My review of Maryann Corbett’s In Code appears in The University Bookman, October 25, 2020.
8:30-10:00 AMBreakfast with the Poets: Wake up on this festive day with coffee, pastry and poetry. The locally-based, nationally-recognized Powow River Poets never leave their readers in the dark! Anton Yakovlev, Jose Edmundo Ocampo Reyes, Toni Treadway, David Davis andA. M. Justerwill read from books they’ve published since last year’s breakfast. (There must be something in those pastries Gina bakes.)
10:00 AM The Poetry of Maryann Corbett & Nausheen Eusuf: Two remarkable poets whose work appears in Best American Poetry 2018, Maryann Corbett and Nausheen Eusuf know that, whatever poetry is about, it is always about language. It is a kind of liberation to recognize that. Both poets, Eusuf with her virtuoso wordplay and Corbett with her knowledge of ancient tongues, employ a whole range of language—different tones and voices, high and low modes of speech, allusions, quotations, and puns—to touch on things that matter either for the moment or for eternity.
11:00 The Poetry of January O’Neill & Ned Balbo: “The world is too much with us,” but ultra-contemporary poets January O’Neil and Ned Balbo have not turned their backs on it. Their poems make room for tattooed girls and young men in grey hoodies, reruns of Star Trek, LSD and Wikileaks, hospital corridors and crabcake recipes and Smart TVs. Here you’ll find elegies for Prince and David Bowie and odes to brownies for Sunday breakfast. And family: imagined and real, close-knit and departing. Somehow, in the middle of so much stuff, a space is cleared for these poems to become “vessels of almost uncontainable longing” where— always—“there is that question of how to love.”
1:00 The poetry of Daniel Hall & Mary Jo Salter: It’s no wonder that these two distinguished poets are also distinguished teachers of poetry, Daniel Hall at Amherst College and Mary Jo Salter at Johns Hopkins. Each of them is a consummate craftsperson, and both seem to embody the ancient idea of sprezzatura, choosing “to avoid affectation in every way,” perfecting their art by making it appear to occur naturally and without effort. This is poetry that rewards our attention without clamoring for it. As in a clear night’s sky, we’re offered much to marvel at.
2:00 The Poetry of Major Jackson & Sydney Lea: Besides the state in which they reside, what these two Vermont poets have most in common is, paradoxically, what sets them apart. They don’t sound anything like each other —nor does either of them sound much like anyone else. “The poetry Major Jackson offers us…sounds different from any other being written today,” writes one reviewer. “The truth is, no one writes—or has written—like Sydney Lea, except maybe E. A. Robinson,” writes another. Here are two unique and original voices in contemporary American poetry.
3:00 PM The Poetry of Rhina P. Espaillat & David Ferry: Biographies of famous poets sometimes leave us with the impression that poetic talent and decent behavior may be inversely proportional. That’s not the case with Rhina Espaillat and David Ferry, two of America’s finest poets, whose poetic visions are extensions of their personalities. Ferry, who volunteered for years at a dinner for street people, gives voice to the homeless and isolated in his poems. The poems of Espaillat, whose kitchen table has been the site of so many creative collaborations, envision humanity as “one single family.”