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Festival of Ideas

Priestdaddy Patricia Lockwood

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Acclaimed poet Patricia Lockwood speaks about her childhood and her family.

Lockwood had an unusual childhood in many respects. There was the location: an impoverished, nuclear waste-riddled area of the American Midwest. There was her mother, a woman who speaks almost entirely in strange koans and warnings of impending danger. Above all, there was her gun-toting, guitar-riffing, frequently semi-naked father, who underwent a religious conversion on a submarine and discovered a loophole which saw him approved for the Catholic priesthood by the man who would later become Pope Benedict – despite already having a wife and children.

Lockwood talks about emblematic moments from her childhood and adolescence – from an ill-fated family hunting trip and an abortion clinic sit-in where her father was arrested to her involvement in a cult-like Catholic youth group – and scenes that chronicle the eight-month adventure she and her husband had in her parents’ household after a decade of living on their own. She details her education of a seminarian who is also living at the rectory, tries to explain Catholicism to her husband, who is mystified by its bloodthirstiness and arcane laws, and encounters a mysterious substance on a hotel bed with her mother.

She paints an unforgettable portrait of a deeply odd religious upbringing, discussing issues of belief, belonging and personhood and exploring how one balances a hard-won identity with the weight of family and tradition.

Patricia Lockwood

Patricia Lockwood’s poems have appeared widely, including in The New Yorker, the London Review of Books, Tin House and Poetry. In 2013, her poem ‘Rape Joke’ was published on The Awl and went viral. She is the author of two poetry collections, Balloon Pop Outlaw Black and Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals, a New York Times Notable Book. Follow her on Twitter @TriciaLockwood

Image credit: Grep Hoax

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