Poet-in-residence Welsch to speak on masculinity in Brown Bag



The white, male perspective might be a predominant one in writing, but for Gabriel Welsch, it’s not the only one.

Welsch, the poet-in-residence for Week Two at the Chautauqua Writers’ Center, will explore this view with his Brown Bag lecture, called “Not Your Uncle’s Bookshelf,” at 12:15 p.m. today on the front porch of the Literary Arts Center at Alumni Hall.

“If you were to put up a shelf of the most avant-garde poets 30 years ago, you might have Bukowski, Seidel, James Wright — and maybe Allen Ginsberg is your ‘fringe’ guy,” Welsch said. “First of all, those are all white guys. They’re all of a middle-class sort of awareness and aesthetic. That’s different now.”

Welsch said it’s this shift away from the dominant perspective in both society and art that inspired his topic. Times are changing, and that’s why Welsch named his Brown Bag “Not Your Uncle’s Bookshelf.” The poets he’ll examine are very different from those who were in vogue in the past few decades.

“What I’m going to look at is masculinity in contemporary poetry,” Welsch said.

The news could not be doing him a bigger favor in regard to his topic. Welsch said that recent events, such as the debate over the Confederate flag and the Supreme Court’s decision on same-sex marriage, can all be tied back to masculinity.

“They’re all different narratives on what it means to be a man in this culture; they’re all at work,” Welsch said. “And I think if you look at contemporary poetry — and I’ll be bringing a variety of examples to the lecture — the artists who are working right now are really representing an expansive and inclusive set of voices around notions of the masculine that weren’t present in writing in the force or the volume that it is now.”

Welsch said the lecture theme for Week Two, “Boys Will Be Boys, Then Men,” helped him when choosing his Brown Bag topic. He said he initially was going to pick something at random to focus on, but the lecture theme was an ideal atmosphere to talk about masculinity in.

“It’s an enormous topic,” Welsch said.

But he hopes to give his audience a glimpse of what contemporary poetry has become and the voices it now represents as well as extending the range of what they may consider “masculine.”

Welsch is the author of four collections of poetry, the most recent being The Four Horsepersons of a Disappointing Apocalypse.

This will be his fourth time coming to Chautauqua. He said the well-read audience at Chautauqua is an ideal one for this kind of talk, and he hopes they come away from his Brown Bag with some ideas for further reading.

“If they’re not regular poetry readers, if they think there’s nothing in poetry for them, maybe there is something there,” Welsch said. “And maybe they can come at the work or seek out a book or two. For those who may already be favorably predisposed to reading poetry, maybe there’s some pieces that will intrigue them or that they might want to hear more of.”