As part of the Center for Jewish Studies’ 35th anniversary, Richard Chess will read from his latest book of poetry, Love Nailed to the Doorpost. Published by University of Tampa Press, the collection comes out Thursday, March 23.
Chess notes the work’s inclusion of prose poetry marks a major shift in his writing style. “I found so much pleasure and discovered new ways to move around in language,” he says.
Nevertheless, Chess believes those familiar with his work will still recognize his subject matter. “People who peg me as a Jewish writer — they’re still going to find that most of these poems are connected to Jewish life in one way or another,” he says. “But I hope, especially in the prose, that [the work] will speak way beyond just the particulars of the Jewish experience.”
The book, arranged into four sections, travels back and forth between locations and time. In the collection’s opening poem, “The Other Face of Adam,” readers experience Adam’s first encounter with Eve and the fear that it elicits. Her arrival marks the end of Adam’s unique position in the Garden of Eden. No longer the sole human inhabitant, mortality seeps into his consciousness.
“I Lied” places readers inside a modern American restaurant, where the unnamed narrator examines his relationship with deception. At times, he considers the act “part heritage, part invention.” In other instances, the lie morphs from an adventure to a gift to an act that binds generation to generation.
Divided by oceans and centuries, these initial two poems are linked by association: Readers are aware that Eve will tell the first lie, while the unnamed narrator continues the tradition. This associative thread weaves in and out of Chess’ collection, creating cohesion, as he delves into issues of love, loss, identity and obsession.
“I feel like there’s a greater sense of unity in this book than in my previous books,” Chess says. “I feel more confident about this work. I feel more confident about the book as a whole.”
WHAT: A reading from Richard Chess’ Love Nailed to the Doorpost
WHERE: Reuter Center, 1 Campus View Road. avl.mx/3hc
WHEN: Thursday, March 23, 7 p.m. Free