Holloway Poetry Series: Judith Goldman

What follows is undergraduate Kayla Krut’s (’13) account of poet Judith Goldman at the Holloway reading.

It takes a stage presence like Judith Goldman’s to electrify her poems, to make them make sense – or maybe just to provide the words themselves with stronger presence. “All the new thinking is about,” she lifts from Robert Hass, deleting that last noun with coy deference to the ever-worsening budget cuts across UC campuses. Today’s readers and writers cannot afford to make sense, Goldman seems to say, or perhaps they simply have no need to spell it out – the Maude Fife Room laughed as its audience filled in the gaps of the well-known lines she abbreviates in her poem “Austerity Measures,” as though the listeners were performing the poetic completions for her, unspoken and in unison.

Goldman’s is “a social poetry,” as Lyn Hejinian said in her introduction; there are everywhere conversations, dialogues, and voices bordering on characters who do the work of the poems. Any language implies more than one person involved – someone to speak, someone to listen – and Goldman’s singularity of presence splintered wonderfully into various registers of voice, and tongue, and song to fulfill the poems’ demands. The voices of the poems themselves transformed too, within and among pieces: colloquial phrases gathered from eavesdropping, effective queerings of metaphor and idiom, elegant, near-antiquated lines that leave off with the verb until the end; all compete for the ear and intertwine. Ultimately, Goldman’s poetic presence is artfully articulated, carefully timed, deeper than clever, and its own: as she writes in a poem concerned with identifying time, “No me like the present.” And so we read her.  Judith Goldman earned a PhD in English and Comparative Literature from Columbia University in 2007. Her collections of poetry include Vocoder (2001), DeathStar/rico-chet (2006), and l.b.; or, catenaries (2011).