Louisiana Poet Laureate visits Tech

March 29, 2012



Staff Reporter


Julie Kane, Louisiana’s current Poet Laureate, gave a poetry reading Tuesday night in the George T. Madison Hall auditorium.


Susan Roach, the interim director of the school of literature and language, welcomed everyone to the event, followed by a small speech by John Martin, an assistant professor of English.


Martin explained how he sent Kane a fan letter via Facebook shortly after she had become Louisiana’s Poet Laureate. He said he expected no reply, but she not only responded, they became friends.


“She’s not only a gifted poet but a kind, generous, curious person,” Martin.


After Martin’s welcoming, Kane took the podium. She said if Martin outlives her, she hoped he will read her eulogy.


Kane started the poetry reading with a series of four villanelles, titled “Family Dramas.”


“This is a form I’ve been obsessed with,” Kane said, “because it has two lines repeating and repeating.”


Then she picked up her copy of her 2003 collection “Rhythm & Booze” and read several more poems.


“ ‘The Bottle Factory’ is about a summer I spent working in a bottle factory,” said Kane.


The next group of poems, also from Rhythm & Booze are “about growing up in a family full of alcoholism and growing out of that codependency as an adult,” Kane said.


She read “Maraschino Cherries” and “Kissing the Bartender,” another villanelle.


The poem “Bar Noise” is also another villanelle that Kane read.


“This poem was written in 1989, and in the future it will need a footnote to explain ‘the chained book by the pay-phone,’” Kane laughed.


Kane went on to read several more poems from Rhythm & Booze, including one titled “Egrets.”


“I had been wanting to write a poem about egrets to express my love of egrets,” Kane said.


Kane then picked up “Jazz Funeral,” her 2009 collection.


“I got on a sonnet kick with ‘Jazz Funeral,’” Kane said. “Most of these poems are about moments of loss in later years. Some of them I wrote after Hurricane Katrina.”


She read several poems including “Whisker” about aging, and “First Reentry after Hurricane Katrina,” amongst many others.


“After Jazz Funeral, I started writing anecdotes or funny things just to change things up. I love Emily Dickinson, so I started taking the first two lines of her poems and rewriting the endings,” said Kane.


One of the funnier poems Kane shared was called “Allen Doll Rap.”


“When I was kid, my parents would always buy me generic versions of the toys I wanted. So instead of a Ken doll, I got an Allen doll. And later in life, a real man was more like an Allen and not a Ken,” said Kane.


After all of the poems were shared, Kane took questions from audience members. Martin asked Kane why she tends to write formal verse poetry.


“Very recently, I’ve been writing more free verse,” Kane said, “but when I first started writing seriously, it was free verse because it was unacceptable to write formal poetry in the ‘70s.” This made Kane want to rebel and write for more formal poetry instead.


Kane then went on to explain how she crafts her poems and how she handles revisions.


“I love the sound of poetry. Poetry for the ears,” said Kane. “I still write in pencil in long hand. I need several hours to draft a poem and I revise as I go. Then I put it aside, and go back to it much later and revise a bit more.”


Kane has been a poet for many years and she speaks of how much more difficult poetry is to write as she ages.


“The more serious I get about poetry, the harder it is to write,” Kane said. “Craft becomes much more important than self-expression.”


Email comments to ask012@latech.edu.


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