Jason Sommer is a Fontbonne University professor whose body of work has focused on his identity as the child of a Holocaust survivor. Sommer will be doing a reading today in Greenlaw Hall as a part of the English department’s Armfield poetry series, which honors UNC alumna and poet Blanche Britt Armfield.
Sommer spoke to staff writer Sarah Ang about his latest compilation, “The Laughter of Adam and Eve,”and the ups and downs of writing poetry.
Daily Tar Heel: What is “The Laughter of Adam and Eve” about?
Jason Sommer: It isn’t a book necessarily about one thing — it’s really a collection rather than a project. Among the other things that are in it, gender is an issue in the book — men speaking of women, women speaking of men. Speaking of things from their own perspective — but of course, it’s me, so I’m ventriloquizing like a maniac.
There’s art in it, formulating things, particularly through narrative. They’re often stories and some of the stories are about stories themselves, how we formulate themselves against and with story or myth, or stories of war.
There’s an interest in language itself — etymology, even. There’s a poem about the origin of the word ‘brouhaha.’
DTH: Where do you get your inspiration?
JS: Story, mostly. I’m sort of a narrative junkie. I hear in story some essential thing. It could be a story someone’s told me, or something that forms out of a narrative that’s happening to me. Sometimes there’s an image or a thing that you look at that just wants to open up into something more. You don’t fully understand it and you want to get it out somehow. I feel something, and then I want to know what the hell that was.
DTH: What’s the biggest challenge with writing poetry?