FARMINGTON — The University of Maine at Farmington’s Visiting Writers Series kicked off its final program of the semester Thursday evening at the Olsen Student Center with a reading from renowned South Carolina poet Dan Albergotti.

Professor Jeffrey Thomson, who also serves as the director of the Visiting Writers Series, said he met Albergotti 11 years earlier at a writing conference and had “always admired him.”

“We get to finish off National Poetry Month with Dan Albergotti, and I couldn’t be more pleased,” Thomson said.

A UMF student introduced Albergotti to the audience, explaining that his writing was “reminiscent of Philip Larkin and Jack Gilbert” and that “his language tumbles about the page in a cyclical and organic fashion, each line painstakingly honest and deliberate.”

The first words Albergotti spoke to the audience were, “Hi y’all,” to which he quickly added, “I’m from the South.”

The audience laughed as he explained he was on a two-week reading tour, doing seven readings in 14 days.

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“I drove in my car from my home near Myrtle Beach in South Carolina,” Albergotti said. “This is my sixth of seventh readings, and I must say, you are the most wonderful, and plentiful, audience that I’ve had to date.

“I mean, the smallest audience that I’ve read to was eight people, so it’s really nice to see all of you here,” Albergotti said. “It’s the first time I’ve done anything like this.”

Albergotti began to read from his works, some old, some new and some that he said had yet to be published and likely wouldn’t be “for around five years.”

His poems touched on personal topics, such as the memory of how his father would pluck splinters stuck under his skin using a hot needle, or how he would sneeze in “sets of three, two quick bursts, and then a dramatic pause, building suspense, before the crescendo of an enormous third.”

At times, he would provide the backstory to his poems, including “Anecdote of the Plate,” which Albergotti said was “a response to a Wallace Stevens poem called, ‘Anecdote of the Jar.’”

“I was driving along one day and noticed a car that had a vanity license plate, the kind you pay extra for,” Albergotti said. “The word on the plate was ‘carrion,’ and I thought, ‘This person has to be seriously depressed. They spent more money to put on the back of their car a word that means fetid, decaying flesh.”

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In his poem, Albergotti writes that as he drove past the car, he was expecting a “goth kid with sulking stare” but was surprised to find a “flower child, a college-aged girl with a brilliant smile, singing along to something.”

“The ‘y’ had been taken when she had applied, so she settled for the ‘i’ instead,” Albergotti read as the audience chuckled.

Later in the reading, Albergotti said, “One of my obsessions with poetry is how, when you’re writing poetry, it allows you, for a moment, to be a little god. You get to create an alternative world in the lines of the poem. Even if it’s just mildly ephemeral, you’ve almost redeemed the fallen world for a little while.”

After his reading, he signed books and spoke with the audience.

Albergotti’s first full-length collection of poems, “The Boatloads,” was selected by Edward Hirsch as the winner of the 2007 A. Poulin Jr. Poetry Prize. In 2008, his poem, “What They’re Doing,” was selected for a Pushcart Prize.

Albergotti’s second full-length collection, “Millennial Teeth,” won the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry Open Competition and will be published by Southern Illinois University Press this year.

His poems have appeared in The Cincinnati Review, Five Points, The Southern Review, The Virginia Quarterly Review and Pushcart Prize XXXIII, as well as other journals and anthologies. He has been a scholar at the Sewanee and Bread Loaf writers conferences and a fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.

A graduate of the Master of Fine Arts program at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, and former editor of The Greensboro Review, Albergotti is a professor of English at Coastal Carolina University in Conway, S.C.

[email protected]


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