Has this long, bitterly cold winter got you down? Perhaps a quick getaway to the tropics is beyond your means, but if you're a fan a contemporary poetry and you're within driving range of Medaille College tonight, an hour of listening to the lush, playfully sensual, and imaginatively exotic poetry of Aimee Nezhukumatathil is the perfect remedy for your winter blues.
At 7 tonight in the Academic Commons on the fourth floor of Medaille's Main Hall, 18 Agassiz Circle in Buffalo, Nezhukumatathil will read from her new collection of poems "Lucky Fish" (Tupelo Press) for the college's The Write Thing Reading Series.
Nezhukumatathil, a Chicago area native who spent part of her junior high school years with her Pan-Asian family (her mother is from the Philippines and her father from the state of Kerala on the southwest coast of India) in Gowanda, returned to Western New York in 2001 as a professor of English at Fredonia State College, where she was named the Hagan Young Scholar in 2004, received the SUNY Chancellor’s Medal of Excellence in 2006, and continues to teach and live with her husband and their two sons.
Her prevous books of poetry include “At the Drive-In Volcano” (Tupelo, 2007), winner of the Balcones Prize, and “Miracle Fruit” (Tupelo, 2003), which was named Poetry Book of the Year by ForeWord Magazine and the winner of the Global Filipino Literary Award. Among her other awards are a poetry fellowship from the National Endowment of the Arts and the 2009 Pushcart Prize in poetry.
We haven't received our copy of "Lucky Fish" yet, but here is part of what we wrote about "At the Drive-In Volcano" in 2008 in the ArtsBeat blog:
Reading through a volume of Nezhukumatathil's poems is like grabbing onto the trapeze bar at a circus of the senses: one moment your hand brushes the skin of a sand shark in a touchpool, the next you're dodging serpent heads and anti-feminist barbs at the Medusa's Hair Salon, sampling deadly Fugu fish at an unlicensed sushi restaurant, or stealing a kiss from Judas in your community church's production of the Passion Play.
Of the generation of American poets to launch their careers over the past decade, Nezhukumatathil may be the most successful at balancing a well-crafted formal restraint with an unabashed exoticism of the senses. No less an epicure than a natural historian, a pop cultural maven than a global village storyteller, her work excels at finding the possibilities in cultural difference and inventing a new lexicon for corporeal desires.
Here is what Nezhukumatathil said about her writing process in the current issue of "Poets & Writers" magazine:
“I love turning to field guides, old issues of National Geographic, or biology textbooks to get a jump start when the writing comes slow. Just last week, I read how the hagfish can produce a whole bucket’s worth of slime in minutes if it gets agitated. Of all the magical plants and animals in the sea, the hagfish is the most unpopular, the most disgusting—the one that makes children burst into tears. And if that isn’t enough, it is the only fish without vertebrae, so it can literally tie itself into a knot to bulge out and pop the small mouths of fish that dare try to eat it. Don’t you admire the clever slip and wriggle? Imagine that as you sit down. Now write.”