Thursday, March 27, 2008

ROBERT WRIGLEY—March 26, 2008

When I talked to Robert Wrigley after the reading during the book signing, he asked me if I was the guy online who was making the baseball cards of poets. I said, “No.” But it sounded like a good idea to me.

Armed with my two sidekicks, sons Soren and Reiner, I sat through a 45-minute set with my younger son yawning only twice. But later that night, with an inscription from Robert Wrigley to him in Wrigley’s Earthly Meditations: New and Selected Poems, he fell asleep with the book next to him, slightly displacing his stuffed Sammy Sosa bear.

My older son began to smother the dog with affection after we reread “Do You Love Me?” together. It was a night to remember, the kind that kids (and others) want to keep talking about (even more than the new Alvin and the Chipmunks movie!).

Wrigley started the evening off with “Writer’s Block” about a young man who is uninspired by his girl friend. He then proceeded to ”Kissing a Horse” [0:59], followed by “Moonlight: Chickens on the Road” [5:04]. He then turned to his family porition of the show and read two poems about his daughter, now 20 but who was 3 in the one poem and 12 in the other poem about the dog. The first of these was ”About Language” [3:11] and the latter was ”Do You Love Me?” [1:42]. These two poems about his daughter were followed by a poem about his wife’s fondness for a ventriloquist’s dummy ”Mouth” [2:03]. Next, he asked the audience if they thought they would like to eat a cow’s pancreas. Many of the attendees, not of Depression-era age, were not particularly taken with this idea, but it led Wrigley to introduce ”Sweetbreads” [3:17] and relate his grandmother’s claim to fame for expert preparation of the internal organs of a cow.

With the end of the family portion of the reading, Wrigley turned to one of his favorite subjects: nature. He read a poem about camping entitled “Discretion” that originally appeared in The Atlantic. Then he told a tale of how one moves the carcass of a dead horse with nothing other than one’s wits in ”Horseflies.” He ended his section of the reading from Earthly Meditations by reading “The Pumpkin Tree” and “Dark Forest.”

The last part of the program consisted of quite new and unpublished works or as Wrigley described them himself, “pretty green.” And they were a pretty green, kind of a kelly green, but maybe that’s not what he meant. The first was “A Lock of Her Hair” which, during the intro, Wrigley wondered what one should do with a lock of hair. He briefly went into a 18th century British affect to parody what “a lock of her hair might summon to him.” He further explained that the poem was the closest thing he had written to rap. He apologized for misspeaking a little, but all in all, listening to the recording again, there was no apparent discernible glitch. The audience was very appreciative, sensing that Wrigley was trying to meet them and their aesthetic concerns. This was followed by the short “Cemetery Moles” and finally, the evening was capped off with ”Progress.” [3:48]

Yet, after giving my consent to Wrigley for him to fully ply his poetic trade in its multiple dimensions in front of my kids, there was a line in “About Language” (I’ll let you decide which one it was), that was repeated as a mantra on the way home in the car, which just goes to show—you can dress ‘em up, even make sure their zippers are zipped up, but you can’t take ‘em anywhere. Yeah, they’re dangerous at 3, but still so at 7 and 9.

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