By Genevieve Mills–
This year’s Axton Reading Series started with Kentucky poet laureate Maureen Morehead. Morehead is a U of L graduate who has written four books of poetry, and taught at the nearby Manual High School for over 30 years. In Ekstrom’s Chao Auditorium, Morehead read both older and most recent poems from her various books.
As Sena Naslund, U of L’s Writer in Residence, said in her introduction, Morehead’s poems are “full of color.” Ranging in topic from tsunami survivors to teaching, Morehead manages to create vivid images without many words. All her poems were rather short, but very descriptive.
In the first poem she read, titled “A Woman Remembers Hiroshima” is from the point of view of a Hiroshima survivor, a girl who wrote her name on her arm because she thought she was going to die and wanted people to be able to recognize her body. Morehead writes that the moment the bomb dropped “I winced, looking/and then my father was gone/ and the garden also/ and then there was nothing/ but light and pain.”
Morehead read her poems in a conversational tone. She explained how studying literature shows in her poetry, and how teaching English has affected her poetry as well.
For example, in “Daniel Gray”, which is written from a teenage boy’s point of view, the title character has to write an essay on Hemingway for class so Moorehead slips imagery from Hemingway into the poem.
Her poems are written in many different points of view, but in a way that is unmistakably Morehead’s. Her language is often simple but creates strong images and feelings. In “The Test” she writes about her students taking the ACT, but manages to give a deeper meaning to the simple event, “In a silent room/ with fluorescent sun/ to win what armors/ can be won.”
After she read from her poems, there was a question-and-answer session, as with every Axton reader. When asked how much time daily she dedicates to writing, Morehead answered that it’s just something she does when the spirit moves her, but she says this is horrible advice for aspiring writers, and anyone who wants to write should schedule time for it every day. She said she often writes in the family room where she “can see the trees” and raising children she has learned to write with noise around her.
The Axton reading series continues Oct. 13th at the Writer’s Block Festival with Anis Mojgani. He’ll read from one of his two poetry collections at 6 p.m. at the Cressman Center.
The next reader at U of L will be Mary Reufle, a winner of the William Carlos Williams award and author of multiple books of poetry and prose. She’ll read Nov. 8th, 7:30 p.m. in Ekstrom’s Bingham Poetry Room. The next day she will host a master class in Humanities room 300 from 10 a.m. to noon.
Photo courtesy University of Louisville