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The Poetry of Sidney Wade

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On Thursday April 3rd, Sidney Wade visited Roanoke College in the evening and read through many of her pieces at Monterey House. The focus of her visit was on her newest book of poetry, Straits & Narrows, which was published March of last year and is her sixth collection of poetry. The poems of this book were described in her introduction as “limber and unbelievably lean, quick as bubbling brooks, and packed with whimsy and wisdom in equal measure.”

Today, Sidney Wade is a translator of Turkish poetry, a professor of Creative Writing, an editor and a continuing poet. She went with students to both a lunch and a dinner set up by the English department. During a class visit between the two, she sat down with an upper level poetry class and discussed whatever questions they had about Straits and Narrows or anything else about her poetry and her creative process.

This particular collection of poetry is made up of mostly short, two word lines, and sometimes even just one word per line. She took a moment to speak about her creative process. She, like many poets, has scraps of paper all around the house, she said, and sometimes you run into one that leads to something.

She told the audience how recently these scraps had been in these ‘schemey little lines,’ and how writing in that way forces you to pay very close attention to every little detail, every little sound. She admits she is more aurally focused than in any other area and therefore the short lines that call for a focus on the echo of each utterance resonated with her style.

“It’s a fun departure to write these funny shaped things.”

Much of Wade’s poetry is nature based. She said that as she explores nature to write, the most powerful realization she has come to is how thoroughly we have destroyed our environment. We are crowding every other species out of the planet. And nature still manages to be beautiful in the broken places.

She discussed her editing process for which she uses a group that over the years has been invaluable in their ability to stumble over the wrong words or question punctuation. Her advice to the audience was that it is essential to get together with your best critics and rely on them and their critiques.

“I saw it ‘til I wrote it and then it disappeared” is a quote from Wade’s most recent book. Quotes such as this reflect part of the struggle of a poet who has an image in her head that words can never quite grasp at. The imagination is such a wonderful filter, she says, and words on paper cannot really get that magic on the page.

She spoke also on her translations from Turkish into English. She refers to it as one of the most rewarding experiences a poet can and should have. It is the closest reading of a poem that can be done. Some will say that translation is impossible, and in a way it is. That is why so few are done; only 3% of the books published in the United States are translations.

Poetry is dying and Literature is dying, some will say. These are both false. There are so many young people dedicated to the art that going to the festivals and the schools make you see clearly that it is never going to die. Days like these, she says, are so inspiring to a poet for the hope of the next generation.