The drive is okay: A.C. on high (it’s torrid in Los Angeles, with the usual muslin-yellow sky), radio up, some gratifying amiable/envious/admiring/lubricious glances. At the mall, she has to park at the top of a new structure, following a ramp so circuitous it’s like an inner ear. Is she going to emerge under the invisible stars on Level 5, blue level, or get lost inside some enormous aural labyrinth? Who would ever find her if she did?
Some may think using words like “lubricious” in a Young Adult novel is pushing an author’s luck. And certainly there are teenagers we know who would glide over those words, hoping to get the gist of their meaning, and move on even if the gist was not within their grasp. But as with Margaux with an X (excerpt above), author Ron Koertge of South Pasadena doesn’t like to simply hand over the excessively detailed menu along with the main course. He wants his readers to work a little, figure things out, be stretched and challenged by story and language, and words.
He’s also funny. And irreverent. A perfect pitch, right in a teenager’s wheelhouse.
The same may be said of Koertge’s poetry, which is “marked by irreverent yet passionate humor” (Poetry Foundation).
Q. You’re Such a Disciplined Writer. Were You Always That Way?
A. When I was in graduate school, I worked part-time at a local library. I ran the used bookstore in the basement. The money came in handy. There was plenty of time to study.
One sweltering afternoon I read about Tibetan body breakers who dismember corpses with their hatchets and flaying knives so the vultures will have an easier time.
I imagined my own body and the monks saying, “What did this one do?” And the answer would be, “Not much.” As the hand I could have written with flew away from the wrist.
Excerpt from Coste Lewis’ poem “Frame,” Poems from Sanctuary:
Soft lime salamanders, fingers a vivid tangerine;
cow hooves grafted to arid grime; date palms with roots so determined
they sucked up all the water from the other things with leaves. We tore through her
property, a whole band of us, day after day, unaware of the endings
our bright forms would bring.
Red Hen Press Presents
Tuesday, April 29th, 7 p.m.
Boston Court Performing Arts Center
70 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena 91106
Cost: $10, general; $5, students and seniors
For more info, visit the Facebook event page
Or call 626.683.6883