These Books: Bodily Course by Deborah Gorlin, Teeth by Aracelis Girmay

Gorlin1                                                                      Girmay1

The other day my current adviser introduced me to Deborah Gorlin at the Writing Center because he thought we would work well together in Division III. We had a brief conversation, I blanked on what poets I read, and I made a mental note to read poetry other than what is assigned in class. Before leaving, my adviser politely suggested I read Deb’s book, Bodily Course, published in 1997. Ah! Good– I can both get familiar with the writing faculty’s work at Hampshire and read poetry other than that of the great Gwendolyn Brooks who I have been reading almost exclusively for Aracelis Girmay’s class, “To Holler Down the Lions in This Air….”

Bodily Course is in our stacks, not far away from Aracelis’ book of poems Teeth. It was so interesting to read poems out of Bodily Course and Teeth side by side. I found their poems shared some moments: the exploration of bodies, childhood experiences from multiple perspectives, family histories, and confronting one’s unique personhood.

Deborah’s poems show a real, deep observance of private and shared worlds, of a mother’s nervous, knowing observance of a child’s journey outside of the home in “Negative Space.” Her metaphors are moving, effective, and never illogical for the sake of a funky word.

Switching back to Aracelis, reading “Here,” the honesty grabs me– is this the person who teaches our class and listens so well? Unapologetic, the poem dives into memory, painful and beautiful, and then comes back to love the overlooked things that bring us out of ungrounded, spiraling reflection of the past. If this sounds like a description of more than half of the poems you’ve ever read, I encourage you to read the poem (google it if Teeth is overdue).

I won’t try to mix up our faculty’s writing with their teaching, but rather let them exist as writers and teachers, and admit when I’m writing a poem directly inspired by them, which is fine!



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