It’s an historic night all around: The Sacramento Poetry Center’s first reading at their new digs will feature George Keithley, an award-winning poet with an eye on history.
Keithley’s best-known work, The Donner Party, is an epic book-length poem about the famous group of travelers trapped by snow in the Sierras and forced to consume each other before being rescued and brought to our own Sutter’s Fort. He’s also written a play in verse about the conflicts between Aaron Burr, Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson (The Best Blood of the Country).
Keithley, a retired professor from California State University, Chico, delves into the life and times of Galileo in his most recent book, The Starry Messenger. Told in a multitude of voices; including the astronomer himself, his daughter, and the inquisitors, among others; the poems that make up The Starry Messenger are concerned with science, religion, freedom of conscience, and love. Keithley mixes fragments from history—documents, letters, and Galileo’s treatises—with an imagined poetic reality to produce a portrait of the man that is deeply personal. Only recently pardoned by the Vatican for his crime of daring to challenge church doctrine with science, the Galileo that Keithley reveals in his poems is conflicted, but committed to a search for scientific fact. It’s a subject addressed directly in “Galileo Speaks with God on a Midsummer Night of Shimmering Stars”: “Truth—to an unquiet mind—is never quite enough.”
Keithley will be joined by poet Gary Thompson, also a former professor at Chico State, and author of, most recently, On John Muir’s Trail. The reading is Monday at 7:30 p.m. at the Sacramento Poetry Center in HQ, 25th and R Streets. Call (916) 441-7395 for more information.