“See how / I have gone from home to mythology / to the Alps & nobody has moved.”
Darcie Dennigan and Tung-Hui Hu
Thursday at 5:15 p.m.
Helmut Stern Auditorium
Darcie Dennigan’s poem “The Virgins” from her book “Corinna A-Maying the Apocalypse” hurtles from New England duplexes to Greek myths to Mont Blanc on the French-Italian border. Her last few lines describe moving “through eons / & hemispheres in a white clapboard house.” Leaping through time and space and different allusions, Dennigan’s poems still remain grounded.
An alum of the University’s MFA program, Dennigan is returning to join with Assistant Professor of English Tung-Hui Hu for a poetry reading this Thursday. The MFA Program in Creative Writing is presenting the event as part of the Zell Visiting Writers Lecture Series.
At the University, Hu teaches courses on time-based poetry and art, which comes into play in film, installation art and performance. Time-based art is a term most often used to describe moving image and sound work by visual artists.
“Time-based art is a way of lumping together art that unfolds in time,” Hu said. “I use it to refer, generally speaking, to moving image artworks after the 1960s. I’ve been interested in the way (time-based art) is not a static experience.”
This Thursday he will be reading from his new collection of poems, “Greenhouses, Lighthouses.” With a Ph.D. in film studies, Hu explores many cinematic themes and images. The winner of the 2007 James D. Phelan Literary Award, “Greenhouses, Lighthouses” was described by the San Francisco Foundation as “a provocative gesture toward cinematography.”
The collection is written as a series of palinodes — odes or songs in which the writer retracts something written in a previous poem.
“This is a form that lots of other writers have used,” Hu said.
Hu cited “Chaucer’s Retraction” at the end of “The Canterbury Tales,” in which Chaucer asks for forgiveness for his coarse language throughout his works, as one example. One of Hu’s poems in “Greenhouses, Lighthouses” is modeled on the Corrections section of a newspaper.
Whether he is teaching or writing, Hu said that he stresses “the process of description over analysis.” It makes sense, then, that the reading on Thursday will likely stand for itself instead of focusing on discussion or analysis.
“What does the poem do, how does it try to say what it says, what does it sound like, etc.,” Hu said. “My sense is that it’s really tough to come up with language to describe something well.”
In an e-mail interview, Dennigan reflected on the role that poets like herself play in the world.
“No matter how people become poets … isn’t the world better off having all these super awkward, trail-mix consuming pencil chewers around to try and digest little pockets of life — even if it is their own narrow life — the way that some of us digest Entenmann’s cupcakes?” Dennigan said.
While there is a small audience for the consumption of serious poetry, poetry readings at bookstores and campuses are becoming increasingly popular. Dennigan and Hu, with their wit and creativity, should present an engaging poetry reading — but bring your own cupcakes.