Heather McHugh & Geoffrey Brock Read At The Folger Shakespeare Library

brockcoverThis was a sadly sparse reading. Not empty, but perhaps just 80% full and with upper balcony totally empty. Which is too bad, but Brock gave a great reading.

McHugh was the judge of the latest Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize and she chose a manuscript by Brock as the winner (thereby getting it published by Waywiser Press).

Some years back, I spent too much money on an oversize paperback by Richard Howard entitled, Inner Voices: Selected Poems, 1963-2003. For the life of me, I don’t know why I bought it. I hated it. A lot of the poems are written in the voices of historical figures. I mention this, because that is much of what Brock does, only I like his poetry.

McHugh was a little confusing. She spoke a lot about personal challenges and about her support for a particular cause: people who are long term caregivers for severely disabled relatives (usually their children). At one point, I thought she was reading a poem and then she looked up and started speaking about the cause and I could never tell whether these were asides during the reading of a poem or if none of it had been a poem.

I bought and Brock read from Voices Bright Flags. Very enjoyable. He’s got a nice, light touch and recognizable style, without being repetitive. A lot of serious poems, with passages about John Brown and the Civil War and slavery, but also some light humor about being a father with an insistent toddler. I actually remembered reading the first poem in the collection, Bryant Park at Dusk, in Poetry (the magazine).

I’ll excerpt from a poem about Ulysses S. Grant. Mostly because it’s a good poem, but also because Brock drolly noted that no one writes poems about President Grant.

My heart then like a puffed-up private boasting
he’s cut the enemy’s leg off
– Not his head?
– Sir, someone else had cut that off already.

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