Reading Matters

Poet of magic and mystery reads at Park Road Books this Sunday

If you’ve always promised yourself you’d attend a poetry reading some day, make Sunday that day. Patricia Hooper of Gastonia, whose fifth collection, “Separate Flights,” has won the Anita Claire Scharf Award from the University of Tampa Press, will be reading at 2 p.m. at Park Road Books.

Why am I touting this particular poet, who happens to be a Michigan native? Not because of her major prizes. Not because her individual poems have appeared in the most prestigious literary journals around. And not because (full disclosure here) we’re in a poetry group together.

But because Patty is a gifted poet who speaks simply and from the heart. Please don’t confuse “from the heart” with sentimentality, which she flees as if it were the black death. And don’t confuse “simply” with shallow.

No. One of Patty’s slyest gifts is to lure the reader in with down-to-earth details, often of daily life – “Mulching Season,” “Letter to My Mother,” “Red Sled.” Then in the magical alchemy of the subconscious – and with her native and well-honed gifts -- those words are transformed into a significance and depth far beyond the particular.

For example: In the poem, “Black Snake,” the poet writes how the snake hardly disturbed the path “as he swept across it, letting the lawn / close gently behind him, leaving the finches singing, / the flowers shining, leaving the morning mended / as if nothing had ended, nothing was gone.”

Who knows what has ended in the poet’s life (another of Patty’s gifts is mystery). Maybe it’s the death of a loved one, or some other traumatic parting. But what she captures is the way dark events slither through our lives, leaving the outer world of finches and flowers undisturbed, the universe going as before.

Another powerhouse of a poem is “The Afterlife.” In it, the poet stands by her dying mother’s bed. To calm the mother, the poet repeats the names of her grandchildren, who are, of course her mother’s great-grandchildren – “Josh, Courtney, Alexandra, Claire – there was / no other truth to tell her, it was the only / afterlife we had.”

If you’re open to allowing an hour of magic into your life, come and hear this stunning and unassuming poet. The reading is free, and everyone is invited.