Saturday, October 18, 2003

Suzanne Paola

The first thing I want to mention about tonight's guest writers is that Suzanne Paola and Bruce Beasley, who have both received Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, teach at Western Washington University and live in Bellingham, are married. That particular fact seems to have struck a strong chord somewhere in my brain that tickles when I read their work, perhaps a reaction from watching Ozzie and Harriet as a child.

I mean, not only do we have here a couple of extremely intelligent human beings, both who have independently developed habits of thinking in metaphysical terms about the world in which they live, and then filtering their own difficult life-experiences through two uniquely crafted crucibles of internal, intellectual critique....they have also undergone self-reinvention. Add to the mix that they have educated, reflected upon and re-educated themselves about an enormous and dizzying array of topics having to do with things theological, historical and current. Then, I ask you, consider these folks at breakfast. I smell overdone eggs, burned toast, boiling coffee. ("Not so," says Suzanne, "we are mundane, normal. The eggs and coffee are perfect.")

Suzanne Paola, author of poetry books Petitioner, Glass, and Bardo, which won the 1998 Brittingham Prize in Poetry, and most recently The Lives of The Saints, is also Suzanne Antonetta, author of her memoir Body Toxic, winner of the 2002 American Book Award. In Body Toxic, she writes of heroin addiction, the saints of every day, of god, of a quiet nuclear and chemical-dumping disaster she still experiences, we will all experience, for the rest of our lives, in horrific images and beautiful language.

Please welcome Suzanne Antonetta Paola.

Bruce Beasley

Whenever I feel a little too upbeat, maybe a little too sane or satisfied, and even though I know better, I can rely on a few select Southern writers to remind me of the realm of refractive gloom and gothic moodiness that I probably deserve. I¹m talking about writers like Carson McCullers, William Faulkner, Flannery O¹Connor, fun folks, who, if there was opportunity to accompany them in an elevator during a potential power outage, might make one consider the stairs. Excellent writers, tough topics: alcoholism, humiliation, misery, the nature of evil, humanity and the gods we invent.

Our next reader is Southern, a scribe with an unflinching knack for slicing into the big questions of existence, the recipient of several awards and the author of four volumes of poetry including Spirituals, The Creation, Summer Mystagogia and most recently, Signs and Abominations.

Please welcome Bruce Beasley.