Poet Heather Hartley returned to her alma mater Wednesday, October 5th, to read from her new collection, Adult Swim, and her 2010 collection, Knock Knock. She was introduced by first-year MFA student Jacob Block, who spoke of the humor and heart in her work.
Hartley grew up in Charleston, WV, and currently resides in Paris where she is Paris Editor for Tin House magazine. Her poetry took those of us in the room on a world tour from the Netherlands to Naples and, of course, to Paris. The poems read covered topics such as tennis shoes, drinking by a pool, loneliness in a foreign place, and even, in her final poem, “Syrenka,” pretending to be a mermaid during a job interview.
After the reading, Hartley participated in a lively Q&A session during which she advised the audience to keep a notebook with them at all times and discussed writing about the mundane. When asked, she listed her influences as Sylvia Plath, Dr. Seuss, and Baudelaire. An audience member noted that what she read aloud was not always precisely what was published in her book. She replied that editing is an ongoing process and described what she referred to as a “zut alors!” moment, when she realizes the poem is not done when she thought it was.
A line from Hartley’s poem, “Everything Tastes Better with Bacon” urges the reader to “take this beauty, take it.” We gladly took in the beauty Heather Hartley brought to WVU Wednesday night.