Harriet Lye introduced Jeffrey Greene at the launch of his new book, The Golden-Bristled Boar (U Virginia Press, 2011) at the Village Voice bookstore on April 12.

Here is what she said:

Jeffrey Greene was my first writing teacher. He taught me poetry in Paris and my experience in his class opened my eyes to both. He has since become a good friend of mine and I am continually grateful that he still keeps me alert and sensitive to words and feelings (for it was in his class that I realized poetry is both) and it is a real honour to be introducing him at the Village Voice tonight. Thank you Jeffrey, and thank you Odile.

To give you a brief background on his career, I will quickly mention a few facts and accolades: Jeffrey Greene received his MFA from the University of Iowa and his Ph.D. from the University of Houston. He has published numerous poetry collection and works of memoir and non-fiction, and has been awarded Samuel French Morse Prize and the Randall Jarrell Prize and the Discovery/The Nation Award. His work has appeared in The New Yorker and The Nation, among many other journals and reviews.

Now, one of the best compliments I can give the Golden Bristled Boar is that it is much like having a conversation with Jeffrey himself. He talks about poetry, art, nature, love, the environment, friendship and animals; miraculously, boars hold the entire conversation together. These ‘beautiful monsters’, Jeffrey writes in lush, beautiful prose, “have come to epitomize modifiers that mix mystery and myth – nocturnal, elusive, and beastly”.

This book, however, is as much a memoir about life in France – and learning about one’s adopted culture – as it is about wild boars. We meet some of the characters who contribute to or accompany his search for boars, their history, cultural relevance, and even ways to cook them (the book is kitted out with recipes that look absolutely delicious).

I came to see his search for wild boars as parallel to a search for poetry, or poetic inspiration. Jeffrey writes “I admit to idealizing the kind of patience it takes to observe wild-life. It requires a disciplined attentiveness, a pleasant Zen-like way out of self-absorption into the act of noticing. Still, given the challenge of observing wild boars, one learns more about tolerance for frustration or boredom.” Then, at the end of the book, Jeffrey, the expatriate and the poet, comes into contact with a boar – and all that boars represent – by complete surprise: “I had been so absorbed in the calm night setting that I was not prepared for such a loud squeal, heavy thrashing in the understory, and hooves charging across the ground. I had blundered rudely into a boar’s lair. In a moment, a veering beast and a startled man met at the threshold of darkness and inner shock. Suddenly nothing was neutral, not the black trees, frigid lake, or sentient moon. We had almost touched.”

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