Sunday, July 05, 2009

Calendar Alert: Rigoberto González, July 15, St, Johnsbury

Thanks to the Frost Place of Franconia, New Hampshire, which selected him as this summer's Resident Poet, an outstanding young poets has left New York City for the summer and will read with local favorite Garret Keizer next week at one of Vermont's classic buildings, South Congregational Church in St. Johnsbury, at 7 p.m. on July 15: Rigoberto Gonazález.

This urban writer and teacher confessed it had been seven years since he'd last driven a car, but he made it safely to the old white farmhouse where Robert Frost lived from 1915 to 1920, the most important turning point of his writing career. When the Frost Place offers a summer residency, its search committee tries to find a poet in roughly the same career position -- a couple of books in print and the potential for amazing growth.

González is already known as an author adept in several fields: In addition to his poetry, he has written children's books, memoir, and a wide body of critical work. But for today's reading up on the mountain, he read exclusively from his first collection of poetry, SO OFTEN THE PITCHER GOES TO WATER UNTIL IT BREAKS -- a book he considers his love letter to Michoacán, Mexico, where he grew up. He selected narrative poems flooded with imagery, starting with "The Flight South of the Monarch Butterflies" and ending with the delicious "Doña Maria Greets Her Comadre Doña Luna at the Balcony Window" and a poem he has shared with schoolchilden, "The Man Who Gives You Nightmares."

Son and grandson of migrant farm workers, González came to America at age ten with his parents, and he recalls that he had "one day to learn the English language, because my parents could not in any way negotiate these letters and words." Despite their linguistic handicap, however, his parents came to contribute to this country. González carries on their gifts as he shares his work.

During his residency at The Frost Place, he hopes to rediscover in English the Robert Frost poems that he memorized as a child, in Spanish, and perhaps re-translate them in the process.

Surrounded by old friends and new on the mountain today, González was relieved to discover that he felt less alien than he expected, and very much welcomed to northern New England. For an opportunity to add to that welcome, why not attend his reading next week at South Congregational Church, on Main Street, a block south of the Athenaeum -- and help this gracious poet find the roots that Frost once discovered in this cool, green landscape among its varied people.

[PS - You noticed that Garret Keizer is also reading that night? Well, more about this northern New Englander whose challenging and provocative work appears in national magazines, when I get my next chance to add narrative here. - Beth]

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