An Eventful Week: Music, Essays & Poetry

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This week has been quite eventful, and I’m not sure how I managed to squeeze in a show and two readings, but I did. Even though I’m putting the finishing touches on my thesis and I have a massive pile of grading to tackle once it’s turned in, I did find some time to take a breather from the work.On Satuday night I went to Schubas Tavern, in Lakeview, for a Widowspeak show. I swoon for this band. Swoon, I tell you. Have a listen here. I’m sure you’ll swoon too.

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On Tuesday night, I went to a reading hosted by Columbia’s English Department featuring Dinty W. Moore and Amy Leach. Sometimes when I’m really busy, I find it hard to commit to going to some of the on-campus events that are offered, but once I get myself to the event, I am always glad that I did. I really enjoyed hearing Amy Leach read from her collection of essays, Things That Are. Aviya Kushner introduced me to Leach’s work in a workshop, and I remember being fascinated by her insistence on not using the “I,” which for most essayists, is a staple. Instead, Leach uses animals and science to examine the questions that tick, or perhaps, crunch, like the sound of the panda chewing bamboo, in an essay where she questions the creature’s deep love for just this one source of food.

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Dinty W. Moore read an essay that combined the events of his mother’s death, his own trip to the hospital after experiencing a flutter in his chest, and his family’s history of avoiding the topic of death in conversation. The essay sounds very serious, and at certain moments it was, but Moore’s humor came through when the work was read aloud. I think it’s important to hear the books that we read, read out loud. It’s a different experience than just reading the work, and after hearing a writer read from a book I have already read, I almost always revisit the work. In this case, I had only ever read a few of Moore’s essays, so I wasn’t as familiar with the work. Now that I’ve heard the work, I’m looking forward to reading more of the work, and perhaps finding out if the doctor he refers to as “Bullethead” shows up in any other essays.

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On Wednesday I braved the rain and headed over to the Danny’s Reading Series in Bucktown to see Daniela Olszewska and Kate Greenstreet read. Joshua Marie Wilkinson was supposed to read too, but unfortunately he was sick. I met Daniela in Boston, at AWP, and have heard her read before. I always laugh out loud when she reads, which is a combination of the work having moments of humor, but it’s the delivery of the work too. Again, hearing a writer’s work out loud is important—you pick up on moments of humor more than you would when just experiencing the words on the page.

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I am very familiar with Kate’s work and as an undergraduate was assigned the task of reaching out to a contemporary poet. My undergraduate professor came into class with a plastic tub full of books. I first spotted the cover of case sensitive and when I opened the book and began reading, I knew I wanted to interview Kate. It was lovely to be able to hang out with her before and after the reading and to hear her read from her newest book, Young Tambling. You can (read, should) listen to excerpts here.

So, even in the midst of a busy week and with my thesis deadline only three days away, I found time to enjoy myself. A little laughter, some music, some essay and poetry were just the push I needed to make it to the thesis finish line.