Author Q&A

Open Book with Patty Crane

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In Patty Crane's poem, "Some Kind of Proof," a bird strikes a window. It's devastating

"[R]ight there on the back porch — / stunned, wings pulled in tight, / the stoked fire of his/her heart flickering down," one portion of Crane's verse reads.

An incident the Windsor poet knows all too well inspired the work.

"Over the years, I've rescued a number of birds that have hit a window in my home; and I've failed to rescue plenty more," the Windsor resident wrote in an email. "It's violent and hard not to feel at fault. In certain ways, the bird in this poem represents them all — the saved and the unsaved. On a subtler level, it represents the innocent victims of all human violence and suggests that, if we so choose, we have an equal capacity for empathy and tenderness."

"Some Kind of Proof" is part of "Bell I Wake To," the 2018 winner of the Zone 3 Press First Book Award for Poetry. The collection draws heavily from Crane's surroundings.

"The natural world is a major touchstone in my work and often my main medium for exploration," Crane wrote. "Maybe that's because I grew up on the oceans and bays of Cape Cod and then, in my mid-20s, moved to the Berkshire hilltowns, where I've been ever since. The poems in 'Bell I Wake To' mainly concern the unfolding daily awarenesses that come from my roles as a woman, a mother, and a citizen of a community, a country, and the Earth — the threads that bind us to each other and to the world, however tenuous and ephemeral. `Nature' threads my writing because it threads my life."

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Crane's work has appeared in Bellevue Literary Review and The Massachusetts Review, among other publications. On Thursday, she will read at The Bookstore in Lenox beginning at 5:30 p.m. In advance of the event, Crane answered some questions about her favorite works by email.

Q. What are some of the best collections, or individual poems, you've read recently?

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A. Ocean Vuong's "Night Sky with Exit Wounds" is one of the most stirring collections I've read in a long while. Vuong looks back at his Vietnamese roots with searing detail and using language that somehow seems both fragile and resilient. His poems are truly haunting and timeless. Claudia Rankine's "Citizen: An American Lyric," is a hybrid of prose and poetry that challenges assumptions about citizenship and attests to the tragic effects of racism by bringing the reader inside actual lived experiences. The writing is profound and beautiful, and right now feels essential.

Q. What was your favorite poem as a child?

A. I can still remember the magic, as a little girl, of looking up at the night sky with my grandmother while together we recited "Star light, Star bright, The first star I see tonight ..." Nursery rhymes were my first poems. I loved and memorized many of them, and now wonder if that early introduction to the joy of playing with the sound of words planted the seeds for my love of poetry. In fifth grade, we had to memorize heady poems like Rudyard Kipling's "If" and Longfellow's "The Village Blacksmith" and then recite them standing before the entire class. Terrifying! Maybe that's why I don't recall having any favorite poems as I grew older.

Q. What are some of your favorite poems by Tomas Transtr mer?

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A. While it's hard to choose favorites, I'd have to put "Allegro" at the top of the list. The poem speaks to the power of music as a form of freedom and a way to address and maybe even counteract violence and injustice, so it always feels relevant. I also love "The Tree and The Sky," "Balakirev's Dream," "Vermeer," and "Romanesque Arches." Then there's the majestic sweep of "Baltics" and the spare beauty and truth of "From March of '79," which was the poem read when Tomas accepted the 2011 Nobel Prize in Literature in Stockholm.

Q. Where is your favorite place to get lost in a book in the Berkshires?

A. My hands-down favorite place to get lost in a book is at home, either curled up on the couch or, better yet, when the weather allows (meaning summer and early fall), in the old wooden rocker on my porch, overlooking my gardens and a distant view to the west, drinking a cold beer while listening to the birds, busy insects, and whatever other creatures are stirring out there.

Q. What books are on your nightstand?

A. I just finished reading Victor Lavalle's novel "The Changeling." And I just started Ocean Vuong's novel, "On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous." For poetry, there's Carol Frost's "Entwined"; Jennifer Givhan's "Girl with Death Mask"; Betsy Sholl's "House of Sparrows," and the latest issue of American Poetry Review.


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