Poetry Night at the Laurel Theater

I really enjoy poetry. I realize that’s not true for everyone. I’ll admit I came to it through the back door: music lyrics. I realized by the time I was in high school that I loved music generally, but lyrics particularly. Bob Dylan, John Prine and Hank Williams moved me like few others. As high school turned to college and I realized that I likely would not be a rock star (lack of musical tallent kept rearing its ugly head), I decided to become a poet. Even though I studied with some notable poets, including Pulitzer Prize winning Richard Eberhart, alas, this was also not to be.

Pamel Uschuk, Knoxville Writer’s Guild, Laurel Theater, Knoxville, March 2011

Fortunately, I got far enough into it to realize that many poets write accessible, enjoyable, challenging and often moving words. Even without music. Really. I’m sure I don’t always get everything they want me to get – I suspect poets are the smartest of our species – but I get enough to keep me wanting more. Sometimes the meaning evades me, but the sheer joy of the words is enough. Words are often delicious pleasures on the tongue. I simply love them.

Pamela Uschuk and William Pitt Root, two poets, recently spoke to a packed house at the monthly meeting of the Knoxville Writer’s Guild in the lovely Laurel Theater in Fort Sanders.

Pamela Uschuk, Laurel Theater, Knoxville, March 2011

The couple lives in southwestern Colorado, but are temporarily residing in Knoxville while Ms. Uschuk fills the Hodges Chair as Visiting Writer at UT. She has published five volumes of poetry including Scattered Risks (2005), which was nominated for a Pulitzer and Crazy Love (2009) which won the 2010 American Book Award and was nominated for the National Book Award and the Pulitzer. Her poem “Shostakovitch: Five Pieces” won the local New Millennium Award prior to her winning the other awards – so maybe Knoxville helped launch her to superstar status.

William Pitt Root, Knoxville Writer’s Guild, Laurel Theater, Knoxville, March 2011
William Root’s roots were on display in his portion of the program. He read from a recently re-issued volume entitled The Storm and Other Poems (1969) which focuses on his childhood years growing up near the Gulf of Mexico and the Everglades and White Boots: New and Selected Poems of the West (2006). Mr. Root has also won numerous prizes, including three Pushcarts and his poetry has been featured in The Atlantic, The New Yorker and The Nation among 350 other literary journals.

William Pitt Root, Knoxville, March 2011

Their reading was fascinating both in subject as well as word usage and provided a marked contrast in style. Hers is, to my blue-collar understanding more intellectual with emotional overtones while his is more visceral with intellectual overtones. I’m including The Wavering Field below read by Mr. Root. It was also a selection at his reading in the Laurel Theater. To conclude, I’m including a poem read by Ms. Uschuk called Crazy Love. Interestingly, she refers to a Tennessee reading in which a listener told her the meaning of her own poem. At the reading for the KWG someone called out “Van Morrison” when she said the title, because that is the title of a great song by Van the Man. It occurred to me it is also the title of two other great songs: one by Poco and one by The Allman Brothers Band.