Leaving the Self

‘Leaving the self’ (9/29/04)
Adria Barbour
Daily Kent Stater

Poet Philip Metres recounts his experiences in Russia at the Student Center last night . Some of the poems Metres read were translated from Russian.

The Wick Poetry Center had its first reading of the semester last night in the Student Center.

The key speakers of the night were Karen Craigo and Philip Metres, both winners of the 2003 Wick Chapbook Competition for Ohio Poets. The winners of the Wick Chapbook Competition can either be Ohio poets or poets currently enrolled in an Ohio college or university. Craigo, who has been published in Cimarron Review, Crab Orchard Review, Another Chicago Magazine and Many Mountains Moving, chose to read poems from her book Stone for an Eye.

“I wondered how someone could write about a stone and make it different every time. The answer is 20,” said Maggie Anderson, director of the Wick Poetry Center.  Stone for an Eye consists of 20 unnamed poems about stones. Craigo’s poems were spiritual in nature, concerned with everyday activities, common occurrences and acute observations.  “I wrote these (poems) as sort of an exercise, leaving the self,” Craigo said. “It can be a way not to come up with a good idea.”  Later in the evening, Craigo read poems from her Estranged Housewife series about a woman observing life through different perspectives.  “I saw her as my own escape hatch,” Craigo said.  She also read from her Meditations series, which are individual poems about different body parts.

The second speaker Metres, a translator of Russian poetry and assistant professor at John Carroll University, read his work Primer for Non-Native Speaker.  The first poem, “Safety Instructions,” was humorous in nature, taking the reader on a trip through the poem as if the reader were on an airplane traveling to a different country.

Other poems were about his time in Russia, one of which was inspired by a Russian writer who published a book with only one word in it.

Metres has traveled to Russia four times. His motivation for visiting the country so many times was that he wanted to learn about the people and the culture.  “During the Cold War, we considered the Russians our enemies. Just as today when countries in the Middle East are called the ‘axis of evil,’ Russia was considered evil,” Metres said.  He said he wanted to understand the place his country once thought was the enemy.

The translated poems of Sergey Gandlevsky were each read in different ways. One poem was read with the English translation and in the original Russian language. The other was read by both Metres and Craigo.  The last poem of the night wasn’t read by the speaker but by the audience. Metres displayed the poem Unnamed Events on huge sheets of white poster board while the song “The Tooth Fairy and the Princess” by Husker Du played in the background.
Contact news reporter Adria Barbour at abarbour@kent.edu.