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Poetry in a small town…and a sample worker poet

By Lucia Perillo

The other night, I rolled two miles downtown to a poetry reading—it was a lovely near-solstice night. Now that I’ve traded academia for a disability “retirement” in a small town, the peripheral ephemera of poetry (well, except blogging) is not so accessible to me.

We have a college here, but its small poetry community is aligned with the avant-garde and generally does not cross-pollinate with the poets of the town. So my life is quite different now.
The reading was given by my friend Tim Kelly, on the occasion of his new book, Extremities, published by Oberlin. I think it’s his fourth book.
Normally, a poet of his stature would be ensconced at a small university. But instead he has chosen to work as a physical therapist, which has affected his presence in the buzzing ego-driven world of poetry. I’ve been thinking about Travis’s post about worker poets. Tim has been fortunate because he has a skill that is in demand, one that also has allowed him to take time off to write, teach, and raise his sons…then jump back into working at no detriment to his livelihood.
We have about 30,000 people in this town, about 30 will show up at a poetry reading if the poet beats the bushes and rouses his/her friends. People often ask me if I miss teaching, and I do, for the conversation about poetry, for the sheer interest in it, which is lacking in the greater world.
Or sometimes I think I need a larger city. But even amidst this relative quiet I find there are a large number of intrusions. So I don’t thinkI could handle any more distractions or temptations.
But I envied D.A.’s access to graffitti.

Comments (5)

  • On June 16, 2008 at 12:51 pm Travis Nichols wrote:

    Thanks for the post, Lucia. This might sound like a stupid question, but do you get the sense that people there come to readings for the poetry? Or more for the sense of community?

  • On June 16, 2008 at 9:39 pm Daisy wrote:

    I think that’s a good question about readings anywhere, big cities or small towns.

  • On June 17, 2008 at 1:56 am Travis Nichols wrote:

    Daisy, Yes, that’s totally true, and I would ask the same thing if Lucia had posted a Big City Poetry Reading piece, though no one ever would. Right? Having just come from a reading here in the big city (er, the medium sized urban area) and wondered why we were all there. Happily, as I enjoyed the work. And the community.

  • On June 17, 2008 at 11:37 am Lucia wrote:

    I thought about this, and decided it was 78% community, because who can really be PRESENT for a whole poetry reading. I can’t. I drift off into writing my own poems (readings can be productive this way)–but now it occurs to me that may be ego-driven, a manifestation of my wanting to one-up the reader.

  • On June 17, 2008 at 5:29 pm Daisy wrote:

    When it’s not fun is when you can tell people are only there because they think it will be good for them like medicine. I’m off to give a reading here in Philly momentarily with my fellow Harriet emeritus Jeffrey McDaniel. Who I’m guessing is nothing like medicine!

Posted in Uncategorized on Sunday, June 15th, 2008 by Lucia Perillo.