~From English Department Communications Intern Kara Nosal
Poet Kyle Dargan read at the UCA Art Museum on March 12th as part of the Creative Writing Reading Series. He walked in wearing a clean, gray sweater, but his poetry ended up being neither clean nor gray.
What I was expecting from Kyle Dargan and his clean gray sweater was this: obscure allusions, nature metaphors, classical form, disconnect, and exclusivity. Maybe it’s horrible to admit this, but when I’m not careful, I begin to think this is what poetry is all about. It’s about confusing the bejeezus out of your audience until they applaud and concede, in a stupor, your intellectual superiority.
Kyle Dargan did confuse the bejeezus out of me. But it wasn’t because I was too disconnected to understand. It was because, for once, I was uncomfortably close and I didn’t know how to react.
Dargan’s latest book of poetry, Honest Engine, from University of Georgia Press, is, as the title suggests, fueled by honesty. Dargan explained to the audience how he always wanted to know how he would respond to a broken bone or a punch in the face. His book is the emotional equivalent of such violence.
The first poem out of Honest Engine covered an incident in which two sisters perform sexual acts with one another in a dorm room as the narrator looks on. In the poem, the narrator called this the “high point” in his life. His descriptions were tactile, lovely, and I liked them — but I did squirm in my seat. There’s a reason why people don’t write about these things so explicitly, I thought.
Dargan read on. Other poems grappled with his personal experience with the meaning of masculinity and femininity, identity, racism, urban life, violence in America, and sexual pleasure. Dargan was talking openly about everything a poet usually tries to shroud in allusion and intellectual trickery. But Dargan was breaking the rules, breaking silences.
Recently, on Dargan’s online literary magazine, Post No Ills, Dargan interviewed a group who has recorded a collection of Amiri Baraka’s poetry. In the post, Dargan writes, “Baraka proved that one does not silence himself or herself to be loved but, rather, is loved because of the silences one shatters.” Dargan shares in this philosophy.
During the question and answer session after the reading, I had to ask: “How can you be so fearless? How can I be that way?”
I cannot forget his advice. Writing is not the scary thing, he told me. You already know what you want to say. The scary part is how people will perceive what you write. With a verbal pat on the back, he promised, “You’re going to be okay on the other side.”
He took a risk reading to us that night. But the richness and sweetness inherent in his poems could not have been accessed if he obeyed societal taboos and poetical snobbishness. Dargan pulled back the curtain to show me a world at which I did not want to look, but one that I needed to see. It was scary. It was beautiful. And finally, it was real.
The Creative Writing Reading Series at CSU is organized by English Department faculty and the Organization of Graduate Student Writers (OGSW); Creative Writing faculty serve on a rotating basis as director of the series and faculty advisor to OGSW. The series has an annual budget of only $1,200 and relies on the support of the Associated Students of Colorado State University (ASCSU), the College of Liberal Arts dean’s office, donors, local businesses, and CSU’s English Department. Its spring 2015 events are made possible with support from CSU’s Lilla B. Morgan Memorial Endowment, a premier funder of the arts at CSU. Please help grow this fund with a gift at: http://president.colostate.edu/lillabmorgan/index.aspx. All events are free and open to the public.
Next reading: Cheryl Strayed, TONIGHT, Thursday April 2nd, and will be reading 7:30 pm – 9:00 pm in the Hilton Hotel Ballroom. The event is free and open to the public; seating is on a first come first served basis; NO ticket required. People can line up at 6pm, doors will open at 7pm, and the reading will start at 7:30pm. Due to time constraints and the large audience expected, she will not be signing books, but pre-signed copies of Wild will be available for purchase. Read more here: http://source.colostate.edu/wild-author-cheryl-strayed-to-deliver-free-talk/, and http://english.colostate.edu/2015/03/creative-writing-reading-series-cheryl-strayed-fiction-nonfiction/, and http://english.colostate.edu/events/creative-writing-reading-series-cheryl-strayed-fiction-nonfiction/