Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Gerald Stern and Anne Marie Macari

 You don't want to miss these two special events. On Thursday, November 15th, there is a Poetry Reading and Reception with the two poets, Gerald Stern and Anne Marie Macari. It will be held at the Norman Depot - Performing Arts Studio. And then on Friday, November 16th, there is A Conversation with the Authors from 3-5 p.m. at the Lab Theatre in the Old Science Hall 200.

Gerald Stern, the author of 17 poetry collections, has won the National Book Award, Jewish Book Award, and the Wallace Stevens Award, among others. in 2006 he was a nominee for the Neustadt Internatinal Prize for Literature, and Kate Daniels has called him "the U.S.'s one and only truly global poet." His most recent books include "In Beauty Bright (Norton 2012) and "Stealing History (Trinity 2012).

About his work, the poet Toi Derricotte has said, "Gerald Stern has made an immense contribution to American
poetry. His poems are not only great poems, memorable ones, but ones that get into your heart and stay there. Their lyrical ecstasies take you up for that moment so that your vision is changed, you are changed. The voice is intimate, someone unafraid to be imperfect. Gerald Stern’s poems sing in praise of the natural world, and in outrage of whatever is antihuman."

 Counting (audio)
Anne Marie Macari is an American poet. Her most recent book is She Heads Into the Wilderness (Autumn House Press, 2008). Her first book won The APR/Honickman First Book Prize in Poetry. Her poems have been published in many literary journals and magazines, such as TriQuarterly, Bloomsbury Review, Shenandoah, The American Poetry Review, Five Points, The Cortland Review and The Iowa Review, and in anthologies including From the Fishouse (Persea Books, 2009) and Never Before: Poems About First Experiences (Four Way Books).

A graduate of Oberlin College, she holds an MFA in creative writing from Sarah Lawrence. Macari has taught on the faculty of the Prague Summer Seminars.

She was born in Queens, New York and lives in Lambertville, New Jersey. She is the director of the Drew University Low-Residency MFA Program in Poetry and Poetry in Translation. She is also a member of the Alice James Books Cooperative Board.


Monday, November 12, 2012

Tom Raworth Poetry Reading

I leave most poetry readings sparked by inspiration that gets me through the week... similar to the feeling one might get after attending church on Sunday. Tom Raworth's poetry reading not only gave me inspiration, but a sense of fulfillment. After being somewhat dismayed by the criticism you sometimes hear of the poetry world, all the talk about competitiveness, the pressure to win prizes for something unique that's never been done before, the fact that yes, the only people who read poetry are in fact poets, and even though there are seemingly more poets today, the poetry movement has been left in the shadows of post-modernism...

It was refreshing to hear a very successful poet with such an organic perspective on poetry, or at least be so open about it. Especially for me, personally. Tom Raworth seemed to make poetry exciting and unexpected again. His poetry comes organically from the moment, not just with the intent of "making it new", but from a natural place. In Dr. Stalling's introduction of Tom Raworth, he referenced this excerpt of an interview with Raworth:

Josh Jones, in his interview, said:
"I think the main difficulty is the sheer number of other poets, both young and old, all of us trying to sell our couple of hundred copies to a largely absent audience. It's so hard to stand out."
Do you feel this is the case? (I suppose leading on from that question would be: do you feel that's particularly the case now, as opposed to 10/20/30 years ago?)

Raworth: "To me this is pretty irrelevant. As no-one but a relentless academic could read all the material that's now available, what does it matter? And why should you want to "stand out"? What's so important about one's writing? I don't know if there were fewer writers (I suppose statistically there must have been) around 45 years ago. They perhaps weren't so instantly visible. I've never found (except in the depressing "literary scene" sense) poetry to be a competition. Don't you, if you find someone's work interesting, recommend it to your friends? Organic (or perhaps now viral) growth. There's no tape you break after which you can relax. When we were doing Goliard Press we sold (not immediately) between 400 and 700 copies of each book. At that time the "real" publishers printed at most 250 copies. But we were the "small press". I always remember something Val said around that time: "It seems to me fame is just a load of arseholes thinking you're all right."

At the risk of sounding trite, what advice would you give younger poets?

Write for yourself as reader. Read your own writing as I is another.

For me - as a writer and a reader - this advice is all I needed to hear. How simple. Things just come out of life. These "things" that poets gather from their life experiences are folded into and expressed by the words and phrases they write, mapping out time and space with their poetry. That's what a poem is after all. For me - it meant this: It's not about writing the best poem that ever existed, or a combination of conceptual poems to write a book of poetry. What is important is that we are honest, open, that we are writing, and then reading. We should write, make art, be creative for ourselves. Making it new, as Ezra Pound said, is only part of the focus. The other part is letting the poem be, letting it exist on the page in the form we see in our minds. We are only paralyzing our own minds if we subtract from our artistic disposition to express ourselves creatively.

Tom Raworth read mostly from his book of collected poems, and then from a book he wrote in 1972 that he had lost, and found again three years ago. Even though he read many poems, the reading did not seem long enough, and we all left with a need in our hearts for more. Some poems were funny, some were a couple lines, and others had lines that hit me so hard with their beauty. A poem that I particularly loved was:

"Out of A Sudden"

the alphabet wonders
what it should do
paper feels useless
colours lose hue

while all musical notes
perform only in blue

a lombardy poplar
shadows the ground
drifting with swansdown
muffling the sound

at the tip of the lake
of the road to the south

above in the night sky
scattered by chance
stars cease their motion
poppies don't dance
in the grass standing still
by the path no-one walks.
 - Tom Raworth

by Morgen Williams