In an effort to teach new things through writing, one could take a deep dive into research to find jargon of an era, or a similarly deep dive into translating Haitian-French poems.
In Week Six’s Chautauqua Writers’ Center reading, poet-in-residence Danielle Legros Georges and prose writer-in-residence Mary Kay Zuravleff will explore both topics at 3:30 p.m. Sunday in the Hall of Philosophy.
Georges will read from her recent poetry books, The Dear Remote Nearness of You, Ida Faubert — a translation of French poet Faubert’s work — and Maroon.
“I’ll be reading a few of (the translated poems) and maybe one of her original poems in French,” Georges said, “so audience members can hear the beautiful rhymes and rhythms of her work.”
As a Haitian émigré, Georges said she “wasn’t aware of the work of Haitian women.” She discovered Faubert’s work and was “really struck” by her level of craft and form.
“I took it upon myself to learn her work and then to translate it from French into English,” Georges said, “so students and scholars and those interested in Haitian women’s poetry, Caribbean women’s poetry (or) African diasporic women’s poetry could get access to her.”
When choosing what to read, Georges said she tries to pick poems that “might align with my audience in mind.” In contrast, Zuravleff chooses readings from her book, American Ending, to coincide with the geographical region.
“I often read from the very beginning so you can hear the voice,” Zuravleff said. “I don’t have to give much background or plot away. The book is set in Marianna, Pennsylvania, and ends in Erie, Pennsylvania, so when I get to Erie, I’ll want to read about some of the (things) that happened in Erie.”
American Ending is Zuravleff’s first work of historical fiction, and tells the story of a young girl, Yelena, growing up in a Russian immigrant family in the 1910s. In this story, boys quit grade school to work at the coal mines and girls are married off at age 14.
Both Georges and Zuravleff will host a weeklong workshop, as well as a lecture on Wednesday and Friday, respectively. Georges will speak as part of the African American Heritage House’s Chautauqua Speaker Series in the Hall of Philosophy instead of a Brown Bag. In Zuravleff’s workshop, “Write Your Book,” she will teach just that: Participants will learn in five two-hour sessions how to write each part of a novel.
“It’s like when people do exercises that (target) a specific spot,” Zuravleff said. “If I gave you a lecture about the middle of books, and then made you write for 20 minutes and listen to what other people write — all of a sudden, stuff happens.”
This gives attendees a “great incentive” to get back to writing with momentum, Zuravleff said.
Bouncing off this motivation, in Georges’ workshop “The Persona Poem,” participants will discover how to take their writing beyond simple assumptions.
“The persona poem as a form has roots in the dramatic monologue,” Georges said. “It privileges voice and it often presupposes an audience, so it’s a voice speaking to an audience.”
Participants will read some examples, ones she feels are “exceptional,” and learn how to engage these tools in their own poems.
In writing, Zuravleff said she has an “active imagination” and often starts with an “almost absurd premise.” In her latest book, Man Alive!, a pediatric psychopharmacologist is struck by lightning when all he wanted to do was barbecue.
“My inspiration (for Man Alive!) was, ‘How on Earth did they survive?’ ” she said. “But for writing, (my) inspiration is storytelling. I’m always trying to find the wonder in something.”