A Poetry Reading with GennaRose Nethercott and Travis Smith

Rachel Spinella
Staff Writer

Features_Rachel Spinella_A Poetry Reading_PC Rachel Spinella.jpg

PC: Rachel Spinella

On Thursday, Oct. 25, at Scuppernong Books, GennaRose Nethercott, author of “The Lumberjack’s Dove” and “A Ghost of Water” came out to read a little poetry during these cold, Autumn nights. Along with Nethercott was Travis Smith, a graduate from Chapel Hill and author of “Zodiac B,” which is a chapbook in cards, as well as various other poems that have appeared in Crazyhorse, Little Star Journal, Redivider, The Collagist and The Winter Anthology.

The event opened with Smith explaining where his inspiration for “Zodiac B” came from. He established that he had a passion for writing poetry and he was fascinated by zodiac symbols and the constellations. He picked out twelve of his favorite zodiacs and wrote a poem for each.

Before he started his reading, he gave a brief backstory and history on the constellations as well as the astronomers that have studied them over the centuries. He then went on to recite seven of the twelve chapbook cards and explained that he could even go into depth about other zodiac signs depending what month a person’s birthday falls on. Each of his poems delved deeper into the meanings of each specific zodiac sign.

After Smith’s presentation, Nethercott took the stage, reciting clips of her recent book “The Lumberjack’s Dove,” which was selected by Louise Glück, an American poet, as a winner of The National Poetry Series. Nethercott’s recently published book not only lives up to its reputation, but she delivered an even better reading and performance.

While Nethercott was reciting her book, she  gave the audience a show with an old machine-like device that is known as the crank. It was a wooden mechanism that displayed a moving picture as the crank rotated. As she told the story, she turned the crank and a different picture would appear on the screen.

Nethercott proved to not only be a good writer and poet but also a good storyteller. Her voice was very compelling as she continued to recite her book to the audience. Throughout her reading, the story that she told held a lot of symbolism and meaning to it.

“I always was- in a way- my dad’s a writer, so I [grew] up in a very literary household and he would transcribe poems before I knew how to read and write, and he would also have me say poems out loud and would transcribe them for me. So, I was definitely in an environment where it was welcomed and encouraged,” Nethercott explains on being a writer and her interest in poetry.

She continues to explain why she loves to write.“The one thing that I found was that if I wasn’t writing, then I wasn’t really happy.”

According to Nethercott in her book, “The Lumberjack’s Dove,” the lumberjack, ax and dove act as symbols which are important to her. “It’s a fable of sorts, it’s about attachment and when we hold onto something and when we let go of something. And how do you know the difference, how to know when to hold on and when to let go.”

She goes onto explain that in our lives, we cycle through these three roles, either grieving when something is lost, or acting as the lost thing to be grieved.

When asked where her idea or inspiration for “The Lumberjack’s Dove” came from, she explained how she was in Chicago at the time, visiting with a group of fellow poets doing writing exercises. Nethercott told how she had to choose a specific body part and replace it with an object. She choses two specific things, the dove and the hand. She went on to say, “I liked the idea, the seed that was planted in that prewrite so when I got home I decided to play around with it, developing it and then it unraveled into this little myth…”

The origin story behind her inspiration for her book references Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein.” When the topic was discussed with Nethercott, she enthusiastically responded, “She is the original pure goth, and she is my queen.”

When asked what advice or insight she would give to someone not interested in or who doesn’t really care for poetry, she answered, “[For] most people, the only exposure of poetry that they may have received is work that they have been fed in school- it may be antiquated texts like old poems with old-fashioned language that they might not be able to connect with personally or that isn’t stylistically or thematically relevant to them being alive today. And to me, that is the same as one that has only heard classical music and saying, ‘I don’t like music.’”

She continues to state, “Where poetry is vast and there is so many different kinds of it, many different styles and voices and subject matters within poetry.  That I think if you say that you don’t like poetry, you probably just haven’t actually been introduced to the poetry that is for you.”

If you are interested in poetry, then be sure to check out GennaRose Nethercott’s “The Lumberjack’s Dove” and Travis Smith’s “Zodiac B” chapbooks.

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