20th Annual Literary Festival
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Mace & Crown October 21,1997
Liz Waldner: Recognizing a crumb in a "World of Crumbs"
Staff Writer

On the second day of ODU's 20th Annual Literary Festival, I was saddled with the task of sitting in on an poetry reading by Liz Waldner. Luckily, I found a seat up front as they were about to begin.

There was the introduction and then the token rattling off of the various literary awards and achievements of this poetess : three published bodies of poetry, a teaching post at Tufts University in Boston, the Barbara Deming Memorial Award, and the Gertrude Stein Award for Innovative African Poetry.

After this grand introduction came the speaker herself, a tiny little thing with rectangle-shaped tortoiseshell glasses. She reminded me more of the librarian who'd direct one toward where the poetry was shelved than the one who wrote it.

In a word, Waldner was charming.

She joked about having to raise her voice to accommodate the large crowd in a room that really wasn't accommodating to a poetry reading, apologized and did the best she could.

Then it was time to get down to business; the reading. From this

petite woman came such a voice. Her poems dealt with issues including love, alienation, loss, and choices. But so does all poetry, really.

What makes Waldner 's poems stand out are their ease, their flow. The only times the audiences hypnotism was broken was when the poetess would stop to explain things in her poems she thought people might not understand, for example, the green-head flies of New England.

I asked Waldner why she thought it was important to explain such things.

"I can't assume that people have the same frame of reference as I do," Waldner said. "You want people to be with you>"

She described her poetry as "formal inquiries, worked together so that they sound right."

Waldner's poems were comforting. They invited the reader in; they weren't harsh, nor did they shout. Through her poetry, Waldner attempts to "show us how to recognize a crumb in a world of crumbs."

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