I will be taking part in an interesting event on Tuesday, April 2nd, (7:30 p.m.) at Lipscomb University. The event is part of the Nashville Public Library's NashvilleReads campaign. I will read from my new book, Notes for a Praise Book, and then students will present their own creative works in an open mic format. I'm always happy to be involved with events at Lipscomb University. Read an article about the event here.
I will be giving a reading from my new collection, Notes for a Praise Book, at Martin Methodist College's 10th Annual Literary Festival on Thursday, March 21st. The event will be held at 6 p.m. in the Gault Center Recital Hall. Pass the word along to anyone in the area.
The book was recently reviewed by Chapter 16, and the link can be found here.
In Louise Gluck’s poem “The Mountain,” the speaker, a teacher (perhaps Gluck herself), explains to students “that the life of art is a life/of endless labor.” She attempts to characterize this labor by comparing it to “the story of Sisyphus,/how he was doomed to push/a rock up a mountain, knowing nothing/would come of this effort/but that he would repeat it/indefinitely.” Later in the poem, she offers the following insight: “the artist lies/because he is obsessed with attainment.”
Many times in writing we confuse the facts of how something actually happened in real life with the facts that are beginning to emerge within the equally real life of the poem being written. The facts of the poem, though, owe nothing to the facts of real life. In other words, what happened in one's real life is of little consequence to the poem unless it can prove something essential about itself and our relationship to it within the poem. The poem is not a rendering of real life, though it may reflect aspects of real life. Instead, the facts of the poem are imagined and therefore extend and explore their own need for being. Understanding this premise gives the facts over to being moldable, gives them over to an awareness of the variable elements of which they are composed and can be composed. We should write not toward what is or what was but toward what could be.
With this understanding in mind, write about an incident from your own life. Our childhoods are literally filled with thousands of seemingly irrelevant incidents. For instance, I could write about catching little black catfish in a Solo plastic cup while wading in Horse creek. I could write about sitting out in the yard and telling jokes to my grandmother when I was in kindergarten. I could write about the time my brother (maybe six at the time?) wandered away from home and we finally found him a few blocks away, fishing in the Tennessee River. Choose an incident from your life and dramatize it, but do not feel bound to replaying the event as it actually happened. Exaggerate, fudge, improvise, imagine and re-imagine. Follow the poem's need for being and for being found, discovered. Doing so, you may find that you are obsessed with attaining something greater than the facts.
Jeff Hardin is professor of English at Columbia State Community College in Columbia, TN. He is the author of five collections of poetry, including Fall Sanctuary (Nicholas Roerich Prize, 2004), Notes for a Praise Book (Jacar Press, 2013), Restoring the Narrative (Donald Justice Poetry Prize, 2015), Small Revolution, and No Other Kind of World (X. J. Kennedy Prize, 2017).