Since Congress couldn’t break this budget logjam, it looks like today will be another bleak night in Suck City.
But that’s perfect timing for poet and memoirist Nick Flynn. He’ll be speaking this evening, Oct. 1, at the beautifully restored Old Naval Hospital in Southeast Washington. He’s the second writer to appear in the new Hill Center Poetry Series, co-sponsored by the Library of Congress and The Washington Post.
[UPDATE: I just heard that, under the rules of the government shutdown, staff members of the Library of Congress are legally forbidden from making introductions at tonight’s event — but we’ll soldier on!]
Like Mary Karr, Flynn is a poet whose poetry is overshadowed by the popularity of his memoirs. His first, “Another Bullshit Night in Suck City” (2004), received tremendous attention and was made into a movie last year starring Robert De Niro as Flynn’s alcoholic father. Since “Suck City,” he’s published two more memoirs: “The Ticking Is the Bomb” and “The Reenactments.”
Tonight, though, I’ll try to keep our conversation focused on Flynn’s poetry, which is tremendously powerful and surprising.
“Some Ether” (2000) is a largely autobiographical collection that deals with his mother’s suicide and his own grief. His next collection, “Blind Huber” (2002), moves dramatically away from the confessional mode to focus on François Huber, an 18th-century Swiss beekeeper who was blind. And his latest collection, “The Captain Asks for a Show of Hands” (2011), takes on another subject entirely: the U.S. soldiers and the tortured prisoners of Abu Ghraib.
The Hill Center Poetry Series is trying something a little different. We’ve designed a forum to engage a working poet in a wide-ranging conversation — for an hour: longer than you’d find at a typical bookstore reading, but less technical than you’d find in a poetry journal. The setting is fairly intimate, limited to just 100 people. And no questions at the end; instead, we have a reception afterwards, where you can talk with the poet yourself.
Tickets are free, but you should make a reservation here. Hope to see you tonight.