SARAH VEST – STAFF WRITER
There is more than one way to tell a story, and as Week Four’s poet- and prose writer-in-residence — Marcus Jackson and Oliver de la Paz, respectively — found, there is more than one way to deliver them.
Jackson and de la Paz are both writers who have experimented with different mediums for the stories they want to tell and subjects they want to touch on. Both authors will be doing a reading for the Chautauqua Writers’ Center at 3:30 p.m. EDT Sunday, July 18 on the CHQ Assembly Virtual Porch.
Jackson studied poetry in New York University’s graduate creative writing program and is a Cave Canem Fellow. His work has appeared in publications such as The American Poetry Review, The New Yorker, and The New York Times Magazine. His books include Pardon My Heart, Neighborhood Register and Rundown. He currently teaches in the master of fine arts programs at Ohio State University and Queens University of Charlotte.
He is going to be reading from a book of poems that is currently untitled and is still a work-in-progress. He describes it as a series of existential lyric poems that revolve around a single long poem. This long poem is narrated by a middle-aged photographer who has seen the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century from an artistic viewpoint. The book focuses on things that have happened politically in terms of changing media interface and the transition from analog to digital.
This is Jackson’s first foray into writing longform poetry, though he has always enjoyed reading it. Typically he writes shorter, punchy poems that are able to compress an exploration of difficult topics. Long form poetry is a challenge for him because people are “conditioned to expect extended linear narrative” when presented with a longform piece of media.
“One of the difficulties and the pitfalls is to have enough narrative in there — and advance the narratives so that they have a consistent narrator — and advance the narrative enough so that there is clarity and cohesion, but to still be able to surprise the reader,” Jackson said.
Jackson will be giving a Brown Bag titled “Angles of Identity and Contemporary American Poetry” at 12:15 p.m. EDT Tuesday, July 20 on the Virtual Porch. He will also be teaching a poetry workshop of the same name on the CHQ Assembly Online Classroom during Week Four.
Conversely, de la Paz takes a hybrid approach to his poetry. He fuses together lyric essays, flash fiction, prose poems and, in some cases, questionnaires, in order to explore his topics. Recently, de la Paz has been exploring what it means to be a neurotypical parent to neurodiverse children.
de la Paz is the author of five collections of poetry: Names Above Houses, Furious Lullaby, Requiem for the Orchard, Post Subject: A Fable and The Boy in the Labyrinth. He co-chairs the advisory board of Kundiman, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of Asian American Poetry. He teaches at the College of the Holy Cross and in the low residency master of fine arts program at Pacific Lutheran University. He will read from his book The Boy in the Labyrinth, an example of his hybrid work. The book contains an example of his short essays, prose poems and questionnaires. Its focus is interrogating, examining and exploring autism and parenting autistic kids.
“It was a way for me to access the conversation,” de la Paz said. “I couldn’t get at it through a conventional genre. I couldn’t just write about it. If I wanted to say, write in poetry, it wouldn’t have the particular type of resonance that I needed. It wouldn’t access that subject in the multiple different ways that I needed to access it.”
de la Paz is going to be offering a prose workshop titled “Blurred Lines — Hybrids Between, Within, and Among Prose Forms” over the course of Week Four on the Online Classroom. He will also be giving a Brown Bag titled “Radiant Typographies” at 12:15 p.m. EDT Friday, July 23 on the Virtual Porch.