Introduction for David Biespiel
WTAW PDX “Evolve”
February 18, 2018
by Virginia Bellis Brandabur
DAVID BIESPIEL is a poet, literary critic, columnist, and contributing writer at The Rumpus, American Poetry Review, Politico, New Republic, Partisan, Slate, Poetry, and The New York Times, among other publications. He is the author of ten books, including The Book of Men and Women, chosen one of the Best Books of the Year by the Poetry Foundation and recipient of the 2011 Oregon Book Award for Poetry. Some of you may know David from his monthly poetry column that ran in the Oregonian from 2003-2013 – the longest running regular column on poetry in an American newspaper. These columns are collected in his book, A Long High Whistle, which received the 2016 Oregon Book Award for General Nonfiction. His most recent book, The Education of a Young Poet, was named a 2017 Best Books for Writers by Poets & Writers.
The Education of a Young Poet has the feel of a sublime summer road trip. Perhaps this comparison arises because of the real travels David describes: the immigration stories of his grandfather and great-grandfather; his own relocation from Houston to Boston; a cross-country trip taken just as he is coming into an understanding of the poetic journey ahead; and his retreat to the forests of Vermont, thick with silence and possibility. So, too, does the flow of his memoir recall a sense of the road; we encounter the characters and settings of his poetic journey as one might when traveling with a friend, stopping off to see his cherished relative here, his old haunt there, one by one connecting the dots across the map of how he came to be a poet. Yet it is David’s own relationship to language that most evokes a movement through place and time. He writes, “ Words had never been static things for me. I moved through them physically, metaphysically, they moved through me. I wrote them down in the present moment – in a notebook, at my desk – and yet doing so let me travel to something hidden like the unknown future.”
Please join me in welcoming David Biespiel.