A Poet and Friend

April 9, 2013

Poet Abi Curtis brought inspirational reading, writing tips and friendly demeanor to last week's Visiting Writer Series presentation.

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I slumped in my chair, pen and paper in hand, and scanned the front of the auditorium, expecting to find Abi Curtis quaintly composing herself behind the podium.

If I had not seen a photo, I would never have recognized the acclaimed poet, setting three seats away, heartily engaged and laughing with two Pacific University students.

Around me, people pointed and whispered, “Is that her?” — all eyes on the woman rolling her head back in laughter with two strangers.

Abi Curtis is a published poet and professor at York St. John University in England, where she directs the master’s programs in creative writing and literature studies. She visited Pacific University last week as part of the Visiting Writers Series, hosted by the Department of English, College of Arts & Sciences and the English Club.

After being introduced, Curtis climbed out of her chair and trotted to the podium in a quirky blue dress.

I was immediately struck at how personable and downright funny she was. It didn’t take long for the audience to adjust to the friendship she was emitting as she talked about being a “sci-fi nerd” and wanting to marry Dr. Who.

When she began reading from her most recent book of poems, The Glass Delusion, she took the audience down a seam of strewn memories. All eyes were either pinned directly on Curtis or gazing off, traveling back into her memories with her.

It didn’t feel like a poet reading her work; it was like a woman telling intimate secrets to close friends.

“She has a way of combining the real world and metaphors,” said Michael Monahan, a member of the audience. “She bridged the gap between the two well and touched on some very deep issues at the same time. I have never heard poetry like that.”

Reading a poem about a spider from her childhood, Curtis paused to exclaim, “BLEH! Horrible!” and sent the audience off laughing.

Between each poem, she paused to explain why she wrote the piece, giving an intimate piece of herself to the audience to consume.

After about 25 minutes of reading, Curtis made time for the audience to address her with their questions and offer their own experiences with poetry.  

“She was so friendly and she took an interest in my poetry,” Monahan said. “She made it fun. When I got home I immediately started writing because she got me excited about writing.”

Curtis encouraged writers in the audience not to worry about the rules when writing. She said she likes to play with the rhythms, sounds and flavors of words and doesn’t feel like her poems deserve to be good if she hasn’t poured enough sweat into them.

“If someone has a strong reaction to my poetry in either way it is a success,” she said. “The worst reaction I can get is kind of ‘meh.’”

Janae Sargent is a Pacific University freshman interested in creative writing.