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Neo-Gothic resistance with Danielle Pafunda


On Thursday, Nov. 8 the New Writing Series hosted a reading by Danielle Pafunda, a visiting assistant professor of poetry and poetics at the University of Maine for the 2018-19 academic year.

The New Writing Series creates a platform for writers, from on and off campus, to share their work. The event is held in the Allen & Sally Fernald APPE Space (Stewart Commons 104), on Thursday afternoons at 4:30 p.m. The readings and performances are always free and open to the public. Steven Evans, English Department chair and New Writing Series coordinator, opened the evening with a few words on why they host the event.

“The New Writing Series is a good opportunity to open ears to literary artwork,” Evans said.

Pafunda was introduced by Professor Greg Howard, who described her work as both a personal and playful act of resistance through writing. He spoke on how her work forces an audience to see that the art we love is often complicit, and doesn’t force change or re-evaluation of social constructs.

“[Pafunda’s] work is play, but joyous deadly play,” Howard said.

Pafunda’s neo-gothic feminist style allows her to spin personal thoughts, experiences, and emotions into provocative poetry. Her love of the gothic spurred from her childhood exposure to the horror genre. The eerie slowness of anticipation seen in old films now plays an essential role in her work as an adult, along with childhood memories and her grandmother’s stories.

“She told me my first horror stories and swore they were true,” Pafunda said.

Her forthcoming work, “The Book of Scab,” is a work of autofiction. In it, she has composed many letters which begin “Dear Mom and Dad,” and then proceed to tell truths that one may never be brave enough to say out loud.

“I would argue that it’s all true. Metaphor became the way I was able to tell the truth,” Pafunda said.

Pafunda also read from her sixth work, “The Dead Girls Speak in Unison,” a collection of poems and fragments which share thoughts of those from beyond the grave. In these poems, there are allusions to works of creative women, such as Emily Dickinson and Joni Mitchell.

Graphic imagery through poetics is Pafunda’s tool to open a discussion on important issues. While she considers herself to be an aesthetics-driven poet, this only allows her to dive deeper into political and societal resistance.

After her reading, Pafunda held a Q&A where audience members engaged her on
specific elements of her works, her relationship to the metaphysical and her current projects. In her new works, she said she uses her genre as the strategy and her sub-genre as the drive to discuss the current state of things.

“[These works are] an inquiry into what it means to care for each other at times when we are divided, and times that we might not have what we need to care for each other,” Pafunda said.

This spring, consider taking one of the three English courses Pafunda will be teaching as a visiting assistant professor. These include ENG 222 Reading Poems, ENG 307 Writing Fiction and ENG 308 Writing Poetry.

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