The University of Iowa

At the Reading: Geoffery Nutter

By Denise Jarrott

Listen: Geoffrey Nutter reading | May 7, 2013

Geoffery Nutter is somewhere between a Romantic poet and an incarnation of Doctor Who. At once self-deprecating and richly imaginative, watching him read is never a dull experience. The first time I heard Nutter read was last year in a Mission Creek festival "lit crawl" in which he presented a poem with the opening line "Thy bones are made of dope". It isn't often that poetry leaves the room howling with laughter, but in a way laughter serves both memory and catharsis, and Nutter manipulates these feelings with a strange kind of subtlety.

Attending the full reading this past Tuesday at Prairie Lights held a similar sentiment, but we were able to see further into the landscapes, linguistic turns, and dark humor of Nutter's work. I wonder sometimes if a poet's image holds any bearing on their performance, and Nutter seems to be one of those rare poets who has created a working persona. Often in ties and argyle sweaters, little spectacles and blazers, Nutter seems to have stepped through time. Seeing a man in a suit jacket and tie break out in song in the beginning of reading a poem seems to buck our expectations of "professional".

Even when song isn't explicit, however, Geoffery Nutter's work is in a near constant state of song, or the moment before one breaks into song. One poem of obsessive end rhymes, one poem in a near constant state of rage at the parents of a baby girl dressed as an English gentleman, the ancient and ephemeral landscapes of the Nutter's poems don't stop singing. Attending this reading reminded me that the lyric is nearly always about obsession, dreaming, rage, and even a little about death. It also made me consider the pleasure principle: how important is the reader? How do poets relate to their work? Nutter's work almost always inspires laughter, and every so often, often memory and catharsis that the laughter evokes converge.