An Introduction to Poets House
Hard Hat Reading: Neil Aitken
Poet, translator, and editor Neil Aitken reads Lee Herrick’s “Stars,” from Scar and Flower, plus his own poems “Alpha 60 Speaks of Fear,” from Babbage’s Dream and “After,” from a manuscript in process.
Neil Aitken is a Canadian writer, translator, and librettist of Chinese and Scottish descent. He is the author of two books of poetry, Babbage’s Dream and The Lost Country of Sight, which won the Philip Levine Prize. His poetry chapbook, Leviathan, was an Elgin Prize winner for Sci Fi Poetry. Individual poems have appeared in The Adroit Journal, American Literary Review, Crab Orchard Review, Ninth Letter, Radar Poetry, Southern Poetry Review, and have been anthologized, translated into Dutch and Chinese, and turned into contemporary art song. He is the founding editor of Boxcar Poetry Review, curator of Have Book Will Travel, and co-director of De-Canon: A Visibility Project. He holds both an MFA in creative writing from UC Riverside and a PhD in literature & creative Writing from USC, and is also a past Kundiman Fellow. He currently lives in Canada where he continues to work as a creative writing coach and manuscript editor. (www.neil-aitken.com)
Celebrating I. by Gerald Stern
A reading with Chase Berggrun, Ross Gay & Alicia Ostriker
Ayin Press and Poets House honor the life and work of the legendary poet Gerald Stern with an evening of reflection and celebration. Distinguished poets Chase Berggrun, Ross Gay, and Alicia Ostriker present readings honoring his final poetry book I. (Ayin Press, 2022).
I. is a wild compilation of poetic modes, moods, and registers—meandering and focused, hallucinatory and concrete, deranged and deeply ecstatic. Inspired by the sight of a derelict synagogue on the Lower East Side, I. is an intrinsically New York poem, concerned with shifting structures of place and identity in the face of time and rapid change. Though first written in the late aughts, Stern’s brazen, mischievous politicality and blasphemous spirituality, refracted through the biblical book and prophetic character of Isaiah, feel particularly relevant to the present moment. Intertextual, critical, at times jubilant and derisive, I. brims with Stern’s idiosyncratic mix of high intellect and chthonic populism.
This event is co-sponsored by Ayin Press, Poets House, Jewish Book Council, Brooklyn Jews, and the New Jewish Culture Fellowship (NJCF).
About the Poets:
Chase Berggrun is a trans woman poet. She is the author of R E D (Birds, LLC, 2018). Her poems and essays have appeared in American Poetry Review, Poetry Magazine, Poem-A-Day, PEN Poetry Series, Sixth Finch, Diagram, and elsewhere. She received her MFA from New York University, and lives in Brooklyn.
Ross Gay is the author of four books of poetry: Against Which; Bringing the Shovel Down; Be Holding, winner of the PEN American Literary Jean Stein Award; and Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, winner of the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award and the 2016 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award. His first collection of essays, The Book of Delights, was released in 2019 and was a New York Times bestseller. His new collection of essays, Inciting Joy, was released by Algonquin in October of 2022.
Alicia Ostriker has published nineteen collections of poetry, been twice nominated for the National Book Award, and has twice received the National Jewish Book Award for Poetry, among other honors. As a critic she is the author of the now-classic Stealing the Language: The Emergence of Women’s Poetry in America, and other books on poetry and on the Bible.
Gerald Stern was a National Book Award–winner and finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, a prolific poet and essayist—as well as a civil rights activist, labor organizer, and teacher. In his obituary, the New York Times described him as a poet of “wistfulness, anger, and humor.” The Associated Press called him “one of the country’s most loved and respected poets who wrote with spirited melancholy and earthly humor about his childhood, Judaism, mortality and the wonders of the contemplative life.”
Ayin Press is an artist-run publishing platform and production studio rooted in Jewish culture and emanating outward.
Hard Hat Reading: Joan Naviyuk Kane
Joan Naviyuk Kane—editor, writer, and educator—reads “Anthem,” by Jennifer Militello; plus poems of her own from a new series, After Anchorage, and her new chapbook, Ex Machina.
Joan Naviyuk Kane is Inupiaq with family from Ugiuvak (King Island) and Qawiaraq (Mary’s Igloo), Alaska, whose most recent book, Dark Traffic, was a finalist for the 2023 Kingsley Tufts poetry award. A Guggenheim Fellow and Whiting Award recipient, she’s recently served as faculty at Harvard, Tufts, and elsewhere, and was founding faculty of the graduate creative writing program at the Institute of American Indian Arts. Currently raising her children as a single mother in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Kane is an editor, writer, and collaborator for the Finland-based Mediated Arctic Geographies interdisciplinary literary, critical, and cultural collective and its affiliated projects.
Hard Hat Reading: Leah Umansky
Poet, curator, and educator Leah Umansky reads “The Letter, 1968,” by Marie Howe and poems from two of her upcoming collections, including OF TYRANT, forthcoming with The Word Works in January 2024, and one in progress.
Leah Umansky is an English teacher, an artist and the author of three books of poems, most recently OF TYRANT (The Word Works, forthcoming 2024). She is currently working on a memoir DELICATE MACHINE, an exploration of womanhood, hope, and heart in the face of grief and a global pandemic. She earned her MFA in Poetry at Sarah Lawrence College and has hosted The COUPLET Reading Series in NYC since 2011. Her creative work has appeared or is forthcoming in such places as The New York Times, POETRY, The Bennington Review, The Academy of American Poets’ Poem-A-Day, American Poetry Review, and River Mouth Review.
She can be found at www.leahumansky.com.
Hard Hat Reading: Lauren Camp
Lauren Camp—New Mexico Poet Laureate and June workshop leader—reads “Decrescendo” by Larry Levis, and work from her forthcoming book, An Eye In Each Square (River River Books, 2023).
Hard Hat Reading: Rigoberto González
Award-winning poet Rigoberto González reads from Alive at the End of the World by Saeed Jones, and his own new book, To the Boy Who Was Night.
Rigoberto is one of seven featured poets at the 25th Poetry Walk Across the Brooklyn Bridge, coming up next Tuesday, June 6, 2023. Click here to learn more!
Hard Hat Reading: Ed Steck
Ed Steck—poet and bookstore operator—discusses time travel, 35 by Tom Clark, and his own forthcoming book, A Place Beyond Shame.
Hard Hat Reading: Valerie Hsiung
Writer Valerie Hsiung reads from her own book, To love an artist, plus work from I name him me, by the late Chinese Muslim poet Ma Yan.
Hard Hat Reading: Edwin Torres
Poet and June workshop leader Edwin Torres reads from Endi Bogue Hartigan’s Oh Orchid O’clock and work from his own most recent collection XoeteoX.
Hard Hat Reading: Denizé Lauture
Haitian American poet, translator, and author Denizé Lauture reads his translation of Jean-Fernand Brierre’s “Harlem,” and a poem from his own book A Kiss to the Land.