On November 13, local poet Charlotte Matthews read from her new book of poetry, The Half-Life of Regret, at the newly opened Annex of Crozet’s own bookstore, Bluebird & Co.
Her quiet poetry elevates the particular to the universal, and highlights “what escapes notice beneath the sharpness of grief” (book jacket). In the title poem, the thoughts of a man poised on the edge of the Golden Gate bridge reveal how much he misses his mother. In “Slow-Motion Grief,” she mourns her own mother, who “visits me in office waiting rooms” or in a photograph of a screech owl. As carpenter bees bore into her house, the poet contrasts their return with the news that her cancer—a theme that runs through many of the poems—has not returned. “Cancer is what brings us together, but does not define us,” she advises. In the beautiful poem “Pain Scale,” the poet evokes memories of her father reading Kipling to cope with the hospital nurses’ queries about her pain level. Many of her poems refer to local settings or events, such as the closing of K-Mart or a neighbor’s son excitedly witnessing an excavator digging up his yard from the porch, a moment the poet hopes will always be preserved in his memory.
Matthews interspersed the reading of her poems with audience questions and reactions. She described her writing process, including how to write about difficult subjects such as the death of a loved one. She ended the reading with a collaborative writing exercise that invited audience participation.
Bluebird & Co., in the blue building beside Crozet Pizza in downtown Crozet, opened in May. It carries books for all levels as well as women’s clothing, gifts, and sundries. This was only the third event held in their new Annex, located behind and under the Crozet Insurance building. “The Annex was a garage that was sitting empty after a local contractor vacated it. We do so much shipping (around 100 books a month), we were busting at the seams. We needed more room for wrapping and processing inventory,” explained Bluebird co-owner Flannery Buchanan. “So, we rented that garage and did a simple remodel to use as office and overstock space. But once we got in there, we realized that it was big enough for our author and other events, be it workshops or private events. Hence the Annex was born!”
To access it, use the entrance to the rear parking lot off Crozet Ave. If you park in front, take the steps beside Crozet Pizza to reach the lower level. Upcoming author events may be found at www.bluebirdcrozet.com.
Crozet resident Matthews is an associate professor in the Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies Program at the University of Virginia as well as a fellow at the Chatauqua Institute, the Sewanee Writers Conference, and the Virginia Center for Creative Arts. She is the author of three other poetry collections, the novel The Collapsible Mannequin (2020), and her memoir, Comes With Furniture and People (2020).