"something to do with electricity"
Introduction to a reading given by Patrick Donnelly, 10 February 2004
It’s a great pleasure to welcome Patrick Donnelly to Philadelphia and the Kelly Writers House. Patrick is touring the country behind his new album, The Charge, which you can purchase after the show. I’m sure he’ll be happy to inscribe one for you.
Patrick is an Associate Editor at Four Way Books in New York. His poems have appeared in The Yale Review, The Virginia Quarterly Review, The Massachusetts Review, Ploughshares, The Marlboro Review and other journals. He received his MFA from Warren Wilson College, where he was a recipient of the Larry Levis Scholarship. He is a curator of the Ear Inn reading series in Greenwich Village and is on the program staff for Readings on the Bowery sponsored by Four Way Books at the Bowery Poetry Club.
In his jacket blurb, Greg Orr (who read here last week) says that Patrick’s amazing book The Charge has “something to do with electricity.” It certainly has to do with being touched by an awful power. The 13th-century mystic and poet Jelaluddin Rumi wrote “The Friend comes into my body / looking for the center, unable / to find it, draws a blade, / strikes anywhere.” In Patrick Donnelly’s poems we feel that blade strike and strike again.
But with each blow, the world becomes more luminous, more indispensable. The speaker of these poems does not retreat within himself to lick his wounds, but time and again turns outward—to individual people, to the urban landscape, to a variegated begonia. He asks with the old dervish “Is the one I love everywhere?”
Rumi, in a poem about poetry, invoked a famous image that always comes to mind when I hear Patrick’s work: the winged heart. I don’t think I could better prepare you for these poems than to leave you with those lines about the self in the world:
Stop the words now.
Open the window in the center of your chest,
and let the spirits fly in and out.
Please help me welcome Patrick Donnelly.