March 20, 2013

Dorianne Laux's Family Stories

I will be attending a workshop and reading on April 6, 2013 with Dorianne Laux at The Poetry Center in Paterson, NJ where she is receiving the 2012 Paterson Poetry Prize for her collection The Book of Men.

I first found her poetry after reading The Poet's Companion: A Guide to the Pleasures of Writing Poetry which she co-authored with Kim Addonizio. That book with its brief essays on the elements of poetry and writing prompts and exercises was one of the things that encouraged me to start the Poets Online website and later this blog.

Recently, I saw this poem of hers on the American Life in Poetry site. I think it is a good example of her poetry which Publishers Weekly described as being in a "descriptive, storytelling vein: the at-hand, the matter-of-fact, the day-to-day are rendered in an earnest tone both sensuous and nostalgic"

Family Stories

I had a boyfriend who told me stories about his family,
how an argument once ended when his father
seized a lit birthday cake in both hands
and hurled it out a second-story window. That,
I thought, was what a normal family was like: anger
sent out across the sill, landing like a gift
to decorate the sidewalk below. In mine
it was fists and direct hits to the solar plexus,
and nobody ever forgave anyone. But I believed
the people in his stories really loved one another,
even when they yelled and shoved their feet
through cabinet doors, or held a chair like a bottle
of cheap champagne, christening the wall,
rungs exploding from their holes.
I said it sounded harmless, the pomp and fury
of the passionate. He said it was a curse
being born Italian and Catholic and when he
looked from that window what he saw was the moment
rudely crushed. But all I could see was a gorgeous
three-layer cake gliding like a battered ship
down the sidewalk, the smoking candles broken, sunk
deep in the icing, a few still burning.

Dorianne Laux's most recent book of poems is The Book of Men, (W.W. Norton & Co., 2011)  "Family Stories" appears in Smoke, (BOA Editions, Ltd.)

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