Monday, October 31, 2011

Afaa Weaver Poetry Links

Afaa M. Weaver (Michael S. Weaver) is a distinguished poet and playwright, and the author of nine collections of poetry, including Multitudes (Sarabande Books, 2000), The Ten Lights of God (Bucknell University Press, 2000), and most recently, The Plum Flower Dance: Poems, 1985 to 2005 (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2007). This latest collection surveys twenty years of Weaver's published work, beginning with his first book of poems, Water Song (University Press of Virginia, 1985). He received his MFA. (1987) from Brown University. A student of Chinese language and culture, Weaver is the Alumnae Professor of English at Simmons College in Boston, where he is also Director of the Zora Neale Hurston Literary Center.

When: November 9 @ 6 pm
Where: Western History Collection, OU Campus (Monnet Hall, 630 Parrington Oval, Rm 452)
What: Honoree Jeffers will be conducting an interview with Afaa Weaver - "Poetry in Conversation" - followed by Wine and Cheese Reception and a Poetry Reading by Afaa Weaver at 7 pm

Works by Afaa Weaver



Press Release about The Plum Flower Dance



Personal blog of Afaa Weaver

I never inspect the withered assumption
of my face's petty dialogue in raindrops,
the deceptive spreading of the words
oozing from the skin to the edges of water
etched on the ground by gravity and wishing. - from "Self-Portrait" by Afaa Weaver

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Hank Lazer Poetry Reading

Where do I begin? Hank Lazer gave a wonderful, enlightening and inspiring poetry reading on October 13. He read selected poems from all, or most of his books. First he read from his book Doublespace, which is a book that opens and begins at both the front and back covers of the book, and meets in the middle. He described it as a collage of poems. He also read from The New Spirit, which is a book he dedicated to Glenn Mott, our final poet in the series. He and Mott corresponded through letters regarding their poems and mentored one another before his book came out. Lazer referred to The New Spirit as a challenge, even to poets. It was not accepted right away because of how different it was than Doublespace and his other work, even though it was well-respected. Mott asked him, “Well, what did you expect?” But it was what Lazer wanted to write, what he was inclined and inspired to write. 

“Why would you do it [write poetry] any other way than you want to? It’s poetry,” Lazer said. 

Backing up a little bit, Lazer told us he was a Mathematics/Physics major in college. It wasn’t until later that he became interested in English and poetry. In fact, he didn’t publish his first book of poetry until the age of 42. This is very inspiring to me, and probably many others who are aspiring poets. Of course, it is not about the money, it is about the art, the beauty of sound, the spiritual expression, as Lazer said. In our class discussion, Lazer talked about hybrid anthologies that introduce poetry and poetics to students in such a way that leaves them open to everything. But poetry cannot be framed. Classes serve as an introduction to technique and sampling work to see what we will latch onto, to plant the seed in our souls, but it is up the students to make “life-invested gestures” and go deeper… not to just play “dress-up”. He said it takes time to build a relationship with words, ideas and poetry, to delve beneath the surface and discover a true love with a poet, musician or art. It is an ethical and life-based commitment, he said.

He told us his first poetry reading he ever went to was given by Denise Levertov and Robert Creeley, that his English teacher made his whole class attend. I almost died when he said this, as I am obsessed with both of their poetics. He also spoke of a conference he attended with Charles Bernstein, Levertov, Marjorie Perloff and many other amazing poets/pioneers of contemporary poetry and poetics, where they discussed "What is a poet?".

Lazer reads much philosophy and poetry seeking wisdom. He spoke on language and gave us a quote, “It is not man who speaks, but language that speaks,” and said that we are carriers of language in a chemical sense – language expresses itself through us. His newest book Portions is more experimental in this regard. Silence has its own language, as he referenced John Cage’s 4’33”

Buddhism is something that inspired his later poems, but in a Karmic sense, it was always there, always present in his earlier poetry. He also loves jazz and hip hop and has faith in music and sound and chant. “Method is belief,” he said, and he has faith in musicality and that it will take him somewhere interesting and others will follow and stay engaged. He raised an interesting, philosophical and very spiritual question. “What does music listen to?” He also made the point that every syllable counts and does not agree with scansion or stressed/unstressed syllables.

Lastly, Lazer got the audience involved in his poetry reading, with his notebook of visual poems and method of writing that he refers to as “shape-writing”. These are hand-written poems, no drafts or re-writes, all written in the form of shapes. This is a very spontaneous way of writing and exploring. There is no specific starting point or way of reading. As an audience, we split up into groups and read phrases in the shape poems, some repetitive, some read only once. It was very experimental and lovely to see everyone involved in the reading. Everyone was turning their hand-outs this way and that as they read aloud. He even signed my book in the shape of circle, so I had to turn the book to see what he had written. :)

We had a great turn out for the reading and we are so honored that Lazer came to the University of Oklahoma to share is thoughts, ideas, and most of all, his poetry with us. 

Stay tuned, a video of Hank Lazer's reading will be posted soon on the MAE Poetry Series website.

-Morgen Moxley, MAEPoetrySeries Staff

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Hank Lazer Poetry Links

Hank Lazer has published sixteen books of poetry, most recently Portions (Lavender Ink, 2009), The New Spirit (Singing Horse, 2005), and Elegies & Vacations (Salt, 2004). He is Associate Provost for Academic Affairs at the University of Alabama, where he directs Creative Campus and edits the Modern and Contemporary Poetics Series for the University of Alabama Press.  In late 2011, N18 (complete), the eighteenth notebook in Lazer’s The Notebooks (of Being & Time), will be published by Singing Horse Press.

Works by Hank Lazer

About the Author

Sound Files on Penn Sound - MP3 Format



HUMID by Hank Lazer, from Portions

humid blanket thick
air wrap this
body awkward walking

as in dream
as with tongue
thickly coated &

speech a dream
babble wanting to
but not able

to say proper
words of blessing
superfluous i suppose

to bless what
is much more
than too specific

us begin baruch
& soon hit
scripted mystic unpronounceables