Poets Present Emerging Forms Reading

By Reid Barbier

Three accomplished poets presented their work to the public with performances in an “Emergent Forms” poetry reading at 7 p.m. on February 19th at the Schneider Museum of Art on campus. SOU hosted Clark Coolidge, Alan Bernheimer, and Brandon Downing, who are all published and popular modern poets.

The three  read from their works to a crowd of roughly 35 sitting shoulder to shoulder in the museum. Each poet was introduced by SOU professor Kasey Mohammad before approaching the podium to read. Much of the poetry was conceptual and written as a stream-of-consciousness, requiring intense and careful consideration on the parts of both audience and poet.

Downing, who read from his book Mellow Actions, says that impression is a conscious effort on the part of the poet.

“Every poem has been through 200 revisions…it is a constant process of hard work, panic, and finally relief,” said Downing.

Downing also read a poem dedicated to Ashland, based on experiences he had when he visited during his high school years.

Bernheimer read some of his poems accompanied by paintings, particularly those of the female artist Francie Shaw. Bernheimer spoke of the difficulties both of creating original ideas, and the joy of melding different ideas.

“I often forget the sources of my work, and am constantly surprised by what pops up in my own work,” said Bernheimer.

Perhaps the best well-known poet of the group was Coolidge, who has been a published poet since the 1960s. Coolidge cites among his poetic influences Jazz, geology, and crystals.

Originally a jazz drummer, Coolidge said, “Poetry was always music to me, trying to reproduce the tones I heard in the songs around me.” Coolidge read from his book, 88 Sonnets, during the evening.

The three poets provided a night of thought and engagement with their readings. They returned the next day for an informal colloquium in the Decker Writing Studio in Central Hall, where audience members could ask the poets about their work.

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