Writers Read: Poet Gary Dop

Thursday evening started off with a bang — literally.

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taken by Aaron Dunmore ’19

“The hunter, my father, a Marine, pops two shots / at a young buck from too far.” These lines begin “A Brief Argument,” which poet Gary Dop read with no introduction, kicking off the evening with a poem about a boy trying to kill a deer and feeling sick as he tries to shoot it fatally over and over again.

“All my poems this evening will be about killing animals,” he joked when the poem was finished, laughter lightening the somber mood that had overtaken the auditorium. “I’m just kidding,” he said. “It’s just great to see a bunch of first-year students going, ‘Oh, no! What have they made us come to?’”

This was the first Writers Read of the year, the one that all the first-year Transitions courses are required to attend, so the auditorium was packed. In my experience, the writer that the Language and Literature Department picks for this event is especially interesting, original, and accessible; Dop did not disappoint.

“I am at home in creative expression,” he said. “It’s one of my safest homes.” His creative expression certainly showed, both in his poems and their delivery. The second poem he read was called “Pothead Pete’s English Presentation,” and he read it accordingly. His other poems varied widely, including one from the perspective of Evander Holyfield’s

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By Shelka04 at the English language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0

ear, a piece of which Mike Tyson bit off during a boxing match; one about the killing of Osama bin Laden; one called “To My Love Handles;” one using an extended boat metaphor to express adolescent religious angst; and one, as he described it, “very meta” poem called “Poems of Four Explanations of Poems at Poetry Readings” — also read in appropriate voices. His poems talked about his family, about current events, about everyday occurrences.

“There is a bias in the arts toward seriousness that I think is disruptive in some ways,” he said. “While we appreciate [humor] and we love it, we think of it as a lesser kind of art, which seems strange. But … of all the poems I read, those are the ones people enjoy the most, and … they’re meaningful and I should explore that.”

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By O.R Originally from sv.wikipedia

Even the poems about fairly mundane subjects were written from a unique perspective. The poem about bin Laden focuses on a rug in his hideout that looks like one belonging to the speaker and his wife. His voice brought his poems alive, and some lines and phrases startled me, begging to be noticed: “smokes up the dirt,” “”My legs stutter,” “the space / behind the buck’s deep eye,” “I tug the trigger,” “a world waving red,” “her identity’s medieval cathedral,” and “born into the white noise of terror,” to name a few.

He made a lot of jokes throughout the evening, keeping the tone light and fun. For the most part, this was entertaining and added to the experience, though there were a couple times when he almost apologized for some of his stranger poems, saying things like, “That was a weird poem about love handles. Strange, strange,” or “bizarre poem,” which was a little distracting and detracted from the effect of the poem. Generally speaking though, I really enjoyed the fact that he didn’t seem to take himself too seriously.

This was an evening well spent, and I would love to hear more of what Dop has to offer.


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Luisa Miller is a senior English major with a minor in Writing Studies from Mechanicsburg, PA.

reprinted with permission from the Weather Vane

1 comment on “Writers Read: Poet Gary Dop”

  1. Louisa, thank you for writing this response to the reading. I’m glad to know you enjoyed it so much, and I’m even more thrilled that you felt confident enough to offer meaningful commentary on something I can improve (a lesser writer would have avoided that honesty). By the way, my wife had the same criticism after the reading, and I don’t want to admit it, but I agree with you, as well. Well done, and again, thanks!

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