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UW Poetry Prize Winner Visits Woodland Pattern:

by Mary Vuk

Betsy Andrews, winner of the University of Wisconsin 2007 Brittingham Prize in Poetry, will read from her award-winning book New Jersey at Woodland Pattern, March 23.

Andrews is a 43-year old poet from New York City. She received an MFA in creative writing from George Mason University where she was a student of poet Carolyn Fourche. New Jersey (The University of Wisconsin Press; $14.95) is her first full-length book.

The central metaphor of the book-length poem is the New Jersey Turnpike. “The book is anti-war but it’s also really a meditation on the Jersey Turnpike and the history of the Turnpike,” Andrews said.

Over a number of years, Andrews has frequently driven the New Jersey Turnpike en route from New York to Philadelphia, where her family lives.

The drive along the turnpike “occasioned me to think about my complicity in the notion of global war for fossil fuel. I really had to think about that a lot. [Driving] is also like a really meditative state for me. [The turnpike] always feels a little bit dreamlike. However, it’s a completely man-made landscape that actually was created for military purposes – all highways are,” Andrews said.

“…that was really what I was thinking about. I think about it every time I’m on the Jersey Turnpike because when you get near to Philadelphia you pass something that rises up out of the cow pasture – you see a sign that says – ‘Naval Combat Systems Engineering.’ It’s a building that really looks like a battleship. That building itself has always really resonated very strongly for me and it [is] a frightening, weird thing in the middle of Jersey farmland that the turnpike cuts through.”

Andrews also mentioned the existence of the sprawling Hess oil refinery along the Turnpike. “There’s no better place to meditate upon our use of fossil fuel and the war. It just all sort of came together quite perfectly in that landscape.”

Although the poem is about the New Jersey Turnpike, much of it was actually written on the New York subway system. Andrews said that during the time she was writing it she was very busy at work, so she wrote during her subway commute – something she had never tried before.

Andrews did research on the history of New Jersey and cites her extensive and rather eclectic sources in the final section of the book titled “Feeder Lanes.” Her sources include a number of popular publications, but also Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, George W. Bush, Gerard Manley Hopkins, David Bowie, and Lord Byron.

She said that although New Jersey is primarily an antiwar poem there is also a personal dream element in it. “I was recording my dreams. But I didn’t really want to say that they were my dreams. So I ended up calling them New Jersey.”

Andrews will read with poet Fleda Brown, winner of the University of Wisconsin 2007 Felix Pollack Prize and Poet Laureate of Delaware. The reading is on Friday, March 23, 7 pm, Woodland Pattern Book Center.

Reading Between the Leaves at Woodland Pattern

A review by Robert J. Baumann, Bookstore Assistant, Woodland Pattern

This book is old – at least by my nerdy, elitist bookseller standards – but how many of you have heard of it? And yet, many of you would love it: it’s a perfect quickie for avid readers in a diverse, urban setting such as Riverwest.

Wenderoth’s flash fictions, disguised as letters to the iconoclastic (if you will) fast-food chain, discuss everything from dealing with employees who are beavers and the possibility of Wendy’s Delivery, to global war (which, in retrospect of course, seems especially foreboding) and a sagging hope in Marxism. His prose is one part didactic, one part internal dialogue, and tempered by a humorous obsession with life’s quixotic nature. What do we do, after all, when “NO thought is worthy of clarification,” when all interactions are mere opinion? Why, we write letters to Wendy’s.

This is not to say that the work is completely bleak: Wenderoth uses hopelessness as a charm to coax us from complacency and sends us back disoriented – questioning everything. And that’s a good thing, right?

Woodland Pattern Marathon Raises $19,805

Underwriters and reader sponsorship for the 13th Annual Poetry Marathon at Woodland Pattern on January 27, 2007 were both up by 18 percent this year over last for a total of $19,805 raised, just shy of Woodland Pattern’s goal of $20,000. The Marathon proceeds also increased substantially because of a $5,000 donation from Forest County Potawatomi Community Foundation.

The Marathon featured 111 readers and was attended by 250 people. There were a total of 245 sponsors, both individual and corporate. Each reader averaged $64.40 in sponsorships. Reader and underwriter Jackie Lalley raised $360 as a reader, and also underwrote an hour ($350) through her communications company and was the top reader fundraiser. Reader Joann Chang raised $339 and has been the top fundraising reader for the past several years.

Riverwest Currents online edition – March, 2007