The young poets night I organized last week at the National Arts Club on Gramercy Park went smashingly well. Several people in attendance asked me when the next event was. Poetry does have readers!
A glimpse, above, of the beautiful club, where the poets and I and members of the Literary Committee ate dinner before the readings. (I have also pasted the Url for our Picasa page, with more photos.) Adam Kirsch, Cate Marvin, and Meghan O'Rourke did fantastic jobs. I am pasting here my introduction of the poets:
They each write in a different style, but at least a few qualities unite them: intensity, intelligence, and courage. In this age of free verse, it takes chutzpah for Adam Kirsch to write so convincingly in traditional form. In tightly controlled lines, Cate Marvin conveys wildness, and this tension captivates us. Meghan O’Rourke examines the world with an Xray vision.
Adam Kirsch is the author of The Thousand Wells, which received The New Criterion Poetry Prize, and The Wounded Surgeon, a critical study. He is the book critic of The New York Sun. Adam makes rhymes seem effortless. In his poem “Washington,” he exclaims, “Another Fourth! Again the capital/Is emptied out along the Nation’s Mall,/Where the elaborate fireworks display/Mounted in tribute to the holiday/Gives us the satisfaction of pure leisure/Tinged with the echo and the show of danger.” Unlike some contemporary poets, Adam is not afraid to tackle the big issues—war, love, politics—which have nourished poetry over the centuries, but away from which some of today’s poets shy because, quote, “too much has already been said on the subject.” Adam risks redundancy and it pays off.
Cate Marvin’s first book, World's Tallest Disaster, received the 2002 Kate Tufts Discovery Award. Her second book, Fragment of the Head of a Queen, is forthcoming in August. In her first book, Cate weaves a spell and often compels with an acid tongue. She writes, in her poem “On Parting,” “Before I go, let me thank the man who mugs you.” She uses neat lines to tell wicked thoughts: a seductive trick. Yet, she can move between casting a hex and reeling us in. All the while, her poems heave with passion. She speaks of “an air tinged with blizzard.”
Meghan O’Rourke is the literary editor of Slate and a poetry editor at The Paris Review. She received the 2005 Union League and Civic Arts Foundation Award from Poetry. Her first book, Halflife, is hot off the presses! On a personal note, I first noticed Meghan’s gift when we were college classmates! One thing that strikes me about her new book is her ability to move between sophistication and simplicity. In her poem “Peep Show,” she observes: “Someone is always watching--/don’t you think?/Duck, turn, and wink./Bodies at a distance--/that’s what we are,//raises, renovations, Florida.” Meghan uses irony, but never to show detachment; she always engages passionately. In her prayer-like poem “Pilgrim’s Progress,” she coaxes: “ What made you worry?/That whisper the earth makes, turning in space?/I hear it too. It only does what it must.//So hush, hush, hush.”
This summer I will organize a reading series at the Ansche Chesed synagogue on New York's Upper West Side. Stay tuned!