Professors in Public: Laurie Lamon at Auntie’s Bookstore

By: Emily Church

As hard as it might be to believe, professors do live in a world outside of Whitworth, especially English professors. Many of them publish research and different forms of writing and some go out and do readings for the general public.

A couple of weeks ago, Professor and published poet Laurie Lamon did a poetry reading alongside fiction writer Charley Henley. Although the reading was interrupted by the fire alarm going off, Lamon had the right amount of time to woo the crowd with her presence and poetry. After her reading, I asked if she would answer a few questions for me about her reading. I asked, “How do you decide what you want to read and how do you decide the order in which you will read your chosen poems?”

This was how she responded:

“The November 12 reading at Auntie’s fell right after the presidential election, and clearly it was a week of great, complex, and terrible pain. That is an understatement.  I wasn’t in an emotional place to give a reading, to be honest, that Saturday night. But the truth is that we need poetry more than we need the pain of isolation I myself feel, and know y colleagues and our students are feeling as we try to take in this outcome. Because we couldn’t believe it happened, because we believe in diversity, because we don’t feel the privilege of our white skin as we should, because we need art to make us better than we are, I tried to put together a reading that might offer something of a hand to whoever was hardy enough to show up on a cold Saturday night.

I started with two clearly political poems: “It was Hatred,” which I wrote as the U.S. – Iraq war began, and “The Man in the Guerrilla Suit.” I wanted to directly address issues of prejudice, and inhumanity.

At the center of the reading I placed “Thinking of the End of a Poem,” which I include below. I wrote this after the Easter season a few years ago. It was triggered by an occurrence in my neighborhood as I walked past one of the Hospice Houses in my area. I walk past this house many times a week and always look to see if there is anyone sitting on the patio, or if the “therapy dog” is out. Often the dog is there; I’ve never seen anyone on the patio. The poem ends with the crucifixion, and the darkness Christ endured. I wonder at that darkness. I wonder at the miracle of his humanity and suffering. This poem doesn’t then move to the resurrection. It wonders at the darkness.

I closed the reading with 2 poems that hopefully brought us to a place of quietness and ordinariness, which is to say, Joy.  In these dark weeks where we are heading into the season of Christ’s birth and presence on earth, we need to remember that, and let our fearful and aching hearts fill.”

lauire-at-aunties

Laurie doing at poetry reading at Auntie’s Bookstore downtown

Laurie Lamon’s poem, “Thinking of the End of a Poem”

Thinking of the End of a Poem

The dogs pull toward the corner where the therapy dog

is loose, rubbing its face in new grass. The man on the sidewalk

will say yesterday was hard. We lost two last night in

hospice. Here, birdsong will open the trapdoor

of pines where light is always northern and follows the earth

west where I look when I can through the hum of green for more.

The man on the sidewalk finishes closing a car door, and leans toward Claire,

I will learn this is her name, who has a band aid on her forehead

and blood shot eyes. Her sweatpants are gray. The therapy dog’s age

is heart shaped from eyes to muzzle. In a moment

Claire will say she’s from South Carolina, and smoke her cigarette

to the butt and not drop it to the sidewalk.

At the end of the poem it is bedlam, as when there came

sudden darkness—no one prepared, foretold, no shadows telling

time, crossing tables, the beaten ground, no lamps smoking

and everyone still, not knowing this waiting and for what.

The body had been crucified and raised and for three hours

looked into darkness with the rest of us.

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