Sunday, April 18, 2010

Urban Poetry -- Kim goldberg's Red Zone

Let's see now, what have I almost forgotten to record here . . .
Well, I mentioned earlier that I re-read Richard Wagamese's Ragged Company along with my students this term, primarily for its focus on home and homelessness. Same theme, very different approach, we also read a collection of poetry by local writer Kim Goldberg, Red Zone, her self-published approach to her growing awareness of the homeless around her in our own small city (she has a very small home-based press, Pig Squash Press). Students are often anxious about the way poetry can make them "feel stupid" if they don't "get it,"as they explained to me, and their first confrontation with some of Goldberg's work aroused this anxiety. But the book is marked by numerous "found poems" in the form of Goldberg's photographs, sometimes of the homeless themselves, sometimes of artifacts denoting their presence throughout the city, often of graffiti ranging from the witty to the poignant. Somehow the visuality reassured them and coaxed them into the aesthetic pleasures of the adjoining poems, although they're still too ready to assign a "deep meaning," seldom congruent with the words on the page. But then I had Kim come in to speak to them and to perform some of her work. They really began to "get it" at that point, realizing that beyond its meaning, certainly important to work towards, there was sound in its rhythms and rhymes and wordplay simply to be enjoyed.
As well, though, in the question-and-answer session following the reading, someone asked a question about the obliqueness of some poetry, about the difficulty of figuring out what it's about, and because they were captivated by the writer's integrity and open honesty, they seemed to take her answer to heart: important matters of life are tough to work out and she wants her readers to struggle with them, to puzzle them out along with her. She has little interest in, as she said, opening their heads and pouring her answers in. Hearing one of them paraphrase this response to me later in the term was so gratifying.

Another almost-forgotten recent read, Muriel Barbery's Gourmet Rhapsody. I'll try to say a few words about that soon.


  1. I'm interested to hear what you thought of the Barbery - I read several reviews of it that were not very positive, and I haven't read it myself.

  2. I can see why reviews would be lukewarm, but there are some great passages, Tiffany, especially for someone who loves food as you do.

  3. Ah, I might have to just buy it on the basis of the food writing! Any excuse to add to my pile of unread books ...