masterful and mad is hope.” pppppppppppp—ADA LIMÓN


Tuesday, September 25, 2018
7:30pm, Weinstein Auditorium, Wright Hall

“Here it is,” writes ADA LIMÓN, “the new way of living with the world / inside of us so we cannot lose it, / and we cannot be lost.” Limón is the author of five books of poetry including Lucky Wreck, This Big Fake World, Sharks in The Rivers and Bright Dead Things––a finalist for the coveted National Book Award, Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award and National Book Critics Circle Award. The universe of her poetry is deeply verdant and mysterious: poet Matthew Zapruder describes her as a writer who “picks things up, puts them down, daydreams, sings, and casually, unpretentiously finds everything strange.” Limón’s tough and curious speakers command the reader’s notice with vivid transformations, asking questions about mortality and tenderness by watching a retired police horse or an invisible heron. Each stanza is washed in a symphony of dogs, birds, flowers, bugs, grasses; growing and dying creatures of every imaginable kind. Limón’s latest collection, The Carrying, was named one of the most anticipated books of 2018 by NPR; each poem follows its own trajectory toward startling hope, a gift that seems more vital now than ever. Recipient of fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, and the Kentucky Foundation for Women; Ada Limón currently writes, teaches, and works as a freelance writer. She shares her time between Lexington, Kentucky and Sonoma, California.


Tuesday, October 16, 2018
7:30pm, Campus Center Carroll Room

NORMAN FISCHER has written more than twenty-five books of poetry and nonfiction. A Soto Zen priest, he initially envisioned poetry and Zen as two separate practices. After a time, he realized that writing had unintentionally become a way of describing an intimate religious experience. As he says in an interview with Hank Lazer, “Religion is essentially an imaginative practice. As writing is. It’s not ‘real’ in the sense we commonly use that word…and yet it is essential.” Fischer earned his MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 1970 and became associated with the avant-garde Language Poets, a group that included Charles Bernstein, Ron Silliman and Leslie Scalapino. His work, both experimental and spiritual, is essential to the field of language-centered poetics, immersing readers in the immediate—whether through narration of the path a speaker walks daily or the abstract fragments of an unnamed environment. Fischer’s recent collections find junctions between seemingly disparate words and phrases. With these differently angled, vector-like bursts of language, he points toward a host of possibilities. In praise of his 2013 collection The Strugglers, Ron Silliman wrote, “Nobody gives more completely of himself in the act of writing than Norman Fischer and, like every poet I know, I am in awe of this gift.” Fischer’s Buddhist workshops and conferences have reached varied audiences from caregivers of the dying to software engineers to conflict resolution specialists. Today he lives in Muir Beach, California with his wife, a retired science teacher and ordained Zen priest.


Tuesday, October 30, 2018
7:30pm, Weinstein Auditorium, Wright Hall

DANEZ SMITH is the author of Don’t Call Us Dead, a finalist for the 2017 National Book Award which circles their Black, queer, and HIV positive identities: “i’m not the kind of black man who dies on the news. / i’m the kind who grows thinner & thinner & thinner / until light outweighs us” (from “it won’t be a bullet”). This haunted, sensual, explosive and intensely deliberate epic of a book tangles with death even as Smith defies it, sourcing power both from the deep roots of American violence it traces and from the poet’s visionary, fantastical style. Having come to writing through theater, they refined their craft through performance—twice earning the title of Individual World Poetry Slam finalist—and developed an understanding of “how language lives and is performed by the body.” Their chapbooks include hands on your knees and Black Movie. Smith’s first full length collection, [insert] boy, winner of the 2016 Kate Tufts Discovery Award and the 2015 Lambda Literary Award, explores and criticizes the erasure of queer and Black identities, interrogating a society that views Black boys as “monster until proven ghost.” Winner of many awards and fellowships, Danez Smith has also been featured by The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Guardian, Buzzfeed, LitHub Daily, Best American Poetry, PBS NewsHour and the Late Show with Stephen Colbert. They are a founding member of the Dark Noise Collective, a multigenre multicultural movement committed to “radical truth telling,” and currently co-host of the Poetry Foundation’s podcast VS.


Tuesday, November 13, 2018
7:30pm, Campus Center Carroll Room

MATT DONOVAN is poetry’s time traveler: his vast reservoir of artistic, literary and historical knowledge is matched by a profound sensitivity to his own surroundings, allowing him to artfully crisscross centuries of human existence. In his first collection Vellum, named for a parchment made from animal skin, he explores the movement between violence and beauty, visiting, in the process, the Sistine Chapel, the Congo Free State and a friend’s memorial service. His recent chapbook Rapture & The Big Bam brings famous painters, philosophers, writers, musicians and inventors in conversation with a speaker’s life, creating dexterous and bizarre equations that transcend time and ask us to question what we hold sacred. In its title poem, he asks: “why pretend the wondrous & the useless weren’t the same / all along? The meaningless, the miraculous—who are we to say?” Donovan also lends his poetic sensibility to other genres: he is the author of a collection of fifteen essays, A Cloud of Unusual Size and Shape, connecting the ruins of history with relics and remains of here and now, as well as the libretto to the opera Inheritance, an inventive metaphor for America’s complex relationship to gun culture based on the life of the heir to the Winchester firearms company, Sarah Winchester. Inheritance premieres October 2018 in San Diego. Matt Donovan’s accolades include a Rome Prize in Literature, a Literature Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and a Lannan Writing Residency Fellowship. He recently relocated from Santa Fe, and serves as the new director of the Poetry Center.


Tuesday, December 4, 2018
7:30pm, Campus Center Carroll Room

TIANA CLARK aims to start a conversation with her poetry: “I’m humming; I want people to hum too.” Subverting old forms and fashioning new ones with electric confidence, her mind draws poetic inspiration from idiosyncratic sources: from crossbites to volcanic eruptions to the image of pop-star Rihanna. Hailing from Tennessee and southern California, Clark majored in Africana Studies and Women’s Studies at Tennessee State University. While working toward her MFA at Vanderbilt University, she was poetry editor of the Nashville Review. Her collection I Can’t Talk About the Trees Without the Blood won the 2017 Agnes Lynch Starrett Prize from the University of Pittsburgh Press. In rich dialogue with artists and activists across decades, Clark’s poems scatter, divide, expose their gaps, and swallow their own tails. She bravely traces the firsts of southern Black girlhood with vulnerability that Ross Gay describes as “a reaching toward.” Clark’s 2016 chapbook, Equilibrum, chosen by Afaa Michael Weaver for the Frost Place Chapbook Competition, explores a biracial speaker’s inner and outer opposing forces, asking in its title poem “what is left / whispering in us, once we have / stopped trying to become the other?” The recipient of honors such as the Academy of American Poets University Prize and the Rattle Poetry Prize, Clark currently teaches creative writing at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville.