Gillian Conoley’s poetry reading

JingLin Huang

Award-winning Californian poet Gillian Conoley gave a poetry reading Thursday evening in Science Hall 102.
Conoley has written six books of poetry, her most recent being “Profane Halo,” published earlier this month by Verse Press.
“Profane Halo” takes its name from the Italian philosopher and critic Giorgio Agamben’s notion of a post-rapturous world whose figures and creatures roam the earth, seeking new community and meaning following a cataclysmic change similar to Sept. 1. Similarly, Conoley’s poetry steps out of the chaos and evolves from the early narrative voice of her earlier poetry collections to the more experimental style of her two latest books.
Poetry aficionados have enjoyed her works because of the various shades of meaning implied in her language. “Her poems are hard to understand sometimes, but that is why I enjoy reading them so,” said Amber Schenk, a freshman who read her poems in class. “Her poems are open to interpretation, and there isn’t any definitive interpretation, because one can discern so many different meanings from her use of words,” explains freshman Caitlin Gallogly.
Conoley will also work with students on writing poetry and verse. She will meet students from Professor Faith Barrett’s “Literary Composition: Verse” class. Conoley also came to Lawrence last term to work with students from Barrett’s “Advanced Poetry Writing” class. Barrett has taught selections from Conoley’s two most recent books, “Lovers in the Used World” and “Profane Halo.”
Conoley also wrote “Lovers in the Used World” (2001), a finalist for the (San Francisco) Bay Area Book Reviewers Award, “Tall Stranger,” a nominee for the 1991 National Book Critics’ Circle Award, “Beckon” (1996), and “Some Gangster Pain,” which garnered the co-winner honors of the 1987 Great Lakes Colleges New Writer Award. Copies of her books are available in the Lawrence library, online, and in independent bookstores.
Conoley’s visit to Lawrence is part of a book tour promoting her latest poetry. She is the third of a series of poets visiting campus this year through the Mia Paul Poetry Fund. Poets are selected by the faculty and the English department, and Barrett arranges their campus visits and plans their readings.
The existence and continuation of poetry readings indicates the excellent state of poetry in America. According to Barrett, who is herself an accomplished poet, “Today’s poets have a surprisingly diverse range of formal commitments and thematic interests, and poetry readings are key to maintaining the vitality of poetry as an art form, since readings allow us to hear poetry in the poet’s own voice.”
Other upcoming poetry events this year include a student poetry reading at 2 p.m. on Friday, May 6, in Science Hall 202 by three students from the “Advanced Poetry Writing” class. There will be another student reading by the “Literary Composition: Verse” class at the end of the term.