Old article: Carla Harryman at the New Writing Series

New Writing Series to continue with Harryman

Posted on Thursday, February 23rd, 2006, 12:00 am

This week’s New Writing Series event features the poet, dramatist and prose innovator Carla Harryman, this Thursday at 4:30 p.m. in Soderberg Auditorium of Jenness Hall.

Last week’s reading, featuring the Grady Award winners for creative writing at University of Maine, demonstrated the wealth of creative writers in the Orono area. The New Writing Series changes tack this week. Carla Harryman will be the first artist “from away” to participate in the NWS this year.

Carla Billitteri, a professor of English at UMaine, classifies Harryman as, “a writer and an artist of extraordinary innovative talents.” According to the Web site for Adventures in Poetry, the publisher of Harryman’s latest book of poetry entitled “Baby,” Harryman “is identified with the formation of the Bay Area language school of the 1970s and is widely acknowledged as an innovator in poetry, prose, and interdisciplinary performance works.”

Currently, Harryman is on the faculty of Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, and lives in the Detroit area. In 1978, she co-founded the influential San Francisco Poet’s Theater. In 2004, she received the award in poetry from The Foundation for Contemporary Performing Arts. In her acceptance speech, Harryman had this to say about her work: “My writings are staged between creative genres and theory, the domestic and history, abstractions and androgyny, the rational and the non-rational, the creator and her artifact. They are organized against normative ideas while using whatever tools of poetry, performance, philosophic or autobiographical discourses present themselves to advance their tellings. Concepts such as narrative, character, and binary thinking are manipulated and scrutinized but not adhered to methodically. The writing is also a response to literature and the things of the world: It does not separate one off from the other. In the world of the writing, words themselves may become characters and instincts are regarded as if they were books.”

In addition to Thursday’s NWS event, Harryman will be visiting a seminar on contemporary women’s writing. At the seminar, she will discuss her work and show clips of her plays and performances. Students interested in participating in the seminar presentation, should contact Carla Billitteri on FirstClass.

Much of Harryman’s work “addresses perspectives and politics of childhood.” In her piece titled “Parallel Play,” which is included in the anthology “The Grand Permission: New Writings on Poetics and Motherhood,” Harryman does as the title suggests: Writes a play parallel to a prose poem. Thus, on one page is a prose poem and parallel to it, on the second page, is a play addressing similar concerns. “Parallel Play” addresses the issue of female sensuality and sexuality once a woman becomes a mother. The play bounces over to a monologue about a mother viewing her son getting bullied at school, then discusses the “two male deities: one of them is Papa, who is present everywhere, the other is Don Juan,” in addition to other stimulating topics. Harryman’s latest book of poetry, “Baby,” is described as featuring “the sensual world and critical perspectives of a maverick baby.”

While her work is experimental and cerebral, it will be worth seeing how she is able to present such creations to the UMaine community this Thursday. For those unable to make it to Soderberg, much of Harryman’s work is also available on loan at Fogler Library.