I’m riding on Noah’s coattails, honored to have written the poems/liner notes for his new album After Life!
Beautiful is the book that can contain and yet mix and spill myriad and sometimes paradoxical sources and images: Margaret Yourcenar’s “between indefatigable/ hope and the wise/ absence of hope,” Foucault’s “…what we have to rediscover through/ the whiteness and/ inertia of death isn’t/ the lost shudder of life,/ it’s the meticulous/ deployment of truth,” Nietzsche’s “That for which we find/ words is something already/ dead in our hearts,” The Zohar’s “For there is a rose,/ and then there is a rose!”, Gertrude Stein’s “I like anything/ that a word can do,” Baudelaire’s “The poet is like…/ A rider of storms.” And a Zen koan, “Life is like getting/ in a boat that is about/ to sail out to sea/ and sink.”
The quotations run down the left-hand sides of the pages, the story of the voyage on the right, riffing on the Tarot card Death, intimating continuity between life and death, throwing overboard what is no longer of use. The ship sets sail in astral waters off the lost land of Mu (no thing, the gate to enlightenment). When the ship is marooned, captain and crew see they have resisted “joy, love and laughter,” so “[t]he hope is that by mapping/the Heavens, we will discover/the Guiding Sprit to enlighten us.”
Spears knows this is a caper, so he names his characters, for instance, Cowabunga and Tarzan, and juxtaposes ancient and mythical with the contemporary hashtag and psychosphere and the absurdities of the political.
This adventure without end, this section of his dazzling long poem, is enthralling. Here is a seafarer who not only assimilates what is valuable, but groks what to do with it: play.
I am happy to announce that I’ll be on a panel on the life and work of poet Gerrit Lansing on March 16. It will be held at the Poets House, NYC. More details to come soon. If you have any questions, you can always contact me by clicking here and sending a note.
Update: *Other panelists are Chuck Stein, Kate Tarlow Morgan, and Robert Podgurski, who will introduce the panel.
I am pleased to announce that I recently worked with Linda Chase, and attended one of her classes last week to collaborate with her current NEC ensemble. Linda’s students, graduate and undergrad, collaborate with artists of other kinds. I read some poems & they improved to them and we did a few poetry exercises as well.
For more about Linda: necmusic.edu/faculty/linda-chase
I am looking forward to being part of the Pioneer Valley Poetry Festival at Amherst College the weekend of October 12. Other readers are Elinor Nauen, Patrick Donnelly, Fanny Howe, Brian Henry, Uche Nduka, Eleni Sikelianos, Monica de la Torre, Sawako Nakayasu, and Michael Leong.
Get in touch for more information.
We’re pleased to announce that it’s Boston Poetry Marathon time again!
This year's event takes place at Outpost 186 in Cambridge, MA on Friday, August 10, 7-10:30pm, Saturday, August 11 12:00-10:30pm and Sunday, August 12 12-6pm.
100+ poets read for 8 minutes a-piece, all weekend long. A wonderful time of year!
For more information: www.facebook.com/bostonpoetrymarathon/
I am so happy to announce that some of my poems are being translated into the Moroccan Berber language. El Habib Louai is the translator—he’s a poet & musician who also lives in Morocco.
A quick reminder that I’m reading with the great Fanny Howe at Outpost in Inman Sq., Cambridge, at 4:00pm on Sat., Feb 3. I hope to see some of you. http://www.outpost186.com/
I'm also happy to have poetry in the upcoming WoodCoin online magazine. http://www.woodcoin.net
Lastly, I’ve be invited to read at Amherst College in mid-October in a new, exciting poetry series organized by some of the innovative poets of the Pioneer Valley, who are putting that part of Mass. on the poetry map.
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.
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.
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.
I will be reading this Sunday, December 11th at 3:00pm for the new XiT the Bear series in The Press Room, 90 Oxford St., Somerville. This is a retrospective reading, from all of my books, as I will soon finish a new and selected poems.
*Future readings include one with Celia Gilbert March 19th at the Cambridge Public Library and at the New England Conservatory with Nigerian poet Timothy Ogene on March 30th.
I have the honor of introducing Nigerian poet Timothy Ogene at The Grolier Poetry Book Shop this evening at 7:00pm. Click the title below to read the blurb I wrote for his new book, Descent and Other poems, published by Deerbrook editions.
+Timothy Ogene at The Grolier Poetry Book Shop
I'll tell you a secret--Timothy's given name is Friday, because he was born on a Friday, and the running joke is that his mother had run out of names, since he came after 5 other kids. When his parents converted to Christianity, he was rechristened Timothy, but retained Friday as his middle name. Ask for his ID as proof!
Here's a tidbit from his already remarkable life--Timothy went to a leadership camp in Florida run by Jane Goodall.
He's married to a photographer from Denver, Clare, whom he met when they worked with kids in Liberia and tomorrow they're off to begin a new adventure--after driving to Colorado they're moving to England, though not to Oxford, where he got a master's in world literature.
He's currently reading Henry James for fun, while packing.
Now listen to these sounds:
'Dreams are embers in a December night.'
Timothy quietly pays attention. He has little interest in talking about himself and in his poems he rarely names the places he describes --he's no tourist. He's a loving observer. Wherever in the world he is he notices the everyday, the changes of weather, the ordinary, the harsh, the destructive, the lovely. He uses imagery but sometimes figurative language and you feel those comparisons are never arbitrary. He appears in the poems as a self, not a particular individual self but a self who expresses the universal. He loves to write, he is devoted to the language, he loves to read, he loves to concentrate then he loves to surface and contact the few people he is regularly in touch with because he cares nothing for the trappings of the literary world--he wants work and love.
He manages to learn a great deal about others without being invasive. You will notice this is true of his sense of place as well, as he reads his poems, which are modest, strong, precise, and cohesive where he can find cohesion in this fragmented world.
Here's a handful of his images:
The beeping of a bus, the folding of its doors. A pail dipped into a hole to collect water. Fermenting cassava. Tea slurped in haste that burns the mouth. Roofless shacks. Green leaves to wipe the orifices of a dying boy. A man dying in jail. Plastic bags, bug bites, 'the fragile dance of newly hatched chicks,' You wouldn't know Timothy had seen so much oppression and suffering since the way he is and the way he writes are lyrical, lovely and at times simple, no presenting himself, just a keen observer doing what a real writer does--giving us other people's eyes through the melodies of language.
The Day Ends Like Any Day is the title of his forthcoming novel--a plain title for someone who has lived in wildly different places--plain because he's captivated by the particulars of a common life. No place or person or past is romanticized yet is given its actual due.
Occasionally he refers to language, writing, the writer himself in the poems, to convey point of view and perspective. He doesn't hesitate to remind us of the world's violence, but he isn't polemical; he feels everything. Listen for yourself.
For more information: www.grolierpoetrybookshop.org
Scott Ruescher and Ruth Lepson
Scott administrates the Arts in Education program at the Harvard GSE and teaches English in the B.U. Prison Education Program. His recent publications include Sidewalk Tectonics and Perfect Memory. More importantly, he has been bantering poetics and world affairs with Ms. Ruth Lepson ever since he helped her arrange annual benefit poetry readings for Oxfam America by noted poets in the 1980s. This is the first time he’s had the pleasure of squaring off with her–gracefully complementing her–in a poetry reading.
Ruth is poet-in-residence at the New England Conservatory of Music and the author of ask anyone, I Went Looking for You, Morphology, and Dreaming in Color. Her poetry has appeared in journals that Scott would never deem to send his poems to, those being innovative publications, while he prefers the good old publications that promote more humane values.
Boston Poetry Marathon 2016 at the Lilypad (Friday Night)
1353 Cambridge St, Inman Square, Cambridge and Outpost 186 (Saturday and Sunday)
186 1/2 Hampshire St, Inman Square, Cambridge
A summer poetry marathon featuring a billion local and
visiting poets reading for 8 minutes each.
And join us for our Friday night After Party/show at the Lilypad:
+ Click for Schedule
FRIDAY 7/15 Lily Pad
7:00 Jim Dunn
7:08 Natalie Shapero
7:16 Anna Ross
7:24 Kevin Carey
7:32 Oni Buchanan
7:40 Simone John
7:48 August Smith
8:00 January O’Neil
8:08 Greg Lawless
8:16 Colleen Michaels
8:24 J.D. Scrimgeour
8:32 Mitch Manning
8:40 David Blair
9:00-1:00 Music and Poetry Afterparty $10
SATURDAY 7/16 Outpost 186
1:00 Aaron Kiely
1:08 Alyssa Mazzarella
1:16 Kurt Klopmeier
1:24 Dan Pritchard
1:32 James Stotts
1:46 Katie Raddatz
2:02 Karen Locascio
2:10 Corey Howard
2:18 Steve Subrizi
2:26 Kevin McLellan
2:34 Heather Hughes
2:42 Simeon Berry
3:00 Mitch Highfill
3:08 Christina Strong
3:16 Sam Cha
3:24 Tom Daley
3:32 Dick Lourie
3:40 Jessica Bozek
4:00 Maria Damon
4:08 Ros Zimmermann
4:16 Josh Savory
4:24 Dan Wuenschel
4:36 Chad Paranteau
4:44 Toni Bee
5:00 Andy Peterson
5:08 Charlotte Seley
5:16 Bridget Eileen
5:24 Ruth Lepson
5:32 Boyd Nielson
5:40 Joel Sloman
DINNER BREAK / "how'm'I doin' for time?"
7:00 Trace Peterson
7:08 Audrey Mardavich
7:16 Erica Lawton
7:24 Alan Davies
7:32 Michael Gottlieb
7:40 Mairead Byrne
8:00 Meg Tyler
8:08 Sumita Chakraborty
8:16 Kevin Gallagher
8:24 Jason Henry Simon-Bierenbaum
8:32 Aaron Griffin
8:40 Annie Won
9:00 Gilmore Tamny
9:08 Jack Kimball
9:16 Lawrence Giffin
9:24 Kythe Heller
9:30 Molly McGuire
9:46 Mark Lamoureaux
9:54 Sue Landers
10:02 Douglas Rothschild
10:10 John Mulrooney
10:18 Sean Cole
10:26 Agatha Christie
SUNDAY 7/17 Outpost 186
1:00 Martha McCollough
1:08 Suzanne Mercury
1:16 Fred Marchant
1:24 Cheryl Clark Vermeulen
1:32 Mark Pawlak
1:40 Ryan Gallagher
1:58 James Cook
2:06 Amanda Cook
2:14 Carol Weston
2:22 Gerrit Lansing
2:30 Fanny Howe
2:38 Patrick Doud
2:54 Masada Jones
3:02 Julia Story
3:10 Thera Webb
3:18 Lori Lubeski
3:26 Chris Sawyer-Laucanno
3:34 Patricia Pruitt
3:45 Chris Rizzo
3:53 Anna Kreienberg
4:01 Conrad Lochner
4:09 Anthony Cuellar
4:17 Jon Woodward
4:25 J.K. Rowling