WEST LONG BRANCH, NJ – “There are writers who are propelled by melancholy, by what they see as the tragedy of existence,” remarked Andrei Codrescu in an interview with Monmouth University faculty member Dr. Mihaela Moscaliuc. “I’m not one of those — I’m propelled by joy, beauty, wonder, anger, and childishness.”
The things that propel Codrescu are fuel for what he calls A Poet’s Journey — a long, strange trip on which he invites readers and aspiring wordsmiths to tag along, provided you pack your toothbrush, your Tools of Poetry, and your travel-size bag of Muses.
In the earliest hours of Spring 2011, the Romanian-born, naturalized American author — a writer of novels and essays, a maker of movies and a commentator for NPR’s “All Things Considered,” in addition to a Pushcart Prize-winning crafter of verse — visits Monmouth University for a pair of personal appearances, both free of charge, open to the public and hosted by the school’s Center of Distinction for the Arts as the latest entries in the ongoing Visiting Writers program.
The appearances are presented as part of South Central Eastern Europe: Legacies and Identities, a series of interrelated cultural events scheduled throughout the 2010-2011 academic year at Monmouth. It’s an eclectic program that encompasses poetry, visual art (Bogdan Achimescu), film (including the Academy Award winner “The Lives of Others”), dance (Tamburitzans), lectures and displays of rare books and artifacts.
Codrescu added “journalist” to his resume when he found himself uniquely positioned to observe and report upon the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe — another job description for a man described by Moscaliuc as “A kindred spirit of Whitman, Ginsberg and Bukowski,” and “a living example of what cultural theorists have been striving, only too abstractly, to define: a cosmopolitan, hybrid, transnational exile—in other words, a perfectly imperfect citizen of the global world.”
The man who explained that “words hold memories in the wrinkles” takes the stage of the Pollak Theatre on the evening of Tuesday, March 22, for a 7:00 p.m. lecture entitled From Transylvania to New Orleans: A Poet’s Journey. Drawing from his memoir “The Hole in the Flag: An Exile’s Story of Return and Revolution” as well as his recent play “Guide to a Recovered Childhood,” the author is scheduled to discuss the changes (political, societal, literary) that have reshaped Eastern Europe within the past generation; the comparative cultures of East and West in the post-communism era, and his own experiences as a man who “lives simultaneously in several worlds, both chronologically and biographically.” It’s a trip — as the journey suggests — from a realm of monsters both legendary and political, to a place where the good times roll and the waters rise up.
The following afternoon, March 23, Codrescu visits the auditorium at historic Wilson Hall on the West Long Branch campus, for a 4:30 p.m. event in which he’ll be reading from his newest book, “The Poetry Lesson” (Princeton University Press), described as “a hilarious account of the first day of a creative writing course taught by a ‘typical fin-de-siécle salaried beatnik’ — one with an antic imagination, an outsized personality and libido, and an endless store of entertaining literary anecdotes, reliable or otherwise.” Combining aspects of the novel and memoir into an entertaining hybrid, Codrescu (through his English professor protagonist) introduces the reader to concepts ranging from the Tools of Poetry (including a goatskin dream notebook, hypnosis and cable TV) to the Ten Muses (including mishearing, misunderstanding, and mistranslating). It’s a live (and lively) talk that promises to be “pure Codrescu: irreverent, unconventional, brilliant and always funny.”
The South Central Eastern Europe: Legacies and Identities slate of events continues in 2011 at Monmouth University with several screenings in the Provost Film Series (March 17, April 5), ongoing exhibits of art and artifacts, as well as a concert appearance by the ever-clever Klezmatics (April 10). For additional information, or to schedule an interview with the artist, please contact Michael P. Thomas at 732-263-5635.