Australian poet recites work from new book

Poet John Kinsella reads from his new book, 'Peripheral Light: Selected and New Poems,' at the Kelly Writers House.

The Daily Pennsylvanian
November 25, 2003

Poet John Kinsella

Poet John Kinsella

Photo by Jill Reiner/The Daily Pennsylvanian

For poet John Kinsella, public speaking is a chance to bring life to his work.

Kinsella, who is also a professor of English at Kenyon College and a fellow of Churchill College at Cambridge University, delivered a dramatic recitation of his most recent works yesterday evening at the Kelly Writers House.

The poet recited several pieces, many from his newest book Peripheral Light: Selected and New Poems.

"When I recite, the poem becomes the body," Kinsella said. "For me, it is very physical."

Some of these works included "The Hunt," "The Burning of the Haystacks" and "The Silo."

Before each of his recitations, Kinsella amused the audience with short anecdotes introducing the pieces.

For example, "Drowning in Wheat" was introduced by the description of a childhood event where Kinsella nearly drowned in a wheat silo.

Other introductions were just as humorous.

"I was hit by lightning when I was 7, and that's why my auntie tells everyone I'm so strange," Kinsella laughed before reciting another piece.

The poet attributes his own passion for literature to early exposure.

"My mother was a poet," he said. "I started writing when I was about 3."

Kinsella also highlighted his love of traveling the world and its importance in his writing.

"I've been traveling since I was 15," the poet said. "I've lived in Bangladesh, Britain, America -- you name it. Movement is a great way of looking at still things in life."

And for Kinsella, poetry and literature have become his way of life.

In addition to poetry, Kinsella has written novels, essays and short stories.

"It's a constructive addiction," he said. "I can't imagine life without it."

In fact, several of Kinsella's pieces are based on his personal experiences.

Many poems harkened back to his childhood in Western Australia, covering topics such as the growth of the salt flats and the native parrot species.

Other works reflected Kinsella's moral and ethical beliefs.

"I think [poetry] can have a great social purpose," he said.

Kinsella spoke critically of the dispossession of local Aboriginal tribes in Western Australia and also commented on his personal views on topics such as homosexuality.

Following his last recitation, Kinsella opened up the floor for questions.

He described in more depth his childhood experiences, as well as his other interests such as traveling.

Afterward, audience members had the opportunity to purchase Kinsella's new book. The poet signed copies while mingling with the crowd.

Wharton freshman Connie Meng enjoyed the presentation, noting that she especially appreciated Kinsella's entertaining anecdotes.

"I liked how he prefaced each of his poems with a description of what they were about," Meng said. "It shows how they were based on real experiences in his life."

Other attendees were equally impressed with Kinsella's recitation.

"I really liked the presentation of his pieces," College freshman Jing-Jing Wang said. "He recites dramatically, which shows that he's passionate about his writing."

Penn English Professor Susan Stewart, who edited an international publication with Kinsella in the past, introduced the poet in front of a packed crowd in the Writers House Seminar Room.