The First strike against Joseph Donahue is that he writes poetry. The second is that his newest book is called In This Paradise. He can write some of the worst lines you'll ever read, such as, "Mother, which of our ecstasies will perfect us?" (Italics in the original.) Nevertheless, I can't wait for his reading on Tuesday.
Donahue entered my life as a reading assignment in an Evergreen poetry course. His book inspired little enthusiasm in my fellow students, but it turned out to be one of the few that I completed. His poems reminded me of the classic absent-minded professor: intelligent and lucid, yet beset by ridiculous blunders.
My friend Carl met Donahue once. Donahue was wearing a fanny pack and drinking a 7-Eleven Big Gulp. I'm told that he loves Twin Peaks. Did I mention that he's a Duke professor? He splices mundane existence with weighty symbols, writing poetry about "kings hidden in bakery trucks." Sometimes I find it difficult to buy into his poetry, full as it is of scriptural references and cosmic implications, but then I'll come to a passage about the absurdity of briar tattoos and everything falls into place.
If you've ever attended local poetry readings, you'll know that they're usually horrible. If you haven't, then you're correct in assuming so. Donahue avoids in his hapless way the bald sentiment and political wanking that tends to befoul poetry readings. I'm going to Wallingford on Tuesday night to see that rarest of animals: a good poet entertaining an audience with good poetry.
Joseph Donahue reads at Open Books, 2414 N 45th St, 633-0811, on Tues July 25, 7:30 pm, free.