Under a lifeless disco ball in Helmreich House, roughly 20 members of the Bowdoin and Brunswick community sat quietly in rows Tuesday evening to listen to poet Aimee Nezhukumatathil's sprightly, melodic voice. The bar was temporarily transformed into a display table for Nezhukumatathil's latest book, Miracle Fruit, along with a sampling of coffee, coco, and cider.
Nezhukumatathil, a petite woman with large sparkling eyes and sequined jeans, stood at the podium in front of her modest audience.
"I wrote a poem in the shape of spare ribs," she admitted grinningly before launching into a "carmina figurate"?a poem that is written in a certain shape. "Baby, don't even come near me with that napkin. Just let me at each bone, slick and sweet with smoky sugar sauce." Her warm, rich voice echoed the subject of her poem as she recited it to her transfixed listeners.
"I like finding beauty in nature that isn't usually thought of or seen as beautiful," Nezhukumatathil said in an interview with the Orient. In fact, her next book, The Corpse Flower, will be named after the largest flower in the world, which, she said, smells like a rotting corpse.
Nezhukumatathil credits her many nature based poems to her early studies in chemistry. Although she began her undergraduate studies at Ohio State University with plans to pursue science, she took a poetry class her sophomore year that completely changed her notions of what she wanted to pursue. She said, "Poetry challenged me in a way that chemistry never had."
Instead of continuing with chemistry, she earned her B.A. in English and her M.F.A. in poetry and creative non-fiction. "What I love about poetry is that there are no easy answers; there are no definitive answers like in chemistry," she said.
Nezhukumatathil is one of many poets featured on the online publication From the Fishouse (www.fishousepoems.org). The web site showcases young, up-and-coming poets, and it even includes audio files of poets reading their own poems.
"I would really like to encourage people to check [the web site] out," said Nezhukumatathil, who is assistant professor of English at State University of New York-Fredonia and believes that From the Fishouse is an excellent resource for college students. She continued, "I just never want a college student to think that there are no living poets under the age of 40."