Georgia Poetry Circuit featuring C.G. Hanzlicek
When: April 17
Where: Brenau University
How much: Free
More info: www.berry.edu/gpc
Noah Blaustein “never promised to light up a room,” as one of his poems states, but his words certainly do.
The California man began writing poetry almost 20 years ago when he was at the University of California–Berkeley. He finally published his first book titled “Flirt” in 2013.
His poetic topics range from love and death to surfing and food. They also describe the complex moments of everyday life that he and his friends have experienced. Blaustein recently brought his narrators and their voices to Brenau University for a poetry reading as part of the 2015 Georgia Poetry Circuit.The program is a consortium of 10 Georgia colleges and universities working together to bring three poets of national and international reputation yearly to the participating colleges.
The Times spoke to Blaustein about his favorite poems, musical tastes and more during his visit.
Question: When did you really get into writing poetry and what were some of your inspirations?
Answer: I remember as an undergrad, I wouldn’t write anything about surfing. I was so worried about that stereotype of surfers just being airheads or that culture. But it was in undergrad in which I told this guy (Yusef Komunyakaa) — I was very lucky to stumble into his office — he would win the Pulitzer next year. Nobody knew him yet, (but) I’d go and sit there and listen to him. And I told him this story:
I used to work for a painter, sweeping up his studio when I was in high school. (He was) a dad of a friend who was this kid I had met surfing. I had just gotten fired from my pizza delivery job, and I was hanging out at his house and his dad offered me this job. His dad turned out to be a pretty famous painter.
I told Yusef Komunyakaa about going night surfing on a full moon when we were in high school. In the red tide, you couldn’t really see the other person, but any motion, a splash in the water, would glow phosphorescent. You could see the spray when they moved.
The guy’s dad was walking on the beach, and my friend said ‘You know, I think my dad wanted to come out here and tell us something. I think he might have cancer.’
Yusef at the time was like ‘You’ve got to write that story.’ That was when I realized that no topic is off limits.
Question: You mentioned a specific kind of poem introduced to you by a teacher at the University of Massachusetts–Amherst called a ghazal. How difficult was it trying to include this form in your poetry?
Answer: I haven’t read that poem in public before today. Shahid (Ali) did an anthology of ghazals, but it’s not like every American poet would write a ghazal. Those couplets could be independent, but they are tied together. They can be tied together thematically or tonally, yet independent lyric lines. While my fun with it was playing around with even a refrain or a line, my ADD nature is not to keep doing the same thing.
Question: What is your favorite piece to read, or what poems do you get the best response to?
Answer: Sometimes it really depends on the audience. And you try to play to the audience, but a little engagement would be nice. Sometimes you just read and they fall flat. I think the poem “How I Made My Money”always seems to get a response. Right now, I have a poem that I think I’m going to begin the next book on. The first line is “I thought you knew me better than that,” and I think it would be a great way to start a book. It’s something I took from a band called “The National.”
Question: What kind of environment do you work in when you’re writing?
Answer: I listen to music while I’m writing. Loud, really loud. There’s a time with some poems, when I’ll put a song or certain albums on repeat. If I’m going I won’t realize that the music has stopped or that it’s repeated four or five times. Sometimes I’ll hear a line and think “that would be a good title.”
Question: Since you love music, could you ever see yourself putting music to one of your poems or writing a song?
Answer: Do you have one in mind? I mean if the opportunity presented itself, maybe. One of the best compliments I ever got, I took the book to a publisher and the first comment I heard, they were being critical, but they said “This book is like a really good mixtape.” That’s killer.