience at La Pierre du Marais heard some ‘damn good poems’ by Joseph Millar reading from Blue Rust: including the lovely “Nativity”: ‘they called me little tongue, popsicle’, ‘the cold wind no-one remembers, blowing down from Canada’  – so appropriate for the freezing weather this spring.

I enjoyed his “Women of Poetry” referring to his wife and daughter with their ‘sail boat hips and unruly hair’. Joe also read some new poems written during his stay in Paris featuring boulangeries, rain, about which he could write 90 poems, and the roofers working on the adjacent building in which ‘no-one wants to be alone eating a lunch of stone bread and salami’. His poems have a plain style with selections of just the right words.

P1020991Cecilia Woloch, director of the Maymester programme followed Joe, reading from Carpathia and Lateand started wanting to kiss all her father’s tattoos. So that appealed to me from the beginning, obviously.

She continued with poems about re-discovering her Polish roots ‘we were not ashamed any more to come from nowhere’, and Paris. I especially liked her postcard to herself from the Lower Carpathians, staying in a cottage where there were ‘white moths on every surface.’ Her imagery is a delight, as in a ‘gold-spiked breeze,’ as is her honesty: ‘who am I kidding that this is safe’ (“Istanbul”).

Dorianne Laux gave us all sorts of men: ones she knows, like an old boyfriend who ‘played a guitar, picked it like a scab’, a precise and surprising image, which is a feature of her work; and ones she doesn’t, like the soldier shipping out to Afghanistan, spotted at an airport whose name she noted from his uniform badge and which she looks for hoping not to see in the daily lists of the fallen.

Her new collection, The Book of Men, also features the famous, notably Mike Jagger and there are women too, as in pre-work Cher who takes her back ‘to the woman I wanted to be’. It is a playful book: the title poem is a poetry game. She often selects a sound, in this case the letter E, with which to end every line. A good tip if you are stuck for something to write!

P1030027Dorianne finished with “Waitress”, her former occupation from her much shorter companion volume The Book of Women. We heeded her advice and tipped our waitress heavily.

The next reading in the series is on 30 May details here.

Poets’ Bios:

Joseph Millar is the author of Blue Rust, Fortune, Overtime, and Bestiary, among other books. His work has appeared in numerous journals and he teaches at Pacific University’s Low Residency MFA Program.

CeciliaWoloch is the author of Carpathia, Late, Sacrifice, Narcissus, and Tsigan: The Gypsy Poem and is the Director of The Poet in Paris Program. She teaches at the University of Southern California and is delighted to be hosting this fabulous month with students and guest faculty.

Dorianne Laux is the author of The Book of Men, Facts about the Moon, Awake, Smoke among other books. She has published widely in magazines and reviews and teaches poetry in the MFA Program at North Carolina State University.

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