Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Geoffrey Jacques came out from New York to spend Monday on campus. He gave a critical talk on William S. Braithwaite and early modernism at lunch time in a series sponsored by Comparative Literature. My grad seminar in Black Theory and Criticism has been reading and debating his recent University of Massachusetts Press book, A Change in the Weather, and relished the chance to get to know Jacques and his work a bit better. That evening he read poetry. The next morning the Daily Collegian ran a story on the reading, which I reprint below.

Poetry read 'just for a thrill'

Aldon Nielsen asked poet Geoffrey Jacques to come to Penn State so that students could have the opportunity to experience “out of the mainstream” poetry.

And Monday night, Jacques read from his published book of poems, “Just For A Thrill,” and from a manuscript for an upcoming book

of poems in 102 Chambers.

A few of the pieces he read spoke about real life events focusing on controversies in people’s daily lives. But, most of his poetry highlights African-American culture. He wrote poems about African-American artists such as Charlie Parker, a jazz saxophonist, and James Brown, who is known as the “Godfather of Soul.”

Penn State Professor Nielsen, teaches a graduate seminar class and has taught several undergraduate poetry classes, said he thought Jacques’ unique poetic approach would benefit students to hear.

“[Jacques] is different from mainstream poets and what students are probably used to hearing by now,” he said.

Jacques’ poems aren’t always linear, and he tries to create them so they are “simultaneously musical” so that the reader focuses on the language itself and how the words are utilized to their fullest potential, Nielsen added.

Jacques discussed the techniques he used to compose two of his poems read at the event. One poem he read was “Ode,” which he created using refrigerator magnet sayings. Other techniques he implemented include cutting out strips of words in a newspaper and putting them in a bag. And when he wrote “Evaluation,” he randomly picked these word scraps out of the bag.

Julie Mangurten attended the poetry reading for her poetry class, and she said was familiar with Jacques’ poetry because of previous class discussions.

She said the experience of actually hearing the poet read his work out loud was significantly different than reading in class.

“Being able to hear the tone of voice gave the words more meaning,” Mangurten (freshman-theatre and English) said.

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