This Thursday, February 4, at 7:00 pm, the Collected Poets Series welcomes poets Rhett Iseman Trull and Meg Kearney. For more information, please check out our (new & improved!) website: http://collectedpoets.com.
Anyone who follows this blog with any sort of regularity will know why this is a reading I’m especially excited about. Rhett is the phenomenal and phenomenally generous editor of Cave Wall — generous with her time, generous with her praise, generous with her support. I’m simply thrilled that we’re hosting her.
Rhett’s first collection, The Real Warnings, won the 2008 Anhinga Prize for Poetry, and was published this past fall. There’s so much I love about these poems, but one of the things I admire the most is how willingly, almost recklessly, they risk sentimentality. I’m reading Lowell, and the Ian Hamilton biography of Lowell, and perhaps that’s just where my head is at right now, but I’m seeing a real simpatico between Rhett and Cal. He said to an interviewer regarding the notion of sentimentality in relation to another poet, “I think a lot of the best poetry is. … if he hadn’t dared to be sentimental he wouldn’t have been a poet.”
Rhett’s poems tell stories, and even though there’s an “I”, I never feel as if I’m suffocating within the psyche of that single-minded I. Her stories are capacious, and figure other characters who recur and become more than characters, more than metaphors. I’m thinking specifically of the nine poem sequence “Rescuing Princess Zelda,” which recounts the speaker’s time as a young patient in a psych ward. (Another reason I sense an affinity between Rhett & Cal, I suppose.) What a field of potential land mines that subject is! And what a triumph for Rhett — she skirts the danger and makes us feel the real tragedies of the other patients, kids, really, and I think she manages to avoid the tedium such poems can produce because of the wide net she casts, and the almost incidentally astonishing details. From “V. The Jumper”, “…I’m one of the fans / imagining he will leave this place to become / a rock star. We crowd around him / as he strums our sad songs: industrial hum / of the lights, girls too thin to cast shadows, / grilles on the windows slicing the moon.”
I’m introducing Rhett, and I can see I’m going to have to rein myself in — nothing more annoying than an introduction that goes on and on and on. If you’re in the area, please come out and join us — this is going to be one special evening!