Visiting poet offers blues-infused performance

Lifestyle Editor

Last Thursday, The Wittliff Collections got a visit from a harmonica-toting rock-and-roll poet.

The Wittliff Collections hosted Kim Addonizio for a poetry reading, book signing and question-and-answer session on April 2 at 3:30 p.m. as part of the Therese Kayser Lindsey (TKL) Reading Series.

Autumn Hayes, creative writing graduate student, said her initial impression of Addonizio was one she won’t forget.

“She’s just really ballsy,” Hayes said. “She’s honest and upfront in her poetry and her presence. What’s unique about her, especially with a lot of contemporary poets, is her genuineness. She doesn’t try and hide.”

Jeremy Garrett, English program faculty member, said Addonizo was a creative influence for him even though he was not especially familiar with her works

“I am a fiction writer, but she is inspiring to me,” Garrett said. “She writes across all of the genres. It is encouraging for me because I try to branch out and write other things too.”

Addonizio is a poet who is able to convey an engaging reading, which is not a common combination, Hayes said.

“She reads well,” Hayes said. “She reads with emotion so you can understand her. A lot of people just kind of drone on and on.”

Garrett said Addonizio’s self-expression keeps audience members interested in the poems.

“She’s very outgoing in her readings and the way she presents herself,” Garrett said. “It’s not a normal reading. She really gets into the emotion of the poems.”

Addonizio said she writes her poems to explore God and ask what women want. She likes to use contrasting elements.

“The mix of humor and darkness is something that attracts me,” Addonizio said.

Hayes hopes to learn from Addonizio’s comedic approach to serious topics.

“I think I have a lot to learn from her,” Hayes said. “Especially about using humor, especially when you are letting it all out. How not to overwhelm people with something that might be scary or sad.”

Addonizio said the blues heavily influences her.

“The blues has just amazing, wonderful, sly metaphors,” Addonizio said. “There’s so many interesting sexual metaphors and ways of dealing with day-to-day life and spinning them a little bit.”

Addonizio said the style of her poetry is heavily impacted by musical structure.

“I am drawn to poetry that has the quality of a song, so generally that means shorter lyric poems,” Addonizio said. “Even in narrative poems, there’s a certain rhythm I am writing on. Maybe part of that came from studying classical music as I did earlier on, but I also think it just comes from having grown up on Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell.”

Addonizio said emotional vulnerability factors into creating a successful body of work. 

“I think literature is about what’s real,” Addonizio said. “So what’s real is the experience we have and our imaginations as well. The idea of intimacy doesn’t mean you reveal deep, dark family secrets or personal secrets or any of that. There’s a million ways to do it. It’s true you can’t hide in your work.”

Addonizio closed her poetry reading by playing an original harmonica composition.

“I think you need to put yourself into your art, and if you don’t do it, that is going to be a lesser art,” Addonizio said.

Garrett said Addonizio was welcome at Texas State.

“She fits in perfect with the Wittliff Collections, with the blues posters,” Garrett said. “She’s kind of rock-and-roll and at home here. She’s a great inspiration—plus she plays a mean harmonica.”