Kick off Poetry Month with reading by Camille Dungy

Camille T. Dungy

Courtesy photo

Camille T. Dungy

April is National Poetry Month, and what better way to celebrate than to hear Camille T. Dungy read from her work and answer questions at the Literary Southwest series presentation? It takes place at 7 p.m. Friday, April 7, at Yavapai College, Community Room in the Library Building.

Dungy has written four books of poetry – the most recent, “Trophic Cascade,” published this past month – a book of essays due out in June, and two poetry collections she edited or co-edited.

She will share from her new and previous work at this free event, followed by an audience question-and-answer session and book signing.

Calling Dungy an observer and a thinker, Jim Natal, director of the Literary Southwest series, said, “She’s very intuned and careful in what she says, and she’s very eloquent. I don’t think poems come out of her in a rush.”

Natal first heard Dungy read at a mid-winter conference in Chicago. “I was so taken with her and her work. If anybody can be that good on a frigid morning at 8 a.m., it’s definitely someone I want to come,” he said. “I don’t know her personally, but I’ve seen her read and that’s all I need to see.”

All four of Dungy’s poetry books include works that touch on nature in some way, and race, despair and hope. Her first book, “What to Eat, What to Drink, What to Leave for Poison,” published in 2006, offers a look into the lives and experiences of 20th century Americans’ conflicted relationships with open and urban spaces, families and race.

“Suck on the Marrow” falls back into the mid-19th century, and deals with a wide range of Americans both free and slave, black and white. It won the 2011 American Book Award and the Silver Medal in Poetry from California Book Awards.

Dungy’s third book, “Smith Blue,” moves into the 21st century and examines heartbreak and perseverance, loss of landscapes, disillusionment and hope. “Trophic Cascade” tackles environmental degradation balanced with love.

Natal describes Dungy as a “stellar poet,” and said people will enjoy listening to her read. “She’s accessible, but there’s a very obvious concentration on craft and on art. She’s very aware of poetry as art form as well as a type of music.”

Looking at the list of all the authors from the Literary Southwest series, the Prescott audience has been exposed to some of the finest, maybe the finest, poets writing in America, Natal said.

That includes Camille Dungy.