Oct '02 [Home]

Series on Series

Women Poets at Barnard
Fall 2002 Series

by Saskia Hamilton
. .

The Women Poets at Barnard Series has hosted free, public readings at Barnard by established and emerging women poets for more than fifteen years. By presenting the work of writers with varied voices and styles, we hope to broaden and challenge our audience's visions of poetry's range and effects. In addition to readings, Women Poets at Barnard publishes a book by a woman poet—working for many years in collaboration with Beacon Press, now working with W. W. Norton & Co.

This fall's Women Poets at Barnard series will begin with a reading by the award-winning poet Louise Glück, October 7, at 7 p.m. in the James Room of Barnard Hall (117th Street and Broadway).

Glück has written that she is "attracted to ellipsis, to the unsaid, to suggestion, to eloquent, deliberate silence" in the work of such writers as George Oppen, John Berryman, T. S. Eliot, and Rainer Maria Rilke. "The unsaid, for me, exerts great power: I often wish an entire poem could be made of this vocabulary." In her own spare, taught, exact language, Glück extends the possible uses of silence and disruption in lyric poetry. Her distinguished career spans thirty-five years, during which she has published nine books of poetry and a collection of essays, and won numerous prizes, including the Pulitzer Prize, the Poetry Society of America's William Carlos Williams Award, and the Bollingen Prize. In the words of the Bollingen's judges, "In the work of no other contemporary American poet, is the individual psyche so unsparingly portrayed, in both the anguish and the humor with which it confronts its profound solitude and the twin darknesses which precede birth and follow life." Her most recent book is The Seven Ages (Ecco, 2001). (Glück's reading is sponsored by Barnard College.)

In Barnard's tradition of presenting exceptional writers working in diverse aesthetics, the Fall series continues on Friday, October 25, with a reading by Pura López-Colomé, one of the leading Mexican poets of her generation, with her English translator, Forrest Gander, and New York poet Miranda Field. (This reading is sponsored by the Lannan Foundation, the Wolfers-O'Neill Foundation, and Barnard College.)

López-Colomé's poems are "distinguished by their concentrated syntax, their linguistic complexity, and their insistent moral and spiritual engagement." She is also the Spanish translator of Gertrude Stein, William Carlos Williams, Seamus Heaney, Robert Hass, Virginia Woolf, Samuel Beckett, and others.

"Art is not the waging of taste only, nor the exercise of argument," López-Colomé's translator Forrest Gander has written, "but like love the experience of vision, the revelation of hiddenness." In addition to translating No Shelter:  The Selected Poetry of Pura López-Colomé (Graywolf, 2002), Gander is a distinguished poet and the author, most recently, of Torn Awake (New Directions, 2001). He is the recipient of two Gertrude Stein Awards for Innovative North American Writing. With C.D. Wright, he edits Lost Roads Publishers.

López-Colomé and Gander will read with Miranda Field. A poet whose "hunger is a formal principle," Miranda Field's first book, Swallow, was published by Houghton Mifflin this summer. "'What kind of wilderness / takes bread and milk /from a blue willow saucer,' she asks… The answer ('a wilderness that trains you') is embodied in the movement, at once equivocal and inexorable, of these poems: they are too beautifully made to idealize freedom, too much in love with vicissitude to idealize beauty." (James Longenbach). Field was born and raised in North London. A winner of the Discovery/The Nation Award and a teaching fellow at the 2002 Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, she received her undergraduate degree from the New School and holds an MFA in poetry from Vermont College.

The final reading this fall will be given by Joan Retallack and Stephanie Strickland on Thursday, November 7 (sponsored by the Wolfers-O'Neill Foundation and Barnard College).

"Imitating not nature but her processes:  What does this mean now?" Joan Retallack writes about her collaborator, the late John Cage. "When Cage decided mid-twentieth century that he wanted to follow an aesthetic of imitating, not nature, but her manner of operation, to create not static mirror images, but temporal evolutions where material and dynamic principles interpenetrated, he was in touch with the developing history of ideas—both directly and indirectly, as they tend to permeate the culture at large. I, along with everyone else, work at the intersection of chance and intention." Retallack is John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Professor of Humanities and Co-director of the Workshop in Language and Thinking at Bard College. She is the author of six collections of poetry, including MONGRELISME:  A Difficult Manual for Desperate Times (1999); How to Do Things with Words (1998); and AFTERRIMAGES (1995). Her critical studies include Poets for the Millennium:  Joan Retallack on Gertrude Stein (forthcoming); The Poethical Wager (forthcoming); and M U S I C A G E:  John Cage in Conversation with Joan Retallack (1996).

Stephanie Strickland's poem V is the first work of poetry to exist simultaneously in print and on the Web as one work. V: WaveSon.nets/Losing L'una (Penguin 2002) was selected by Brenda Hillman for the Alice Fay Di Castagnola Prize of the Poetry Society of America. Strickland's work is informed, in part, by her reading of Simone Weil, whose life she wrote about in The Red Virgin and to whom V is dedicated. She has remarked that "Weil was the first woman I read whose style convinced me she knew her own mind (Gertrude Stein too, but I read her later), her mind inseparable from her clumsy, sensitive, empathic body. A wonderful value of her philosophy is how body-based it is. She had utmost respect for 'the work entering the body' in the lives of laborers, fishermen, and farmers. Her concerns could not have been broader, the whole good of humankind, the way to use and value knowledge." Strickland's print volumes include True North and The Red Virgin. Her hypermedia work includes The Ballad of Sand and Harry Soot. Her website is stephaniestrickland.com.

Women Poets at Barnard will continue in the spring with readings by Fanny Howe, Adrienne Rich, and others. For more information, please call (212) 854-2721.

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Louise Glück
Thursday, October 3, 7 p.m.
James Room, Barnard Hall
Barnard College
3009 Broadway (117th St)
[IRT 1, 9 to 116th St]

Pura López-Colomé (with Forrest Gander) and Miranda Field
Friday, October 25, 7 p.m.
Sulzberger Parlor, Barnard Hall

Stephanie Strickland and Joan Retallack
Thursday, November 7, 7 p.m.
Held Auditorium, Barnard Hall

All readings are free and open to the public.