On Friday, Sept. 10th, St. Mary’s alumni Joe Hall returned as the first VOICES reader of the semester. Hall, who graduated from St. Mary’s in 2004, is a published poet and professor at University of Maryland.
Hall’s book of poems, Pigafetta Is My Wife, is a Poetry International Notable Book of the Year and has appeared on the small press distribution Best-Seller list.
It was from this book that he did most of his readings; however, Hall did grace the audience with a few currently unpublished poems.
The lecture, much like previous ones, began with an introduction by Professor Karen Anderson, the Director of the VOICES series lectures. Anderson described the night as one where the “world feels vague.”
“It is the perfect night for a homecoming like Joe Hall’s… [he was] a very beloved student, editor of Avatar, and Professor,” said Anderson. She then introduced Hall’s former SMP advisor English Professor Jeffery Coleman.
Professor Coleman discussed his time mentoring Hall when he was a student at St. Mary’s.
“Every week [he’d] come in with beautiful, moving, and sometimes disturbing works,” said Coleman. “Obviously we aren’t responsible for Joe’s genius. He was born with that, but I like to think of St. Mary’s as the place that encouraged him.”
Before Hall began his reading, he praised the faculty of St. Mary’s as a definite part of his success.
“They were very instrumental in keep me on the ball there are a talented, passionate group of teachers here,” said Hall.
Hall prefaced his work by explaining how his work stemmed from two primary sources. He was inspired by Magellan’s circular navigation of the world, as well as, love letters he wrote to his partner Cheryl.
One of the things he utilized was a journal by one of the men on Magellan’s voyage, Antonio Pigafella.
The poem’s read from Hall’s book show a contrast yet similarity between Hall’s view on Pigafetta’s journey with Magellan and his being away from Cheryl.
His poems switch point-of-views throughout between Hall and Hall as Pigafetta, yet each retain a unique and cohesive voice.
Hall’s book is a group of cohesive, serialized poems meant to be read in succession. “The first half is focused on letters and history, but the second half focuses on autobiographical things that occurred in D.C.,” said Hall.
He then proceeds to read a poem about his friend’s self-circumcision as performing art. “It’s easy to make jokes about,” said Hall.
He then proceeded to read some new poems about growing up in Frederick County, Maryland. “I grew up in a really rural area and feel kinship with and have insight into a lot of country life,” said Hall.
His next poems were titled, “Trailer Park” and “Gasoline, Chainsaw Jesus.” These poems are gritty and in possession of a dark humor.
The next VOICES reading will take place on Sept. 23 at 8:15 in DPC.