Poet Stuart Dischell

The Arts at Queens proudly presents The English Department Reading Series and poet Stuart Dischell, Thursday, March 15, 7 pm, Ketner Auditorium, Sykes Building, Queens University of Charlotte. More Info

The poet Stuart Dischell’s fifth collection, Children with Enemies, has recently been released by The University of Chicago Press. His first, Good Hope Road, was a National Poetry Series Selection. Those poems—that book—matter very much to me, as I had the great fortune of being in Stuart’s first class of creative writing graduate students at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

For me, Stuart has modeled what it means to be a poet: to love language well, to reach outward toward a writing community. He showed me how to navigate a writing future, assisting me whenever possible. Because of him, I internalized the importance of reading for myself in a necessary, self-guided way. He brought poets to his students’ attention as all great teachers do; Stuart also brought them to us in person, to teach us and socialize with us (even Seamus Heaney, the week before he won the Nobel Prize in Literature).Writers who are gone he made present (in particular for me, Randall Jarrell and Etheridge Knight).

Stuart’s literary gifts have carried forward in his subsequent collections, evolving in their vision and honing their strengths. He calibrates his diction, his rhetoric and structures, whether delivering the poem in third person or first. He gives voice to the herd in tall grass or the puppet with a complaint. Poems can be personas or personal lyrics, or are presented as if overheard by a silent listener. He is a master of the varied and unexpected list. He often takes us through the city, shows us the lives beyond its windows, takes us to wharves or down neighborhood streets. There are people and avenues, dogs, women in the rain, workers at a manhole cover, a mom in a ball cap, and evenings at a Paris bar. In this peopled world there is both comfort and despair.

I have learned much from his lines—so natural in how they proceed one to another, and yet each cohesive and resonant unto itself. What sets Stuart’s lines and their handling of story and music apart, though, are the ways he accomplishes all of this through image. Song and lineation, in Stuart’s poems, resound by way of his command and gift for metaphor. His images apprehend the world as captured exactly by a voice—the old horses at the fence, how “Their veined faces/ Scare me a little/ And the top lips they pull back/ Show large yellow teeth.”

His images often locate an enviable, compressed poignancy. “It’s the smile of the wire that breaks your neck,” concludes the poem “Beneath the Blast” in his new book. Many of the poems in Children with Enemies, with its notable bright green cover and red-eyed spider, summon a wild energy, achieved by tracking a ray of sunshine or invisible alphabets. Poems make wide assertions, made insistent through the particular. The stomach must be forgiven for its vomit. The lost father has become “a statue of air.” There is tension here between the harmless and harmful. Sometimes the tragedy is not getting what you want for your birthday, but this is, upon proper reflection, reason for a deep loneliness.

Stuart Dischell’s poems have appeared in The Atlantic, Agni, The New Republic, Slate, Kenyon Review, Ploughshares, and anthologies including Essential Poems, Hammer and Blaze, and  Pushcart Prize. A recipient of awards from the NEA, the North Carolina Arts Council, and the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, he teaches in the MFA Program in Creative Writing at the University of North Carolina Greensboro.

Julie Funderburk is author of the poetry collection The Door That Always Opens (LSU Press). She is the recipient of fellowships from the North Carolina Arts Council and the Sewanee Writers Conference. She is an Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing at Queens University in Charlotte, NC, where she directs The Arts at Queens.