Charlotte Matthews and Philip Metres to talk observation, cultural intervention in workshops

Charlotte Matthews and Philip Metres

Charlotte Matthews doesn’t believe Chautauqua is made up only of Bestor Plaza, the Amphitheater or the Hall of Philosophy — in Matthews’ view, Chautauqua is a place for people who are searching for the sacred, people who are searching for devotion. 

“Whether it’s found in a beautiful porch or some moss or a (denominational) house that they might attend, in my virtual reading I’m hoping to remind people of devotion,” said Matthews, an educator, author and the Week Five prose writer-in-residence for the Chautauqua Writers’ Center. 

Matthews said both her forthcoming novel, Collapsible Mannequin, and her memoir, Comes with Furniture and People, are about “paying attention to the small things.”

“I want to emphasize the importance of paying attention, of looking closely,” she said. “In looking closely, I think we can find what we might otherwise lose sight of.”

At 3:30 p.m. EDT Sunday, July 26, on the CHQ Assembly Virtual Porch, Matthews will give a reading from both her new novel and her memoir. She’ll be joined by the week’s poet-in-residence Philip Metres, who is the author of 10 books, including Shrapnel Maps (Copper Canyon 2020), Sand Opera (Alice James 2015), and The Sound of Listening: Poetry as Refuge and Resistance (2018). 

Metres said he plans to read from his latest book of poetry, Shrapnel Maps, in an effort to remind his virtual audience that “everybody is human, and everybody — in their humanness — deserves to be treated with dignity.”

“It’s a book that deals with the Israel/Palestine predicament, and it tries to help myself and others come to a complex understanding of the reality of two different peoples’ struggles over the same geography,” he said. 

Part of the idea for Shrapnel Maps came out of a class Metres said he teaches on the Israel/Palestine Literature Project at John Carroll University.

“And my sister got married to a Palestinian man in 2003,” he said. “My family went out to celebrate that wedding. Ever since then, it’s been something that I’ve been thinking about and reading about and talking about with people, listening to people.”

In Metres’ week-long workshop, students will generate poems that will help them “locate themselves in their own lives, but also imagining, dreaming our future.”

“I think that one of the things that poetry can do that writers are really exploring now is how poetry is a cultural intervention,” he said. “It adds political dimensions in ways that oftentimes has been hidden by the dominant tradition of poetry, where it’s considered to be more of a private thing, something that’s not as connected to our collective experience.”Metres’ and Matthews’ five-day workshops will be hosted on the CHQ Assembly Online Classroom. In addition, Metres will give a Brown Bag craft lecture at 12:30 p.m. EDT Tuesday, July 28, on the Virtual Porch, followed by Matthews’ at 12:30 p.m. EDT on Friday, July 31, also on the Virtual Porch.

Tags : Charlotte MatthewsChautauqua Writers’ CenterCollapsible MannequinComes with Furniture and PeoplePhilip MetresSand OperaShrapnel MapsThe Sound of Listening: Poetry as Refuge and ResistanceWriter-in-residence

The author Chris Clements

Chris Clements is reporting on literary arts during his third summer with The Chautauquan Daily. He has previously written previews for the Interfaith Lecture Series and Sacred Song Services and covered literary arts digitally in 2020. Chris is a second-year grad student at The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where he is a Master of Fine Arts candidate in creative writing, specializing in fiction. He’s passionate about all things related to literature, music and film, especially author David Foster Wallace, jazz singer Cecile McLorin Salvant and the films of Paul Thomas Anderson.