Fellner delivers refreshing reading
Assistant teaching professor of English Yona Harvey introduced Steve Fellner, a poet visiting last Thursday as part of the Adamson Visiting Writers Series, by describing the characters in his poems as “not mild mannered misters, but contradictory tricksters.” This description may be well suited to the man himself.
Steve Fellner welcomed the audience to come closer to hear him read selections from his first book of poems, Blind Date With Cavafy, as well as newer poems that will likely be included in his second book of poems, Harlem Globetrotters, due sometime in June. He started out the discussion by stressing that he would stick to the schedule — he didn’t want to bore the audience with his poems. It was soon apparent that the audience was in no danger of getting bored.
He started out with a poem from Blind Date titled “Synesthesia.” His performance of the poem stood out immediately because of his dramatic pauses and enthusiastic delivery, which emphasized the humor in his writing. He introduced his next poem by talking about his life in Salt Lake City, and how, despite appearances, it has a flourishing gay community as well as an abundancy of crystal meth. He warned the audience never to get into meth, because it completely “messes up your gums.” His second poem, “I am Known as Walt Whitman,” discussed his experience with online dating — with Walt Whitman as his alias — and was a drastic change in tone from his first, with visceral sexual imagery and a tragic narrative.
After discussing his writing process for a bit, he began to joke about his views on Matthew Shepard, as well as his experiences as a (oftentimes hypocritical) teacher and his outdated attire. He mentioned that he once hoped to become a gay role model but quickly became disillusioned; he felt that the depiction of Matthew Shepard as an angel was something that he couldn’t relate with. He went into two poems about Shepard. “Shoelaces” talked about the oddity of Shepard being tied up with his own shoelaces by his murderers, and branched into his wishes of being a father and tying his children’s shoes. “Ode to Matt” talked about the desire for revenge.
During and after the reading, Fellner was eager to discuss his writing with the audience. The questions began with his interest in movies and science fiction, including his opinion on Jake Gyllenhaal and his fear of his soul being taken away as in Invasion of the Bodysnatchers (which he references in “Capgras Delusion”). He also brought up how he encouraged his students to embrace and reinvent tropes, and the advantage of exploring other worlds to escape from our own.
Fellner discussed his writing process, and how with his latest book he has been forced to write at least one poem per day in order to build up to the good poems. His editing process, he explained, usually consists of small changes and a thumbs up or thumbs down from his partner. He mentioned that instead of trying to revise his poems, he often just starts over entirely from scratch.
His final poem, “Love Poem For Phil,” was the result of his partner insisting that he write a love poem. He highlighted the use of exclamation marks after “egads” and “peace” that he put in for his partner; he claimed to hate exclamations because men who use exclamation marks are weak. The poem was a charming and lighthearted conclusion to a refreshing reading.