Stephen Corey Reads in Athens

On September 1st, members of the Athens community gathered for a reading to commemorate Stephen Corey’s new book, As My Age Then Was, So I Understood Them: New and Selected Poems, 1981–2020, published this year by White Pine Press. Corey was the editor-in-chief of The Georgia Review from 2008 to 2019 and a part of the editorial staff since 1983.

The evening opened with Gerald Maa, current editor of The Georgia Review, greeting the community and noting the reading’s “intimate vibe.” Managing editor C.J. Bartunek delivered the formal introduction, highlighting Corey’s accomplishments and mentioning several of the notable poems in the new collection.

Corey opened his reading as he always does, he admitted, with his poem “The World’s Largest Poet Visits Rural Idaho.” He also took a moment to remark on the “difficult” nature of doing this reading in his hometown, with family members and longtime friends present in the audience. This became especially apparent when several of the pieces he read featured these same people as their subjects, providing material evidence of the “intimate vibe” that Maa addressed at the beginning of the evening.

Corey ended his reading with an essay called “Experience,” about his granddaughter watching an outdoor dance performance when she was a toddler. His granddaughter was also in the audience and is now a senior at UGA. Her characterization in the essay as a mostly nonverbal toddler contrasted her current status as a young adult, drawing the audience’s attention to Corey’s expansive career. He has been a writer for the entire duration of many of his family members’ lives, and this lengthy window has provided him with the perspective needed to reflect on how swiftly time rushes forward and people grow older, an idea that is central to many of his recent works.

As Corey concluded, he left audience members with the idea that beauty and pain may be the same. He calls them both “a visceral connection between the body and something else.” The evening ended on a similar note, with everyone present gaining some glimpse into Corey’s observations over the years.

—Maggie Carlton