Poets in Season: a reading with Chris Green and Richard Jones
By Michael Garza
Contributor to The Underground
On Monday evening, staff and students gathered for a poetry reading. Readings can run the gamut of atmosphere, from the bombast of a juke joint to the still of temple ceremony. Yet, on the fourth floor of the Arts & Letters Hall, tucked in a kind of penthouse suite overlooking complete darkness, the buzz shifted between a lounge reading and lecture. Professor Richard Jones and Chris Green came to share poems, and that was enough to pack the place.
Professor Richard Jones, who planned to share poems from Stranger on Earth, his 2018 full-length collection, instead took on the challenge he gives his students, and shared poems fresh off the press. “I discovered only last year that potatoes come in different colors.” said Professor Jones, and in one poem an angel visits to ask how the purple potatoes taste. Jones joked about being near-blind without glasses, but showed no lack of lucidity in words. In another piece entitled “The Proposal”, he tells a companion “as long as you don’t mind eating rabbit for the rest of your life, you’ll be happy”, a suggestion he miraculously charges with appeal.
Jones was a warm and insightful lead-off hitter for Professor Chris Green, Director of Writing & Publishing Internships at DePaul, who’s newest poetry collection Everywhere West just dropped in July of 2019. Professor Green read selections from Everywhere, and alluded to a “video poem” based off the titular piece that would be shown later in the evening. Green opened with a poem about his visit to Robert Frost’s grave where he ran into Michael O’Keefe, the actor from Caddyshack and Roseanne fame. The absurdity of life is given microphone and family in Green’s poetry. “One is never more dead than in Vermont in January” says Green, and his knowledge of Chicago winters reinforces this point. In a favorite of mine called “The Prodigal Daughter”, the young lady “writes my name on a piece of paper, crosses it out, and hands it back to me.” This fiery spirit keeps billowing, as Green writes “you are so serious about the predicament of nature you keep a field journal at five.”
Before the video plays, Jones and Green perform a shared reading of “Conversations with a Dog”, a dialogue anyone would kill to have. Lines like “If there is anger in me it is squirrels” and “you starved yourself for a week and, like a saint, your eyes went cloudy” curled the room tighter around some metaphysical fireplace they were building.
The lights dimmed and Chris Green played the video poem “Everywhere West“, a time-lapse recording of his friend Mark Neumann’s cross-country drive with that title poem as soundtrack. Traveling along this common artery of the American landscape was a moving experience, and a welcome innovation for the presentation of poetry in broader culture.
At DePaul, the gifts are spread generously, among the student body and teachers alike.