Jeffrey Harrison spreads wisdom

Michael Cummings, Staff Writer

cummings@grinnell.edu

The Writers@Grinnell series came to an end for the semester this Thursday evening as award-winning poet Jeffrey Harrison held a round table discussion and poetry reading.

Photo by Jeff Li

Photo by Jeff Li

Harrison focused primarily on poetry about nature and humorous poetry until 2002, when his older brother committed suicide.

“That kind of stopped me in my tracks, obviously. I didn’t write anything for a while,” Harrison said at the round table discussion. “Then I started writing poems about my brother.”

The culmination of his work around this time in the early 2000s was “Incomplete Knowledge,” a book of poetry that is starkly divided. The book starts with light-hearted, funny poetry written prior to his brother’s death before breaking into more grave poems about his brother.

“After I wrote that book, I was kind of emotionally exhausted. I didn’t know where I was going to go after that, what I was going to write about,” Harrison said.

Harrison also discussed his writing style, which manages to combine nuance with very easy readability, a break from the styles of many contemporary poets. This came up when Harrison discussed returning to Iowa City on Wednesday, where he had attended the renowned Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

“I was a little nervous [to return to Iowa City], because the aesthetic at the Workshop has changed so much since I was there,” Harrison said, elaborating that his simple style is a cause for bafflement among many at the Workshop. “One guy was likeit wasn’t quite like this‘How can you write these poems that are so direct and straightforward when other people are pushing the envelope?’”