Poets Claire Millikin, "Television," & Amie Whittemore, "Glass Harvest"
Poet Claire Millikin, Television
Friday, March 3, 7pm
Television: “In this remarkable collection, Claire Millikin has made her own persistent music of a fully felt, fully experienced life in which ‘what's broken never heals completely.’ Often edging into what seems unspeakable, she finds a language that remains plain, steady, scrupulous, unsentimental and unshowy. Poem after poem registers the poet's ‘battle for the moral world’—illuminating not only a single life but its human and environmental surroundings. As a motif draws us to the heart of a piece of music, Millikin's recurrent emblem is the centering fact and force of television: its role—fractured, phantasmagoric and familiar—in home and family, and in the wider world, where it may exercise its ‘balm of blue light.’ What I find especially admirable is how these poems offer such a palpable and persuasive sense of a rich—if sometimes thwarted—inner life pushing its own boundaries of perception into the luminous and illuminating zones of the articulate. Always deeply reflective, the poems look inward and outward at once, allowing us to see and sympathise with the kinetic activity of a consciousness grasping—in every sense—the world that is shaping it. It can be a world of hunger, tattered clothes, rusted chassis, bewildering motion, ‘parking lots smeared with ice,’ a world in which the child, the growing poet, has ‘no house but this watchfulness.’ But in this watchfulness she abides and makes stubborn and dignified sense. Confronting in her own way ‘time that swallows all things,’ she asks ‘How shall I build myself from words.’ Well, in Television, she, simply, has.” —EAMON GRENNAN, author of Still Life with Waterfall
Claire Millikin: With family roots in Georgia, Claire Millikin grew up in Georgia, North Carolina, and overseas. She graduated from Yale with a degree in Philosophy, and later earned her doctorate in English literature from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. She has worked as a janitor, a waitress, and a copywriter, and now teaches as a lecturer in Art History at the University of Virginia. Before coming to Charlottesville, she lived for many years in rural coastal Maine. She is the author of three full-length books of poems including Motels Where We Lived, which was a finalist for the Maine Literary Award in Poetry, After Houses—Poetry for the Homeless, and Museum of Snow, as well as a chapbook of poems, The Gleaners.
Glass Harvest: In stunningly lush and organic lines filled with milkweed, soybeans, and marigold, where heartcall is answered by birdsong, and both land and speaker are palimpsestically haunted by past and future seasons, Amie Whittemore fills her dream ark with vivid catalogues, memories, and visions. In poems that weave together “an entire imaginary alphabet from a single letter” with the intricate architectural skill of a bird’s nest braiding together hair and twigs, these poems ricochet between rivetingly fierce consciousness and pure animal joy in a journey that is as harrowing as it is lustrous.
—Lee Ann Roripaugh, author of Dandarians
If I had a checklist for what constituted a top-notch collection of poems, Amie Whittemore’s Glass Harvest would come close to hitting them all. A strong sense of language and a compelling voice? Check. Surprising phrasing, metaphors, and use of imagery? Check. A well-tuned ear? Check. Playfulness? Check. Pathos? Check. Check. Check. In her lines a “skirt / thrown across the floor looks like a lake // where a child drowned.” If poetry transforms the world and heightens our realizations of its joys and terrors, then Whittemore is the real deal, and this collection is her terrific and startling debut.
—Gerry LaFemina, author of Little Heretic
Amie Whittemore is a poet, educator, and the author of Glass Harvest (Autumn House Press). She is also co-founder of the Charlottesville Reading Series. An instructor at Middle Tennessee State University, she holds degrees from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (B.A.), Lewis and Clark College (M.A.T.), and Southern Illinois University Carbondale (M.F.A.). Her poems have appeared in The Gettysburg Review, Sycamore Review, Rattle, Cimarron Review, and elsewhere.