SARAH VEST – STAFF WRITER
There are many ways to find delight in language, both in poetry and prose. Some find it through blending comedy and tragedy, others in where their story takes place. The Chautauqua Writers’ Center hopes to foster that delight this week, as Week Six’s writers-in-residence will be giving a reading of their work at 3:30 p.m. EDT Sunday on the CHQ Assembly Virtual Porch.
The poet-in-residence is George Bilgere, who will be reading a variety of poems in his repertoire. He said that he has spent the last year “feeling guilty” because Zoom is “not the most thrilling” way to give a reading.
“What I want is for the audience to learn a little bit about my poetry, and mainly to really have a good time,” Bilgere said.
Bilgere referenced a quote from poet Tony Hoagland, who said “I believe in the pleasure principle.” He doesn’t think that poetry is meant to be difficult and inaccessible, or that it is meant to be used as a form of therapy.
“I want people to be delighted by the English language,” Bilgere said. “I want to delight them with my poems.”
Bilgere said that his poetry has been described as funny, but that it is more often described as “quite serious.” However, his idea of a successful poem that manages to be “serious, while being funny, and funny, while being serious.” According to Bilgere, this balance can be difficult to find despite his idea that life is “an ongoing comedy and tragedy.”
Bilgere’s poems have appeared in Poetry magazine, Kenyon Review, The Best American Poetry and The Georgia Review. He has received the Midland Authors prize, the May Swenson Poetry Award, a Pushcart Prize, a Witter Bynner Fellowship through the Library of Congress, a Fulbright Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts Grant and the Cleveland Arts Prize. He is the 2020 winner of the Editors’ Choice Award in Poetry from New Ohio Review. He has appeared on Garrison Keillor’s “A Prairie Home Companion” and “The Writer’s Almanac.” He teaches at John Carroll University in Cleveland.
He will be teaching a workshop this week called “Approaching the Poem,” and will also host a Brown Bag titled “Beautiful Diapers: the Poetry of Parenting” at 12:15 p.m. EDT on Tuesday on the Virtual Porch.
Susannah Felts, the prose writer-in-residence, is the co-founder and co-director of The Porch, a literary arts organization based in Nashville, Tennessee. She has been awarded the Tennessee Arts Commission’s Individual Artist Fellowship in Fiction and the Tennessee Williams Scholarship to the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, as well as residencies at the Ragdale Foundation, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and the Hambidge Center for Creative Arts and Sciences. Her essays and fiction have appeared in publications such as The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2018, Guernica, Catapult, Literary Hub, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Longreads, storySouth and The Oxford American. Her first book is This Will Go Down on Your Permanent Record.
Felts is debating between two works for her reading. The first is an essay she wrote earlier this year that will be published in Joyland Magazine in late August, in which Felts discusses the bombing that occurred in Nashville on Christmas Day. The other is an excerpt from the novel she has been working on for the last few years called The Come Apart.
“It took me a while to figure that out and to really understand that (place) was so central to my interests and my curiosity as a writer,” Felts said. “After years go by, you sort of can’t ignore the fact of your own obsessions.”
Both works focus on the importance of place in storytelling, which Felts thinks is different from setting. This is because setting can include the time period the story is set in, as well as the geographical location. As a writer from the South — a location that she described as “charged” — Felts feels that place can drastically change the tone and implications of a story.
Felts will be teaching a workshop this week called “Sense of Place in Personal Essays” and giving a Brown Bag lecture titled “Where Memory & Landscape Intersect: the Power of Place in Writing” at 12:15 p.m. EDT Friday on the Virtual Porch.