Nicole Cooley, David Lazar to focus on writing with grace, essays in week’s workshops

The essay, both creatively and theoretically, is at the heart of David Lazar’s work.

“It’s also the focus of a lot of my teaching,” said Lazar, an essayist and the Week Five Chautauqua Writers’ Center prose writer-in-residence. “In my workshop — titled ‘Essaying Essays’ — I’ll go over some of the basics of the essay that I’ve found, over time, that people aren’t clear on.”

At 3:30 p.m. Sunday, July 24, in the Hall of Philosophy, Lazar, the author of the books After Montaigne: Contemporary Essayists Cover the Essay and Occasional Desire, will give a reading of  his work. Lazar will be joined by Nicole Cooley, a poet, writer and the Week Five poet-in-residence, who will be teaching the poetry workshop, “Writing about the Difficult and Finding Grace in Poetry.”

“For some reason, I always want to read from what I’m currently working on,” she said. “So what I’m going to read this Sunday is a manuscript of poems that I’m currently working on called Trash.”

During the pandemic, Cooley lived in a small town in New Jersey, surrounded on all sides by other small towns.

“I started walking all the time — I’d always walked, but never for 8 to 10 miles a day,” she said. “I explored where I lived, which I hadn’t done. As I was walking during those horrible early months of 2020, I began studying garbage on the street. I started taking all these notes on trash.”

Cooley wondered: Is pandemic trash different from other trash? What’s happening with the garbage?

“I took all these notes on my phone, and I would come home and find that they were inspiration for poems,” she said. “It would start with the objects. I’d say, ‘Oh, that’s that hair extension,’ or ‘Oh, that’s the cracker box.’ And then I was writing these poems, which were more about my own encounters with trash and the pandemic world.”

Cooley said she realized that “you can’t write about trash without doing some research on it,” and began to dive into the subject.

“I love research and learning new things about the world,” she said. “And I love the way poetry, and all writing really, is not just focused on what’s going on in the individual poet’s head. It really is focused on taking a look at the outside world — it’s very strange and interesting. And then you write about it and see what happens.”

Tags : literary arts

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.