Poetry & Conversation: Chris Mason's Poems about Places

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By Shaileen B

Even in these days of e-books and electronic communication, the Pratt Library continues to thrive as a set of lovely, historic buildings where people encounter one another face to face. Take the upcoming Poetry & Conversation event, for example. If you are in the old-fashioned Poe Room of the Central Library on Tuesday, February 12, you will hear poets Adam Robinson and Chris Mason read and comment on their work.

Chris Mason CoverThe value of real places is a theme in Chris Mason's forthcoming book, Where To From Out, to be published by Furniture Press in April 2013. The book consists of a series of poems, he told me in an email:

Each poem in the series has its title taken from a place which is somehow important to me. There is at least one poem for each letter of the alphabet, and they are ordered alphabetically. Many of them are somewhat autobiographical and many of the poems that are not autobiographical deal with historical or scientific time. So it's like an x-y axis of places on the x-axis and time on the y-axis. All of them are long and skinny, having lines alternating between 3 and 5 syllables. I like to write in lines with a fixed number of syllables.

I wrote at least one for each letter of the alphabet because it forced me to write about a lot of places I wouldn't have otherwise thought of. The nice thing about a project like this with a structure is that you get to keep writing poems for a long time. It helps you generate new work.

Normals Books and RecordsHere's one of the poems, inspired by the Pratt's neighbor, Normals Books and Records:

Normals Books and Records
  425 E. 31th St.

     Filling in
 at register so
     Rupert can
go to Post Office,
     see used book
just brought in – book of
     my poems
 I gave girl I liked
     thirty years
back – inscribed “Ill-met
     by moonlight
proud Titania”.
     Coffee stains,
finger-smudge,  corners
     of pages
curling, spine bloated
     or spine cracked,
books sent out come back
     older.     The
flautist performing
     at Normals
Books and Records, her
     notes altered
     is daughter
of director of
     J. S. Bach
Society my
     mother in
     sang Bach in,
their notes in moonlight
     now dispersed.
Each book on shelf at
     Normals once
lay open, face down,
     on someone’s
stomach, half-asleep,
words just read to self.

Ready for more Poetry & Conversation? Come to the Poe Room on February 12 at 6:30 p.m.

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