At 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 6, UNCG’s Master of Fine Arts Program hosted renowned poet David Blair at the Faculty Center on College Avenue.
Blair’s has three acclaimed books of poetry and is a recipient of the Del Sol Poetry Award for his book, “Ascension Days.”
In 2016, Blair took the bold step of releasing two books of poetry in the same year; “Arsonville” and the other book, the namesake of the event, was “Friends with Dogs.” In addition to his books, Blair has also had his work published in the Boston Review, Ploughshares and Slate Magazine. Additionally, his work has been collected in several anthologies including: “Devouring the Green,” and “The Best of Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet.”
Blair holds a degree in philosophy from Fordham University and a Master’s of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from UNCG. He currently lives in Somerville, Massachusetts and is a professor at the New Hampshire Institute of Art, and an instructor in the MFA program at the University of New Hampshire.
A self-described poet of many topics, Blair creates poetry from all ends of the creative spectrum. He began the reading with a selection of pieces from the “Friends with Dogs.” He prefaced the reading with the mention that this collection was a “love letter to prose” and that it was “full of literary references.”
The eclectic selection of the beginning pieces included: “Metal Roofs in Vermont,” “Collies and Sheep” and “Vulcanists and Neptunists.”
Blair was happy to add to the listener’s experience by describing the inspiration and ideas that drove his writing of the pieces. He prefaced “Collies and Sheep” with a short discussion of lazy collie dogs that do not do their job of protecting sheep from the lofty cliffs of Western Ireland.
He described “Vulcanists and Neptunists” as mimicking the nature of a corporate layoff, and stated that many of his other pieces are observations of the world around him.
His selections were heavy in wordplay and his pieces varied greatly. Other pieces from this segment of the reading include: “Golden Library,” which included a hint of the literary references he mentioned earlier, and “Gospel Tour for my Godson.”
After reading from “Friends with Dogs,” Blair opened a file folder and shared with us some of his newer pieces which have not yet been collected in any book. This section of the reading included the pieces: “Let’s Not Think,” “Coffee Shops” and a piece which inspired by the author’s favorite part of the United States Constitution which discusses the need for no aristocracy.
Continuing the reading, Blair moved to poems from his collection, “Arsonville.” He began with a poem inspired by Roberto Rossellini’s movie, “Flowers of Saint Francis.”
“Poem about Heaven” followed, the piece shaped by what Blair’s idea of what he “wants Heaven to be.”
This section of the reading continued to show his wide breadth of poetic subject themes. The section continued with, “Ageless Quality of Fly” a short poem inspired by Blair’s fascination with the word “fly” as a compliment. This section also featured “The Week of Bombs,” a poem Blair wrote in the wake of the Boston Marathon.
After reading from “Arsonville,” Blair read one more poem from “Friends with Dogs.” “Boston Night Hospital” was the piece he left us on, the poems thoughts centered on the chaos of the hospital late into the night of the Boston Marathon Bombing.
After the reading concluded, the crowd of about 40 people stayed around to mingle with the author. Blair took individual time to meet with every member of the audience and sign copies of his book “Arsonville,” which was for sale in the back of the room at the event.
He showed clear attention to everyone he spoke to and encouraged their writing endeavors. Blair repeatedly made it a point throughout the reading that Greensboro was one of his dearest homes, and his interaction with the crowd only further embodied this.
The MFA Program reading series for the spring 2017 Semester comes to a close next Thursday, April 13, with a poetry reading by Heather Hartley at 7:00 p.m. at the Faculty Center on College Avenue.