Friday, March 27, 2009

Poetry On and Off the Page: Jody Gladding

At her poetry reading today in St. Johnsbury, Vermont, Jody Gladding opened with Mary Ruefle's "After a Rain" -- a lyrical and gentle piece that wraps the act of noticing into the tenderness of daily movement and especially of the natural world. From here, Gladding leapt into one of her most unusual pieces: "Sonogram of Raven Calls," issued entirely in varied sounds that the Vermont mountain ravens offer. Gladding gave no translation, although she was clearly calling from a written script (she has given this poem to other audiences, too). The teens and Vermont poets filling the lounge at St. Johnsbury Academy's Orcutt Library burst into grins and applause.

A detailed exploration of the work in her newly released collection, ROOMS AND THEIR AIRS (Milkweed), followed. Gladding's poems play with space on the page, and when she delivers them to an audience, they become dances of breath, voice, and silence. Focusing especially on her Moon series, she introduced students to the writing rules that she crafted for herself for several years -- to write poems that connected with the translated Native American names for the months of the year, each time only writing the designated poem in the month for which its title applied: Crow Moon (March), Travel Moon (August), Sap Moon, and more. Many of the series appear in the limited edition (60 copies) of THE MOON ROSE that Chester Creek Press's Bob Walp crafted with Gladding a few years ago; others have spilled into ROOMS AND THEIR AIRS.

Gladding spoke of the way her poems have been moving on the page and then leaving it entirely; she demonstrated the shaping that led away from the left margin, toward the right, and shared poems written on stones, on birch bark, on an egg. "Look Inside and See If You've Won" is formed into a box with peepholes at the ends, and a surprise insect guest inside it.

When poems begin to rise for her, Gladding notes them as a sense of motion, so the spacings and form on the pages register that movement, with the pauses as line breaks. She has tried inking them simply onto paper in the midst of the shaping, and now finds, "What they look like [on paper] to me is a transcription of a poem -- like you would have a transcription of a play. It's not 'it.'"

A hint for reading the new collection, offered to the students today with several pieces, especially "Vernal Pool": "The 'I' in this is the vernal pool, as much as anything in the poem."

We brought home a stack of copies, signed of course; I'll link our listing of them here. And we also have Gladding's first collection, STONE CROP, which won the Yale Younger Poets prize.

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