On the weekend of October 12-13, 2007, librarians from across the country will gather in Poets House's acclaimed library for the fifth Poetry in The Branches National Institute, a weekend designed to help librarians build community audiences, develop substantive poetry collections and create successful reading series in public libraries nationwide.
Matsuo Bashō, wandering the back-country fields, mountains, and cities of 17th-century Japan and of his own life, distilled the immensities of human experience into single images of striking depth and feeling. Bashō offered the seventeen-syllable haiku as an evocative and democratic form for capturing the realizations of ordinary existence. His brief poems—sometimes sorrowful, sometimes humorous, always acutely perceptive—revolutionized and transfigured not only the poetry of his own time but current American and world poetry as well.
Elaine Equi and Aram Saroyan reflect on their minimalist propensities and the work of influential practitioners of this spare aesthetic, including e.e. cummings, Ian Hamilton Finlay, Lorine Niedecker, Gertrude Stein, Louis Zukofsky and Joe Brainard.
Poet Dick Davis expands our understanding of the period that gave rise to such voices as Rumi and Omar Khayyam by exploring several poems from the canon of Medieval Persian literature, including the Sufi allegory The Conference of Birds.
At each stage of his tumultuous life, Neruda wrote poems as chronicles, explaining his poetry and politics. He also wrote poems about the mysterious power of poetry itself, a power fully embraced in Chilean culture. In his talk Martín Espada will focus on the evolution of Neruda as a political poet, his struggle and exile at the hands of his own government, his triumphant return, his death in the wake of the military coup, and his redemption after democracy returned to Chile.
Revisit the works of two formative Victorian voices and tour one of New York City's magnificent 19th century estates, Wave Hill, which once played host to the likes of Charles Darwin and Queen Victoria.
1:00-1:30pm: Thomas Devaney shares selections from Poe's penumbral verse and offers highlights from the popular "Empty House" tour at the Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site.
Friday, October 5, 7:00pm-10:00pm
Saturday, October 6, 12:00noon-5:00pm
Leading British poet Simon Armitage offers you the chance to step outside of the American poetic paradigm, while asking some central questions that transcend all national boundaries: How do poems work? What do they hope to achieve? The workshop will include close readings of recent poetry from both sides of the pond and the opportunity to put these ideas into practice with focused writing exercises.
June Jordan dedicated her book, Passion, "to everybody scared as I used to be," writing, as she says of Whitman, for the sake of a people's poetry. Here is a look at the poetry and prose—spanning half a century—of a writer whose passionate, politically engaged poems and commitment to write out of her own "civil wars," makes her a poet someone once called "a lyric catalyst for change."
A joint initiative with the Poetry Society of America, Branching Out: Poetry for the 21st Century is funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.
In his talk, Carl Phillips will explore the ways in which Whitman is among the first to stake out forbidden territory (race, masculinity, morality) for American poetry and to find a form that persuasively enacts the poem's content. He will also consider the ways in which Whitman's poems continue to have a contemporary resonance and to illustrate what it has meant and continues to mean, on so many levels, to be American, for better and for worse.