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Mirroring Practice: Poets Respond to Jasper Johns 

Thurs, Jan 20, 2022
7 pm

Online, via Zoom

This poetry reading brings together poets whose work has long been engaged with painting and the visual arts: Rick Barot, Khadijah Queen, Cole Swensen, and Brian Teare. Each poet is writing new work that responds to Jasper Johns as a maker, highlighting the fact that poetry at its root (poiein) means to make. Their poems have mirrored painting sometimes through traditional representational means—description, figuration—and at other times through radical abstracting tactics—processes of layering, cutting, and scraping. Their work has treated painting as subject matter, and has also treated language as a material whose properties, like those of paint, need further investigation. 

This reading of new work extends the long mutual admiration between poets and painters, an admiration that includes critical inquiry and explores the limits of paintings that mirror poems, and of language that mirrors paint. Marrying art historical research, the hands-on technique of collage, the critic’s visual acumen, and a gift for the gestural, the work of these poets carries ekphrastic art forward into the twenty-first century.  

This event is free but registration is required.


Rick Barot’s most recent volume of poetry is The Galleons (Milkweed Editions, 2020), which was on the longlist for the National Book Award. He has received honors from The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. He directs The Rainier Writing Workshop, the low-residency MFA program in creative writing. 

Khadijah Queen is the author of six books, including Anodyne (Tin House, 2020), winner of the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America. Ekphrastic works include the chapbook Exercises in Painting (Bloof, 2016) and Fearful Beloved (Argos, 2015), partially written while Queen participated in Ann Hamilton’s event of a thread installation at the Park Avenue Armory. An essay about the pandemic, “False Dawn,” appears in Harper’s Magazine. Dr. Queen is an Associate Professor of Creative Writing at Virginia Tech.

Cole Swensen is the author of eighteen collections of poetry, most recently Art in Time (Nightboat, 2021), On Walking On, Gave, and Landscapes on a Train, as well as Noise That Stays Noise, a volume of critical essays. Her poetic collections turn around specific research projects, including ones on public parks, visual art, illuminated manuscripts, and ghosts. Her work has won the National Poetry Series, the Iowa Poetry Prize, the San Francisco State Poetry Center Book Award, and the PEN USA Award in Literary Translation. A former Guggenheim Fellow, she is the co-editor of the Norton Anthology American Hybrid; a translator of contemporary French poetry, prose, and art criticism; and the founding editor of La Presse Poetry, a small press that publishes contemporary French poetry translated by English-language poets. She teaches at Brown University.

Brian Teare is the author of six critically acclaimed books, including Companion Grasses and The Empty Form Goes All the Way to Heaven. His most recent book, Doomstead Days (Nightboat, 2019), was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle, Kingsley Tufts, and Lambda Literary Awards. His honors include the Four Quartets Prize, Lambda Literary and Publishing Triangle Awards, and fellowships from the Guggenheim and Pew Foundations, the NEA, the American Antiquarian Society, the Headlands Center for the Arts, the Vermont Studio Center, and the MacDowell Colony. After over a decade of teaching and writing in the San Francisco Bay Area, and eight years in Philadelphia, he’s now an Associate Professor at the University of Virginia and lives in Charlottesville, where he makes books by hand for his micropress, Albion Books.

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Sara Ludy, Tumbleweeds

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