On Thursday, 8 December 2011, poet Gabriel Gudding graced UW-Parkside with a wonderful poetry reading in CART 131. A multitude of English 206/406 students sat in the audience; also present was local poet Nick Demske. To start the night, professor Mark Bilbrey gave a short prelude of thanks to those who made the night possible, such as Dean of Students Dean Yohnk and chair of the English Department, Jay McRoy. Then, Bilbrey gave an introduction about Gudding’s work. Gudding, an assistant professor of English at Illinois State University, has released two books. He also translates poetry.
Afterwards, Gudding stepped to the front of the room, giving a small acknowledgement and thanks to the audience. As the poetry class had read A Defense of Poetry, Gudding chose to read from that book for most of the night. Gudding began the night with laughs with his first poem, “Bird.”
“What the fuck?” he proclaimed in the middle of the piece, stating that he hadn’t read the pieces in the book in quite some time. “This person is not me.”
From there, he read “Lyric,” “Poems,” “On the Rectum of Peacocks,” “Statement,” and “Tippetycanoe Dalendum Est.” After the poems (many of which he could not quite remember the meaning of), Gudding read an except from an essay on clock manufacture. While a more serious piece, it was still poetic in many ways, especially with the repetition of the phrase “praise be.”
After the essay, Gudding gave an introduction to a poem he had written for his daughter. However, after some reflection and admittance that he could not read the piece without crying, he moved on–much to Demske’s dismay. As a consolation prize, he read the poem “To the Sun and Anchor.”
After “To the Sun and Anchor,” Gudding moved on to a short question-answer section with the audience. A question was posed by Kelsey Hoff, English major and Straylight Fiction Editor, about the funny stanzas that do not seem to mean much of anything.
“[Laughter does] cultural work…it does something to us and for us. It’s not meaningless,” Gudding replied. “[There has to be a] balance [of] non-sequitur with logic. There has to be some logic to a piece.”
Then, Gudding was asked for some advice for new poets.
“Enjoy doing it…Realize that 90% of what you write will bore or disappoint you…Like the physical act of writing; it will carry you through it…Cultivate the attitude that writing can be quite boring…A lot of writing is about trying to cultivate feelings [in oneself]…Cultivate a friendly mind.”
Last, but not least, Gudding urged poets to repeatedly publish their work and learn to let it go.
“Be okay if you’re rejected,” he said.
Overall, the night was highly entertaining for both Gudding and the audience.