Poet to give free reading at Steamboat library

Michael Blumenthal strives to be ‘intelligent but accessible’ in work

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Michael Blumenthal

If you go

What: Michael Blumenthal, poetry reading and discussion

When: 6:30 p.m. Monday

Where: Library Hall at Bud Werner Memorial Library

Cost: Free

Call: 879-0240 or 879-2665

— When Michael Blumenthal talks about his poetry, he talks about other poets.

Describing the subjects that have occupied his poems through 30 years and seven books, Blumenthal refers to Robert Lowell, who declared that his greatest ambition was to be heartbreaking.

“I don’t necessarily want to be heartbreaking in the sense that it’s sad, but I want to touch people, and I think poetry is one of the most ancient ways to touch people and be truthful about life that we’re not so truthful about regular life,” Blumenthal said.

Sticking to the classic subjects — which Blumenthal lists as “life, death, love, sex, nature, suffering, longing” — the writer, trained lawyer and professor said he tries to craft poems that are “intelligent but accessible.”

Blumenthal will read excerpts from his books of poetry at 6:30 p.m. Monday in Library Hall at Bud Werner Memorial Library. A celebration of National Poetry Month, the free reading, discussion and book signing is presented by Epilogue Book Co. and the library.

Since publishing his first book of poetry in 1980, Blumenthal has published a novel, a memoir, and collections of his prose and poems. His contemporary work seems to have built word-of-mouth popularity in Steamboat Springs, and Epilogue has been working to bring him to town for an event for about a year, Epilogue owner Erica Fogue said.

Characterizing Blumenthal’s work as compelling and able to speak to everyone, Fogue said anyone who enjoys poetry is likely to enjoy Blumenthal’s work. Epilogue will have copies of Blumenthal’s in-print books at Monday’s event, Fogue said.

The sense that Blumenthal’s poems are speaking to everyone is intentional, the poet said. Although some poets take a more scholarly approach and some go for entertainment, Blumenthal tries to strike a balance between the two, he said.

“Robert Frost, I think, said he didn’t want to be caviar for the crowd, and I don’t want to be caviar, either. On the other hand, I don’t want to be candy,” he said.

Blumenthal said he is looking forward to the chance to share his work with an audience of people he doesn’t know in a place he’s never been.

“Writers mainly sit alone in a room and gaze at blank sheets of paper, so it’s a wonderful chance to have people actually hear your poems and make them accessible to people, and I suppose narcissistically, introduce people who don’t know your work to your work, and just to celebrate life and poetry and English language,” Blumenthal said.

Blumenthal’s reading will be a first for the library, which has not hosted a well-known poet for an event in the past, said Jennie Lay, adult programs coordinator for the library. Monday’s reading and talk is a chance to expose people to a genre of literature they might not regularly read, Lay said.

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