Poet featured in reading series aims to destigmatize stuttering

The third installment of the Detroit Mercy English department’s Tyiptych reader series earlier this month featured poet Adam Giannelli’s works that aim to destigmatize the speech impediment of stuttering.

Giannelli shared poems from his book “Tremulous Hinge,” the winner of the 2016 Iowa poetry prize.

In his work, Giannelli captures his experiences as a person who stutters. His personal reflection of how stuttering influences individuals to consciously decide word choice, naturally parallels the rhythm of speech created in poetry.

Opening with a poem titled “Stutter,” Giannelli guided listeners to understand the significance words have from his perspective. As the reading continued, Giannelli shared poems such as “Passage,” an ethereal poem dedicated to his grandmother which will be featured in the Cuyahoga County poetry showcase for national poetry month in April.

In another work, “Alphabet Acrobatics,” Giannelli uses metaphor to explore expression in the body, and the process of pronunciation. Giannelli’s work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Washington Post Magazine, Yale Review, and other publications. Besides writing poetry, he also translates poetry and writes non-fiction.

The virtual reading ended with Giannelli answering questions from professors and students. He revealed that he is working on an upcoming project that further delves into the relationship stuttering and poetry have with one another.

“I hope these new texts change the way people think about stuttering,” Giannelli said.

The Triptych series showcased writers curated by UDM poet-in-residence and English Professor Stacy Gnall. When the idea of the Triptych series was first conceptualized,
Gnall wanted to organize talented authors that have a unique voice and message.

“When selecting authors for Triptych, I focused on folks who I know are just tremendous poets,” she said. “I also focused on voices that Detroit Mercy students might not be familiar with, but that are important to hear. Marcelo Hernandez Castillo writes about, and advocates for, undocumented immigrants; in her most recent book, ‘West: A Translation,’ Paisley Rekdal considers the lives of Chinese workers who constructed the transcontinental railroad; and Adam Giannelli reflects upon the experiences and perceptions of individuals who stutter.”

Over the last two years, the university has welcomed writers to Detroit virtually from Texas, New Hampshire, California, Utah and Ohio. University of Detroit Mercy English Associate Professor and department chair, Mary-Catherine Harrison, hopes to continue the Triptych series as an annual event as way to welcome powerful voices in contemporary literature.

“Virtual events like the Triptych allow us to welcome writers from anywhere in the world,” Harrison said. “I think arts and culture events like Triptych are one of the best uses of virtual platforms because they use technology to foster creativity and build community. We are hoping to make it an annual event.”

While the series this year was originally marketed as a three-part event, the English Department is planning a fourth installment next month. Called Triptych +1, the event will feature readings done by students. Unlike the past three installments, it is scheduled in-person at Pages bookstore in Detroit on April 20, at 6:30 p.m.