Nicole Cooley, Kirk Nesset at Chautauqua

I celebrated the Fourth of July at Chautauqua, walking the ground, visiting the awesome bookstore (best poetry selection in Western New York), and attending a reading by poet Nicole Cooley and fiction writer Kirk Nesset.  I have forgotten how hot Chautauqua gets in the summer — I just love meeting great writers when I am sweaty and tired.

But I digress.  Nicole Cooley read from her collection, Breach, a book  about the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans.   Cooley, who is originally from New Orleans, gave a lot of background information about each poem which really added to the reading — I could tell that a lot of people in the audience were either from New Orleans or visited there often and appreciated her stories and poems. I have a special interest in poetry and catastrophe and have read other books about Hurricane Katrina (See my review of two other “Katrina” books here), and I must say that Breach ranks right up there. I also picked up her book, The Afflicted Girls, a poetry book about the Salem Witchcraft Trials.

Kirk Nesset is a local writer (local by rural Pennsylvania/New York standards).  He read two stories from his upcoming manuscript, and I was able to pick up his collection, Mr. Agreeable  — I stayed up last night reading his work.  So far, my favorite stories are “Snakes Having Babies” and “Scream”.  In many ways, he is a minimalist writer — his work reminds me of the book I just read by Rusty Barnes, except Nesset seems to focus more on character than sense of place.

My booklist is still growing. It’s going to be a hot week, so maybe I can find some nice shade and get some more reading and writing done.

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