Michigan poet invents new writing styles

Adam Clay describes weather, stillness of life

May 13, 2009

“We could practice patience and stillness and quiet. We could practice listening. Think of us, all floating out in the middle of Spoon River, staring down into our own reflections until they were strangers staring back at us. And waiting for a tug, a sign for the water to talk back.” This is how Visiting Instructor of English Beth Marzoni described the writing style of Adam Clay. Clay is the co-founder and editor of Typo Magazine, assistant editor of New Issues Press, author of The Wash (2006) and a forthcoming collection titled A Hotel Lobby at the Edge of the World.

“Adam’s poems are also not unlike the weather, especially the storms that roll into Michigan off the lake this time of year. The ones that rumble around in the background festering before they break open — always startling, even when they are quiet, even when they have been waiting all day. And in their wake, they seem to return the world to new: washed, and more clear, and more beautiful,” said Marzoni

Clay began the reading with poems from The Wash, his MFA thesis that eventually became his first book. When he was writing The Wash, he came upon John Clare, a forgotten poet, who had mental problems and claimed to have “rhyming fits.” He adopted his voice and wrote poems to and about him.

Clay, who said he loved writing sonnets, wrote a poem that was a cross between a sonnet and a sestina — a combination he called a sonnetoid. The inspiration of another poem came from his reading the news about a shadow appearing in a building before it was demolished.

Living in Michigan, Clay said that the weather itself is a character. The title poem of his chapbook A Hotel Lobby at the Edge of the World featured how residents would indicate where they lived in Michigan by holding up their hand because of Michigan’s resemblance to a mitten.

Clay also read another invented poetic form, called a “fake ekphrastic poem” because the painting described does not exist. He said it was freeing to write because he could make up whatever he wanted. For the closing of the reading, he read two sonnets, which were new poems. He said that he was always most excited about new poems, because they always seem like the best things he has ever written.

Davenport Poetry Award Winners

1st—Meredith Noseworthy

2nd—Bryce Parsons-Twesten

3rd—Annie Pittman

Honorable Mentions

Jenna Dercole, Zoe Foote, Sam Martone

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