Relieved to hear that The Tower Journal is going to print my article about poet/artist Susannah Robbins, who died in December. She should be remembered.
The following is the introduction given by Patrick Keppel, Chair of Liberal Arts at NEC, from last week's reading with Timothy Ogene.
I’d like to welcome everyone to an evening celebrating the work of NEC’s poet-in-residence, Ruth Lepson. Ruth is a great colleague, a real joy to work with—an extremely warm, talented, and engaging teaching artist. Her Poetry Workshop and Contemporary Poetry electives are always extremely popular, as her emphasis on the pure music of language resonates with the kind of students NEC attracts. In their evaluations, students often comment on how her classes give them insight into their lives in general and as musicians in particular.
One student wrote that Ruth helped him see that “Poetry is music, art, composition, and everything alike.”
Another wrote, “There were so many engaging moments in this class…The idea and teachings of this class have expanded my outlook on art, life, and music.”
And still another: “This course taught me to look into the deeper meaning of things and in other situations to just enjoy the experience. Ruth Lepson is awesome!”
At our annual Poetry Reading, as well as at our Hear Here! publication event, Ruth’s students present their compelling original poetry and impressive musical settings. As you watch them interact with Ruth, it’s clear just how much they treasure her. They feel deeply connected to Ruth personally, as both a professional mentor and friend. Some even have collaborated with her artistically, in poetry and jazz, in recordings and in concerts in Boston and New York. In fact, we will see and hear some examples of these collaborations tonight.
Ruth’s passion for extending herself as a multidimensional artist has earned her the respect of many wonderful local, national, and international poets—many of whom she has invited to her electives as guest artists, including her mentor Robert Creeley, Llyod Schwartz, Fanny Howe, Gerrit Lansing, Laurie Duggan, Geoffrey O’Brien, Tina Darragh, P. Inman, and Kate Greenstreet—as well as major composers/musician collaborators such as Steve Lacy, Alan Fletcher, Bob Cogan, Joe Maneri, and Frank Carlberg, who created a song from one of Ruth’s poems, which we will also hear performed tonight.
Ruth has published several volumes of poetry including Dreaming in Color, Poetry from Sojourner, Morphology, I Went Looking for You, and of course, her most recent book of poems, ask anyone, which is receiving significant critical acclaim. There are copies of the book for purchase in the back, and if you haven’t yet got a copy, I strongly urge you to, as it’s quite remarkable.
As the poet and editor Joyce Peseroff wrote in a recent review, “The gift of Lepson’s poetry lies in the degree of attention she pays the world. Like the painter in the poem ‘the painter’s turning his head,’ Lepson believes that ‘in talk in art two things going on//two languages one of love and one of noticing//each a pleasure they happen together.’ Ask anyone offers its pleasures the way a musician builds a chord, each line a distinct note that resonates in fresh and harmonious ways.”
Our special guest tonight, the poet Timothy Ogene, recently wrote what I consider a particularly insightful review of the delicate complexities of the language and structure of Ruth’s poems.
“In Lepson’s work,” he writes, “thought reveals itself in the choice and structural placement of words and, in other instances, a reluctance to carry an emotion to an expected end. The goal, it seems, is to create a binary that balances overt emotions with critical deliberations.
“Most important, however, is the fierce grasp on the function and limits of language, where the poet does not merely play and experiment with language for its own sake but for an intended subliminal effect. That subliminal effect is accentuated by the not-quiteness of her poems, how they leave the reader sandwiched between a climax and a joyous longing for more, practically making us ‘want to think and dance at the same time’ as Betsy Sholl says of Lepson’s poems.”
So, in short, we have a great night of thinking and dancing ahead of us. Ruth will be reading from a variety of her volumes, including a poem based upon Fielding Dawson’s portrait of the artist Cy Twombly which she read at the ICA Black Mountain College show this winter and which she’ll be reading for an upcoming Cy Twombly show at the MFA. She’ll also be reading poems with accompaniment, which she will describe. And of course we’ll also hear poems from our special guest, Timothy Ogene, whom Ruth will introduce.
But first please welcome to the stage, our terrific poet-in-residence, Ruth Lepson.
Thank you everyone who came to Sunday afternoon's reading at the CPL. We were truly honored to be in the presence of Celia Gilbert, Ruth Lepson, and Ethel Rackin as they shared their engaging and thought-provoking work with us.
If you missed the reading, you can still come and visit the work of these three excellent poets by borrowing their books or visiting the display of their materials on the second floor of Cambridge Public Library.
Coming in March. It's the Magic Box issue. With fantastic work by the Egyptian ceramics artists Michel Pastore and Evelyne Porret (Porret Pastore) and new art work from Anne Hirondelle. Also essays by Rikki Ducornet (on Gnosticism), Timothy Ogene (on Ruth Lepson), Yannis Livadas (on experimental aethetics), and Steven Moore (on the American avant-pop novelist J. P. McEvoy). And a brilliant interview with the Costa Rican-born Puerto Rican novelist Carlos Fonseca by Jessica Sequeira. New fiction from Kelly Cherry, Ben Slotsky, and Sean Preston. Poetry from Fleda Brown, Maura Stanton, and Sue Elmslie. Plus poetry in translation from the fantastic Spanish writer Agustín Fernández Mallo. Reviews by Jason DeYoung, Carolyn Ogburn, Mark Sampson, and Linda Chown. And for our Irish series this month, a gorgeous childhood memoir by Amanda Bell.
I’ll be reading pages from Bill Berkson’s memoirs and from his emails to me, this Friday at the Grolier Poetry Book Shop, for the spoKe journal new issue reading, 7:00PM.
On Friday I will also be speaking about Robert Creeley to prospective students & their parents at The New England Conservatory of Music. The Day before I will be talking about George Oppen in one of my classes.
Good luck to me! A pleasure, really.
With Fred Marchant, Fanny Howe, John Mulrooney & journalist Rachel Layne as well as Kevin McLellan and his friend Aimee.
You can purchase any of the following at: grolierpoetrybookshop.org
by Cynthia Snow / $17.00
"The "Small Ceremonies" of Cindy Snow's marvelously unafraid poems are the liturgies of Eros and Thanatos, of sex and love and birth and aging and death. The book itself works a kind of sympathetic magic, telling stories of everyday encounters in ways that reveal their essential strangeness, and casting the powerful light of imperfect, sensual, living bodies upon the hidden life of the spirit.
Hanging Loose 107
by Donna Dennis / $11.00
Features an art portfolio by Donna Dennis and exciting new work from Rosalind Brackenbury, Liuyu Chen, Harley Elliott, Gerald Fleming, Joanna Fuhrman, Gardner McFall, Maureen Owen, Ron Padgett, Tim Robbins, Mark Terrill, and many more, including our regular section of wonderful high school writing.
by Ruth Lepson / $12.50
"ask anyone is the record, think disk, of Ruth Lepson's encounters with some of the musicians she has taught at Boston's New England Conservatory of Music. For twenty years, she has worked in a world where words meet music and the results lead, often as not, to performance. At the Conservatory she befriended her colleague, the great soprano saxophonist and lover of poetry, Steve Lacy, who long collaborated with her poet-hero Robert Creeley. Creeley is ask anyone's guiding spirit, but the book's looseness, stretching out and swing is all Lepson. In ask anyone Lepson honors her lineage by bringing it into the here and now. Lend an ear."
"I have this theory (burp) that every poet, including me, wants to write like the proverbial "ancient Chinese" one on a mountain top; to write clearly, whether passionate or wise or both (can one be both?), to simply tell. Well, you're a model of that. Only Joe Ceravolo of my generation came anywhere near.
- Bill Berkson
by Michael Palmer / 15.95
"Thread presents eighty-six new poems by "the foremost experimental poet of his generation, and perhaps of the last several generations" (The Poetry Society of America's 2006 Wallace Stevens Award citation).
"Michael Palmer's new collection is structured in two parts, "What I Did Not Say" and "Thread", subtitled "Stanzas in Counter light." It begins with a beautiful suite of poems featuring The Master of Shadows (first glimpsed in his 2006 collection The Company of Moths). The counter light of the title section shines in shafts of Palmer's ever-surprising ironic wit, which is given to sidelong parallel leaps. Several poems in Thread directly address our endless wars, yet even in sorrow and rage the poems still glow with wonder. In multi phonic passages, voices speak from a decentered place, yet are grounded in the central rootedness of the whole history of poetry and culture that has gone before. In his new poems, signature palimpsests create complex cycles of thought, "returning and returning" via echoes to what he has called "the layering process, the process of accretion and the process of emergence."
- New Directions website
It Takes One To Know One
by Michael Lally / 18.95
"Michael Lally, winner of a 1999 American Book Award for his sensational debut Black Sparrow volume, It's Not Nostalgia, evinces the same stunning honesty and self-analytical clarity in this powerful new collection of autobiographical poetry and prose. Retracing his wandering life-path from a rough Irish-Catholic boyhood in a working-class suburb of Newark, N.J., through turbulent years of radical political engagement in Washington, D.C., struggling-poet bohemianism in New York and elusive brushes with movie-star fame in Hollywood, Lally finally circles back to his home turf of South Orange, an older and wiser man."
"If in the chapter, "Lally's Alley," the author's large family "owned" the eponymous block on which they lived, so too does Lally own this work. The book's melange of vignettes, poems, tracts, and reminiscences is daring to say the least; still, sprawling like the Lally clan, these variegated ruminations manage quite nicely to cohere."
"Lally is a fierce writer and intellect. His Irish-American heritage is a recurring theme, but it provides a jumping-off point for exploring the American Way and the different American zeitgeists the author has witnessed, rather than acting as a limiting agent. Though his "Newark Poem" explains that the speaker has waited all his life in Jersey for the great cities of the world to come to him, It Takes One to Know One rises above New Jersey and indeed even America as Lally plumbs the soul of his people, his country and himself."
- David R. Godine, Publisher
My review of Joyce Peseroff’s "Know Thyself" was recently published by The Woven Tale Press.
Supplement v.1 launches this evening (6PM) at Kelly Writers House, with new work from: Rachel Blau DuPlessis, CA Conrad, Jason Mitchell, Rae Armantrout, Joseph Massey, Paolo Javier, Alex Tarampi, Anne Tardos, Davy Knittle, Mark Johnson, Zhimin Li, Yolanda Wisher, Laynie Browne, Juliana Spahr, Nicole Peyrafitte, Zohar Atkins, Mel Bentley (Speak Wright), William J Harris, Kyoo Lee (Q), Erica Kaufman, Christopher Soto (Loma), Jen Scappettone, Susan Bee, Rachel Levitsky, Julia Bloch, Tsitsi Ella Jaji, Charles Bernstein, Rachel Zolf, Michael Davidson, Patricia Spears Jones, Bob Perelman, Tracie Morris, Thomas Devaney, Katie Price, Stephen Ross, Francie Shaw, Ryan Eckes, Rob Fitterman, Chris McCreary, Anna Maria Hong, Pierre Joris, Amy Catanzano, Kevin Killian, Cindy Arrieu-King, Quraysh Ali Lansana, Jim Krull, Michael Leong, Ruth Lepson, Jake Marmer, Joe Milutis, Rivka Weinstock, Nick Montfort, Jena Osman, Jerome Rothenberg, Kristen Gallagher, Frank Sherlock, Gabriel Ojeda-Sague, Ron Silliman, Rodrigo Toscano, Kaitlin Moore, Travis Macdonald, Jason Zuzga, John Yau, Anna Yin, Rob Halpern. Eds. Orchid Tierney, Julia Warner, Ariel Resnikoff.
It's that time of year again -- time for the dreaded "Best Of" list. You can read my full screed on my blog. For those of you who just want to cut to the chase I've appended the list by itself below.
The Ratio of Reason to Magic | Norman Finkelstein | Dos Madres Press
Archeophonics | Peter Gizzi | Wesleyan UP
Of Beings Alone (complete) | Lissa Wolsak | Tinfish
Day for Night | Richard Deming | Shearsman
Falling Awake | Alice Oswald | Norton
Poesis | Rachel Blau DuPlessis | Textile Series
Lay Ghost | Nathaniel Mackey | Black Ocean
The Laughter of the Sphinx | Michael Palmer | New Directions
Poems Hidden in Plain Sight | Hank Lazer | PURH (France)
Exile’s Recital | Andrew Mossin | Spuyten Duyvil
The Sampo | Peter O’Leary | The Culture Society
Ask Anyone | Ruth Lepson | Pressed Wafer
Memory Cards: Thomas Traherne Series | Susan M. Schultz | Talisman House
I Rode with the Cossacks | Bill Corbett | Granary Books
Fugue Meadow | Keith Jones | Richochet
Self-Portrait as Joseph Cornell | Ken Taylor | Pressed Wafer
Dianoia | Michael Heller | Nightboat Books
Sowing the Wind | Ed Foster | Marsh Hawk Press
House of Lords and Commons | Ishion Hutchinson | FSG
Gap Gardening | Rosmarie Waldrop | New Directions
You Ask Me To Talk About the Interior | Carolina Ebeid | Noemi
Ravenna Diagram | Henry Gould | Lulu Press
Song of the Systole | Matthew Gagnon (ms.)
From: Paul Nelson
Date: Wed, 14 Dec 2016
To: Ruth Lepson
Subject: Snow and Dry Stones
What a well-written, lucid and important account of Charles Olson you give in Letters for Olson! I saw your name and the names of other friends in the table of contents and flipped around in the book. Some essays are incomprehensible, or at least they were for me. Maybe I could read again, but some do not seem worth the effort.
Yorio Hirano! Yes, and your essay. That you give testimony from Diane di Prima is wonderful. This has been an issue with me and a younger poet who says "of course Olson was misogynist." This is related to one issue that prompted many Trump voters. When you go to ELEVEN on the racist meter for Romney, how can anyone take you seriously when you try for TWELVE on that meter for Trump? Or, to a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
YES to the poetry of our time that will survive! Yes to multiculturalism! Death to Yepez! (OK, not death, but maybe a bad limp or something.)
Anyway, thank you and Seasons Blessings.