Monday, March 5, 2012

BSB Poet Juliana Spahr in Cambridge, MA

For those of us in the Boston area, Black Sparrow poet Juliana Spahr will be reading with Cole Swensen in the Edison-Newman Room at the Houghton Library (Harvard Yard, Tel: 617-495-2440) on Harvard University's campus on Wednesday, March 7th at 6pm for the final session of the "Poet's Voice" reading series. Spahr's latest, Well Then There Now (2011), earned a starred review from Publishers Weekly ("Spahr's fifth book of imaginative writing [both poems and prose] should be a blockbuster, a lasting disturbance; a work of crisp wit, bizarre conjunctions and ultimately enduring moral authority; it is also the best, and perhaps the most widely accessible, thing that Spahr has done.").

Well Then There Now also just received a great review from Siobhan Phillips at the Los Angeles Review of Books:

Pronouns are tricky things. How far does “I” extend? How particular is “you”? How distant is “them”? And then there’s “we,” which seems to reach from cozy, particular partnerships to vague, wide allegiances — thereby risking a slide between intimate and universal. How and why do I separate my affection for the familiar body lying next to me and my compassion for the unknown citizen living halfway around the world? Does one relationship model the other? Should they be related?

Yes, Juliana Spahr suggests, in her strange, often beautiful, frequently pronoun-deranging poetry. But the task isn’t easy. Well Then There Now, Spahr’s latest book, is a welcome reminder of this necessary effort. Her poems seem particularly vital at the moment not just for the pleasure inherent in their forms of language, but also for the challenge posed by their focus on community. Spahr tests and rejects any separation between intimate passion and general policy. In her poems, love does not resist the world beyond; love lets it in. Politics demands feeling rather than denuding it. The basic dilemma is evident in “Switching,” an earlier, characteristic work, where she worries about the movement between table and bed, or “public” discourse and “private” feeling; how can we find a way, she asks, to think “all together”? This poem ends by imagining a life of “listening and / changing…separation and / joining on the flat planes of this, / our world of daily occurrence”. Her means and mode come at the moment of suspense after each of those “ands,” poised at the edge of a break, as they confront separation by pushing toward union. This push is the drama, for Spahr, of what would otherwise be mere “daily occurrence.”

To read the rest of the review please click here and for event information visit

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