Comparing Blevins and Alta

Photo courtesy of Google Images.

Poet Adrian Blevins is coming to Elon tomorrow, Nov. 8, for a reading.  Blevins is also visiting my poetry class.  I’m really excited about her visit because we submitted poems for her to read and give feedback about.  She’ll be judging them for a contest, as well, which doesn’t mean as much to me.  Rankings, places and numbers never meant much to me — but if she gives constructive criticism on our work, there will definitely be something I can take away.

If you turned into my radio show today, Cultureshock on WSOE 89.3, Sundays 12-2 p.m.,  you would have heard my friend Matt and I reading and discussing some of her poems on the air.  We picked out a few of our favorites from two collections, The Brass Girl Brouhaha and Live from the Homesick Jamboree.  The poems and our talk ended up focusing on motherhood, marriage, domestic housewives, how you can feel trapped in your life, trying to find time to write, and how writing is cathartic (for the writer and reader).

We had a lot of fun reading Blevins’ poetry and talking about what we thought about it.  She writes very honestly, straightforward — she’s not afraid to hold anything back.  She writes about her parents, their messed up marriage, how they were both unfaithful to each other, how it affected her, her marriages and divorces.

I also read a section from a short novel I’m currently reading.  It’s called Momma: A Start on All the Untold Stories, by Alta.  This book is about a woman, Alta, growing up in California in the 1960s-70s.  She went on welfare at 29, had 2 daughters with different fathers, and married several men for money and food.  She was a mother.  She was a writer.  And in this book she grapples with being both, if that is even possible. She wants to love her children and care for them.  She wants to write — for herself, and also for those countless mothers out there who feel trapped in the housewife life and that they have to love their children no matter what, and that men have time to have jobs and lives, but not them, they’re mothers.  She wants to love her children, but she also resents them; she wants time for herself, time to write.

Momma is a very interesting and difficult read.  It is clear to see how therapeutic it was for Alta to write this book.  She would often say, “That last paragraph was too painful to write.  I have to stop now.”  You can see the process in her head.  You can see her working through these difficult things.

And it reminded me of Blevins’ work, a little.  They both grew up in the same era, the 1960s-70s.  An era when women started noticing more their entrapment, felt the need to voice their opinions.  Both writers discuss the fear of growing up to become your mother, your parents, a housewife.

Check back in the next day or so for a post about Blevin’s reading and visit to my class.

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