SARAH VEST – STAFF WRITER
French dramatist Jean Racine once said that “life is a comedy to those who think, a tragedy to those who feel.”
George Bilgere — Week Six’s poet-in-residence — tries to embody this sentiment in his poems.
He will be giving a Brown Bag at 12:15 p.m. EDT Tuesday, Aug. 3 on the CHQ Assembly Virtual Porch for the Chautauqua Writers’ Center. He said that he wants to make this more of a poetry reading because he thinks “people would rather hear poets read their poems than talk about them.”
Bilgere hopes that people are able to learn a little bit about his poetry from his lecture. He has found that the last year on Zoom to be difficult, and what he mainly wants is for “people to have a really good time.”
Bilgere currently teaches at John Carroll University in Cleveland. His 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.”
Bilgere describes his style of writing — and a successful poem — as one that manages to be serious and funny simultaneously.
He demonstrates this idea in the title of his Brown Bag: “Beautiful Diapers: the Poetry of Parenting.”
He has two sons, ages 8 and 5, and thinks that it will be fun to explore the connection between writing — with comedy and tragedy in mind — and having kids.
People frequently ask him about what themes he focuses on when writing poetry but, according to Bilgere, he doesn’t focus on a set of themes.
Instead “the whole trick is in the voice.”
“Getting that tragic, comic thing, it’s all in the way the voice sounds, the timing,” Bilgere said.
This is something that is “hard to do” on the page because it is difficult to put inflection into sentence structure. However, Bilgere doesn’t think it’s impossible. Even though all English speakers have the same base language, each person can put their “own little stamp” on it.
“I think the greatest sin a poet can commit is being boring. I want my poems to make you smile, I want my poems to make you cry, but I don’t ever want to be predictable,” Bilgere said. “That’s what I work at.”