Poet creates web of family issues

Plates of cookies and low chatter welcomed audience members as they made their way between the shelves to where their seats waited for them. They were there to hear Portland writer Brittney Corrigan read a selection of poems from her recently published book, “Navigation,” on April 18 in the Austin Reading Room.

“Navigation,” which is Corrigan’s first full-length poetry collection, had been published only two days earlier.

“Being published is exciting,” Corrigan said. “I can’t say it’s changed me because it’s only been a couple of days, but it’s exciting to go around doing readings like this one and read my poems out loud, which is where I wanted them.”

The themes that Corrigan explores in her poems include autism, family, loss and parenting. Corrigan said her book covers about 20 years of her life, and it incorporates a lot of her family history.

The poems she read spoke about family members from her grandfather and her husband’s adopted brothers to her baby nephew and her own son, who is on the autism spectrum.

“99 percent of people who find my website find it by searching “poems about autism,’” Corrigan said.

Corrigan is the poetry editor of the online magazine “Hyperlexia,” a journal that publishes fiction and nonfiction, as well as poetry about autism.

“We don’t get a ton of submissions, but they’re mostly poetry,” Corrigan said. “We’ve thought about expanding the magazine to disabilities in general, but all three of the editors have kids who are autistic, so we wanted to keep it just autism for now.”

Besides “Hyperlexia,” Corrigan said that she has had single poems published in several magazines.

“It’s hard to publish a whole book of poetry,” Corrigan said. “Single poems are easier to publish, so you start to develop a platform and you can work toward a small book. I had mine entered in a lot of first-book contests and I would advertise the contests on all my social networking sites. My editor actually found me on Facebook,” she said.

She is also working on “40 Weeks,” a chapbook scheduled to be published in July. Corrigan said a chapbook is a smaller book of poetry, usually about 32 pages, that has a single theme.

“It’s basically a week-by-week pregnancy poem,” she said. “I originally wanted it to be a pregnancy journal that had my poems in it, but also blank pages, with prompts for expecting mothers so they could write about their experiences. I wanted something different than other pregnancy journals, the kind that are all pink and sparkly and have little hearts and cartoony drawings, but that didn’t work out.”

Corrigan’s other projects include two poetry series, one about parenting guilt and one about raising a child on the autism spectrum, as well as several children’s books.

Sharon Gollery/
Culture editor
Sharon  Gollery can be reached at  linfieldreviewculture@gmail.com.

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