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Tall If

December 22, 2008

“In sleep the departed
became doors but I must not have
remembered for waking I walked in
and out of doors sometimes pausing touching
a door as if I’d left something I needed …”

So begins the poem “Doors” from Mark Irwin’s new book, “Tall If.”

Mark lives in Salida when he can, having built a house here in a wonderfully poetic way—with little money, gathering fine details such as doors in the course of his works and days.

Mark will give a reading and workshop at the library …

But first, a marvelous quote from the report of a recent study done in North Carolina examining the effects of the “digital divide”—the access or lack of it to computers and the Internet among schoolchildren:

“The introduction of home computer technology is associated with modest but statistically significant and persistent negative impacts on student math and reading test scores.”

Wait! Read that again.

Another one:

“Students who gain access to a home computer between 5th and 8th grade tend to witness a persistent decline in reading and math test scores. There is little evidence that more intensive computer use for schoolwork offsets these negative effects.”

But wouldn’t you know it?—

“One interpretation of these findings is that home computer technology is put to more productive use in households with more effective parental monitoring.”

Of course we’ll discuss this again. But first, tempus fugit and time is of the essence. Take note:

Mark Irwin will give a reading of his poetry at the library Sunday, January 4, at 3:00 p.m. Yet another wonderful event in the “Arts at the Library” series.

Before that, at 1:30 p.m., he will lead a workshop “Poetry and Memorability”. The deal for the workshop is this: $35, you get a copy of his new book, and the library gets the rest. Perhaps we’ll get more poetry books?

Mark asks that you bring one of your poems to the workshop to work on. This is short notice, but it worked out that Mark could do this before heading back to UCLA to teach. We couldn’t pass it up.

Please sign up as soon as you can so we’ll have enough cookies on hand. You don’t have to sign up for the reading, however. Just come at 3:00 p.m.

Mark Irwin was a visiting poet for the 2006 “Poetry on a Platter” festival. He has translated poetry, from French and Romanian, and he won the Colorado Book Award for Poetry in 2005 for “Bright Hunger” (as well as in 2001 for “White City”). He lives in Los Angeles, Denver, and Salida.

His work has appeared in literary and mainstream magazines such as The Kenyon Review, The Paris Review, The Atlantic, The Nation; and he has been honored with a variety of awards and fellowships, such as Pushcart prizes and NEA and Fulbright fellowships.

I still remember Mark at that last festival quoting words from William Butler Yeats:

“Animate the trivial days and ram them with the sun.”

The best poetry slows us down, and the words delight the mind the way a piece of fine chocolate does the tongue, unlayering itself.

It is the power of poetry to do this. When people listen to poetry, they usually pause what they’re doing, remain still, perhaps close their eyes. It is an instinctual response to an activity without a screen.

There is much to learn in a good poetry workshop, and Mark’s are good. Don’t miss it.

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