Poetry
12:00 am
Thu August 23, 2012

Poet Deborah Gang examines technology and family life in her work

Deborah Gang reading from one of her poems in WMUK's Studio B.
Credit Rebecca Thiele, WMUK

Bell’s Brewery will host the New Issues Annual Poetry Celebration this Sunday. The event will feature local poetry readings, a performance by Whiskey Before Breakfast, and an auction—all part of an effort to keep New Issues Press afloat through the Herbert Scott Legacy Fund. Deborah Gang is one of about ten poets who will read at the celebration. Here’s her poem “Life Before Google”:

We never settled any argument

because the unabridged dictionary

wasn’t in the car. We never remembered to settle an argument

when we were near an encyclopedia

or the definitive guide to presidents,

animal genus or the original names

of re-named movie stars.

We never had to admit we were wrong--

that it wasn’t James Caan in that one,

that JFK died at 46 not 47, that we

misnamed an entire side of the War of 1812.

We knew nothing without knowing

we knew nothing. Others suspected,

but it was never established.

We didn’t agree to disagree.

We just disagreed.

You could bluff your way

to sweet victory

purely by the heft

of your certainty. 

Many of Gang’s poems discuss how technology has affected the way we interact with people, especially our families. One example is the poem "wePod" that she wrote about having her son program music into her iPod. (Listen to the story to hear Gang read "wePod".)

Family is another theme in Gang’s work. In the poem “I Am a Bad Mother,” Gang discusses how parents don’t realize they’ve made a mistake in parenting until after their kids are grown. Gang writes how she wishes she had explained poison ivy to her son a little sooner.

“We were talking a lot about poison ivy and it finally came out into the open that he thought when he got poison ivy, he would die. And you know, that just seems so obvious after the fact that I could have helped him through that a little better, but who thinks of that? I’m sure there are better mothers who think of it, I wasn’t one of them,” Gang says. “But most of us are so far removed from thinking in that wonderful, magical, literal way that children think that we’re not that well equipped for some of these connections that kids make.”

Though there are many different subjects in Gang’s work. She says her main focus is making her work relatable to the reader. Gang says she’s not one of those poets who leaves everything to interpretation.

“I worked as a psychologist for many many years. And I spent so much time in counseling sessions helping people sort out these misunderstandings and all this confusion about what had gone on in the past, and even what was going on at that very moment,” Gang says. “And I would often say ‘Too many pronouns. I don’t know what the antecedent is. Who is ‘he’? What was ‘that’?’ And so I think of spending so many years helping people communicate more clearly and seeing the problems that arise, when I think one thing and you think the opposite and we don’t even know that, it just kind of made sense to me that that would be part of my writing.”

Deborah Gang and other local poets will read at the New Issues Annual Poetry Celebration at Bell’s Brewery Sunday afternoon from 2 to 5.