Two Exceptional Writers, Richard Price & Nicholson Baker


Richard Price – Late Gifts

British poet, Richard Price welcomes the question, “What is poetry?” He has pondered this query before. His answer is not a clever dismissive one-liner. His response sounds spontaneous and it is, yet you realize this man who crafts words into moving, heartfelt observations wants you to be fully convinced by his answer. “Poetry is” he begins, “it’s a hybrid between painting and speaking” he pauses for a reaction perhaps, then continues, “Poetry is a spoken painting”. As a listener, you now focus all your attention on what Price will say next. He has a lot to say. How he explains the first two lines of his poem, The Air That He Breathes from his new collection, Late Gifts is rewarding and fascinating. I have a little boy, Late gift in last days. Richard’s ability to conjure up a tableau can frame a brutally unjust moment as in Tidy Up The Scene or seemingly mundane world in The Allotment. His poems are best read aloud, (I think, even if you are alone). After you listen to our conversation you may reconsider your first impressions as you digest Richard Price’s poems. Richard Price is head of Contemporary British Collections at the British Library and a turor at the Poetry School, London. He has published over a dozen books of poetry.  

Nicholson Baker – Substitute: Going to School With a Thousand Kids

Nicholson Baker is a brave man. He knew what he was getting himself into. He went ahead anyway. The hardest part was getting his fingerprints taken. “I’m a writer,” he says, “I bash away on a keyboard all day, every day. How would I know that bashing away on a keyboard all day wears your fingerprints out?” The acclaimed author’s fingerprints were required for the job he had applied for. He ignored the warnings of his family to boldly venture forth.Nicholson’s new non-fiction book, Substitute: Going to School With a Thousand Kids, is a meticulously detailed account of his 28 days working as a K-12 substitute teacher in a Maine public school district. His day-by-day, documentary reportage is an illuminating snapshot of public education in America today. What emerges from Baker’s experience is a complex, often touching deconstruction of American public schooling, children swamped with overdue assignments, over­whelmed by the marvels and distractions of social media and educational technology, and staff who weary themselves trying to teach in step with an often outmoded or overly ambitious standard curriculum. Baker is an inventive and remarkable writer and Substitute is filled with humor, honesty, and empathy.  

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