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A letter from Poetry Series Curator Rebecca Hoogs A letter from Poetry Series Curator Rebecca Hoogs OCT 31, 2011

There are so many great poets writing today. You must wonder: how do I ever choose? The story of how a season's Poetry Season comes together is unique to each year, and here’s the story of this season.

Our next event emerged from a conversation Wave Books editor Joshua Beckman and I had last spring. Their three-day poetry festival was just a germ of an idea, but the focus was already set on translation, and Joshua wanted to know if SAL might be interested in putting together an event. Translation is something many of the poets in the Poetry Series have done, and I often ask them about it (anyone else remember Robert Hass’ amazing—and lengthy—answer to my question about translation?), but we had never held an event focused solely on translation.

Hence, November 6 will feature three very different translators: Peter Cole, the foremost translator of contemporary Hebrew and Arabic poetry and fiction, whose many translations include So What: New & Selected Poems, 1971-2005 by Taha Muhammad Ali; Red Pine, aka Bill Porter, Port Townsend resident and preeminent translator of Chinese and Buddhist texts; and Nikolai Popov, translator (with his wife, Heather McHugh) of French poet Paul Célan. Each of the translators will read from their work and unpack one translation in particular. Matthew Zapruder (Wave editor, Copper Canyon poet, all-around awesome guy) will moderate a lively discussion afterwards. And finally, because the rest of Wave’s festival will be held at the Henry Art Gallery, we wanted to find a location close by for our event. This presented the perfect opportunity to try out the newly renovated STG's Neptune Theatre just up the street. 

I always begin curating by starting with my wish list: a long and ever-evolving list of the poets who have never visited our series. This list comes from my own reading, from attending readings where I can check out these folks in action, and from the suggestions that you send to me via email or submit through our annual online survey. Terrance Hayes was one of those poets on my “list.” I have loved his work for years but when I saw him read at Hugo House a couple of years ago, I knew he was just the kind of dynamic reader that you would love. I have tried very hard to only present poets who are vibrant readers of their own work. I believe that if we are going to come out of our homes on rainy evenings to be together in a room for an hour or so to listen to poetry, what we hear has to be absolutely electric. Hayes has got some serious wattage. He may also have been the only poet to have ever been a model in the New York Times Style Magazine. I can’t wait to hear him on December 8. And for you writers out there, he’s also leading a three-hour generative workshop at Hugo House on December 9.

The New Year begins with Albert Goldbarth, also a “lister.” I first saw Goldbarth read at AWP Conference (Associated Writing Programs), which is where I go to scope out many of the poets I bring to you. He was hilarious. We were rolling in the aisles of the hotel conference room (which is saying a lot; those conference rooms can be pretty deadly). In addition to valuing good readers of poetry, I also value humor in poetry. Too many people think that poetry has to be completely serious. I like to liven things up, and Albert Goldbarth will certainly do that for us on February 9. Also, he has a space collection. Seriously.

March brings a return favorite: Louise Glück. Glück was last here in March of 2003, and we’re excited to have this Pulitzer Prize-winning poet back nine years later. In addition to presenting the best emerging voices, I have also in recent years featured “back by popular demand” poets from earlier years in the Poetry Series like Sharon Olds, W.S. Merwin, and Billy Collins. Many of you joined the Poetry Series after these folks presented the first time, and it’s always interesting to hear what a favorite poet has been doing in the interim years and how their work has changed. We’re delighted to welcome this master back to Seattle on March 15.

Our April event had an interesting genesis. I got a call one day from Christine Deavel, one half of the wonderful pair who run our Poetry Series bookstore partner, Open Books, letting me know that Troy Jollimore was going to be in town next April for a philosophy conference and asking if we would be interested in having him do a reading while he was here. I was, and, as it turns out, poet-philosophers are more common than one might think; John Koethe (author of 8 books of poetry) was also going to be in town. It seemed too good an opportunity to pass up, and so on April 4 we’ll present these two poet-philosophers for readings and a conversation which I promise (hope?) will not be over our collective heads.

The series will end on May 15 with readings by Matthew and Michael Dickman, identical twins and utterly unique poets. Over the last few years SAL and Copper Canyon Press have made a concerted effort to partner and I was delighted to bring the wonderful Lucia Perillo to our stage last year. This year will feature two of Copper Canyon's up-and-coming poets reading separately from their singly-authored books, and then together from their co-authored and forthcoming book, 50 American Plays. Both poets are witty, moving readers and it will be fascinating to see these two poets side-by-side.

Whew! And that’s the year. Planning for the 2012-13 season will actually begin in January, if not before, so if you have poets you’d like to see next year, please drop me an email at This Link Requires Javascript.

Thank you for your support of SAL and our Poetry Series. I hope to see you this year!

Rebecca Hoogs
Poetry Series Curator
Director of Education

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