By Sarah Williams, Staff Reporter
Poet and nonfiction author, Connie Voisine, read from her haunting and powerful lyrics at the Landing earlier this month. Shifting between serious and lighter tones, Voisine entertained the crowd with a mix of poetry and personal biography, drawing on both her youth in Fort Kent and especially her adult life in the deserts of New Mexico.
Senior creative writing major Olivia Cyr introduced Voisine, describing the poet’s work as, “stunning and complex.”
Dressed modestly in a brown corduroy jacket and a dark floral smock, Voisine stepped up to the microphone and responded, “Oh Olivia, you should have written the marketing material.”
Voisine began with a little personal history on herself. “I grew up in Fort Kent, and left when I was 17,” she said. She spoke french and worked in agriculture in northern Maine. Voisine earned a BA in American studies from Yale University, and her MFA from the University of California, Irvine. She currently teaches in the creative writing program at New Mexico State University.
In a commentary on Voisine, author Laura Kasischke called her a master of metaphor and said that nearly every line is it’s own poem. As Voisine read to a packed audience from her poetry collection titled, “Calle Florista”, this was soon proven correct. Voisine prefaced this poem by talking about the level of surveillance on the border of Mexico where she moved. She described, “Calle Florista,” as an, “ode to the reality,” and “my own understanding.”
Voisine talked about living in the desert, she said it created an intensity of feeling, and she longed to have a child which reflects in her poetry saying her desire was superimposed in that landscape. “If you hurt yourself, I will hurt myself too,” her words echoed in this emotional poem. She talks to her child continuing, “you will not be in trouble if you come home now.”
Introducing the poem, “Tonight the Moon is Mexican,” Voisine talked about the political despair on the border, and joked seriously, “what if we could go back?” This poem was poignant and powerful. She read, “Tonight the moon is Mexican and so is the wind and so are the oleanders the wind is bothering.” The audience was silent and entranced as she recited this poem and talked a little about the history of Mexico, which she was passionate about.
“I’ve promised [Professor Thomson’s] class that I would read a salty poem,” Voisine said as she shared a poem based on Brigitte Bardot’s movie, “And God Created Women.” She spoke of the desert being a source of literature for her and said she had a great interest in women and the bible. Of Bardot she said, “[God] made her some great hair.”
The final poem Voisine shared was a long and tumultuous one called, “Neighbors.” The story begins with a neighbor knocking on her door. It is an intimate poem about death and blood and getting along with your neighbors. She said the poem was all true.
Breaking the ice for question and answer time, Voisine quipped, “How many of you have been to Fort Kent?” which was greeted by the expected laughter from the rapt audience.
“I always did it a lot when I was younger,” Voisine said of her writing poetry. She also talked about critiquing a student’s work, “My job as a reader is to tell them what I can get from their poem. What did you hope for this poem?”
Both serious and funny at times, when Voisine was asked what she read for authors she directed back at the audience, “What do you read?” She was open and interested in the audience’s questions and laughed, “I’m not into digging ditches,” as she talked about finding the time to write when busy.
The Visiting Writer’s series is continuing every month this fall and will be returning with the upcoming visit of Michael Paterniti on November 10th. Also at the Landing, the esteemed professor and writer, Patricia O’Donnell will be reading from her memoir on October 27th at 7:30p.m.