A few days ago, when I told an associate I was attending a poetry reading at Collected Works Bookstore, she asked, "Do people actually go to those?"---
The answer, as it happens, is yes, especially if it's the second event in the Muse Times Two poetry series. A respectable crowd turned out for Rona Jaffe Award-winner Joanne Dwyer, and poet and memoirist Lisa Chavez.
Dwyer led with a poem called "Snow," which bore a simple intimacy punctuated by lines such as "I can't touch your hair or bite your neck/Too many in-between places to hide." From there, she read a series of poems inspired by epigrams from other sources. "Woodchucks and Marmots," for example, was lead with a Henry David Thoreau quotation: "The poet is he that hath fat enough, like bears and marmots, to suck his claws all winter." In it, Dwyer plays with ideas such as finding a different way to identify the self, separating the self from weight and the idea of physical body.
This transitioned into a number of pieces about finding a genderless definition of self and the struggles of motherhood. Finally, Dwyer presented several poems that explored the lives of small and large saints. In "Christina the Astonishing," she explored an "interest in the crossover between spiritual obsession, between outsider or crazy," Dwyer said while introducing the poem. "You are here because I want a subject other than myself," she recites.
After Dwyer, Lisa Chavez took the stage. Her opening poem, "Toby in the Garden," told the heartening story of a dog, Toby, causing mischief in the garden. Following that, Chavez, too, launched into a series of poems that explored fairy tales and folklore. "Mastering the Hunt," for example, is a parody of sorts of the "Little Red Riding Hood" story, told in the first person plural, from the point of view of a pack of wolves that eat a hunter similarly dressed as a wolf.
Chavez also presented a touch of literary irony with her poem "At a Wedding in Mexico City," which told a story where she and her ex-husband attended their friends' wedding. "Every day, we enter into a city of sacrifices," Chavez read, "and what can we offer but our own hearts." Sometimes funny, sometimes tragic, the poem contrasts the ritual of marriage with the harsh reality of divorce and the raw environment of Mexico City.