Galway Kinnell and Michael Collier in a special evening of poetry at MICA, October 29, 2002
Review of the Kinnell Reading by Barbara DeCesare of the Baltimore Writers Alliance
Spectrum of Poetic Fire Hosts Galway Kinnell
Quick! Quick! Name the Baltimore Poetry Diva who, in hosting Maryland Institute, College of Art's 22nd annual Spectrum of Poetic Fire reading series, generously uses her influence to lure top-quality poets to the stage at Theatre Project through a collaboration with the critical arts journal LINK.... Chezia. No-brainer.
Chezia Thompson-Cager of the Maryland Institute College of Art Department of Language and Literature has done more than her share to merge the Charm City slogan "The City That Reads" with "The Greatest City in the World." In the 22 years of MICA's Spectrum of Poetic Fire series, our fair port has been graced by a surprising number of energetic and illustrious literary legends. One of the more recent was Pulitzer Prize winner Galway Kinnell whom I saw read with our state poet laureate Michael Collier on October 29.
Kinnell began his part of the reading with "After Making Love, We Hear Footsteps." I urge you to go to Kinnell's Academy of American Poets web page and listen to the recording of this poem, which is a popular favorite. Kinnell's mood was evident quickly and clearly when, after reading his second poem, he noted that the podium (an old metal music stand) had not been well-fastened after it was set-up and was slowly collapsing. " I think this table is sinking," he said to the audience, deadpan. "That's better than if it were rising. That would mean I was sinking."
At 75, Kinnell is a charming character, but far more engaging than his affable stage presence was his thoughtful and provocative poetry. Kinnell deserves his accolades, but he is, for all his accomplishments, a mere mortal. He read for us a poem-in-progress, which is clearly a poem he loves, but not one that is complete and ready for an audience. The poem, "Stone Table" was not read with the same confidence and vigor as the others. Kinnell stumbled, he repeated, he allowed himself this moment of vulnerability, and in it, we listeners could see his process. In contrast to the other poems, some similarly themed, this poem had the roots of their eloquence, but was not quite mature. I was grateful for that experience.
Another one of the highlights of Kinnell's reading was the poem "Oatmeal," in which he imagines eating his morning oatmeal with various dead literary figures because it has been decided that eating oatmeal alone is socially unacceptable behavior. Kinnell's work has retained its vision and humor. It's no wonder he was recently nominated for the National Book Award.
Chezia Thompson-Cager continues to host scores of local and national writers of tremendous merit (like Kendra Kopelke who lives right here in Baltimore and I still can't get enough of her work!) I don't know what it is Chezia needs to promise them to get them to travel to Baltimore, but the series promises to deliver some of the best poetry you can find in "The Greatest City for Readings."
WORDHOUSE December 2002 Vol 8 No 4