Tag Archives: poetry

Selvage, Diaspora, and Lingual Processes: a Conversation with Hoa Nguyen

National Poetry Month 2020

By: Savannah Trent

I sat down, well more accurately sat down and logged into google chat, to talk to poet Hoa Nguyen to ask her about identity, belonging, and the diasporic experience.  Nguyen, whose 2016 book length collection of poems Violet Energy Ingots was shortlisted for the 2017 Griffin prize in poetry, is a poet whose work is known for its melodic quality, weaving rhyme, non sequiturs, syllabic play, and references to Sappho and Shakespeare among others. Born in the Mekong Delta, she was raised in the Washington DC area during the time of punk, post-punk and the Reagan presidency though she now resides in Toronto where she teaches creative writing and serves as a mentor to Miami University’s low residency program in creative writing. She is also the author of Dark (Skanky Possum 1998), Your ancient see through (AA Arts 2001), Hecate Lochia (Hot Whiskey 2009), As long as trees last (Wave 2012) and Red Juice: Poems 1998-2008 (Wave 2014).

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Meet Your Professors! Interview One — cris cheek

National Poetry Month 2020

At the start of this semester, I wanted to begin a series of interviews with professors; I believe our faculty are what make the entire Miami English department special and I hoped to use the platform to showcase that. Now that so much has changed as a result of the pandemic, I hope this series can also help future students get to know the creative writing program since they can’t come visit in person. To kick this series off and continue with our National Poetry Month theme, I I interviewed poetry professor cris cheek about his work:

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Nīnauele me Jim Chapson — Interview by Paul Vogel

National Poetry Month 2020

Born in Honolulu in 1944, Jim Chapson attended San Francisco State University and received his MA in 1968. With his partner, the Irish poet James Liddy (1934–2008), he moved to Milwaukee in 1976 and taught in the UW-Milwaukee English Department as an adjunct until 2016. He served as Poet Laureate of the City of Milwaukee from 2014 to 2016. He spends most of his time reading, writing and shopping at Whole Foods.

I once wrote that Jim’s poems move deftly between razor-sharp satire and passionate spiritual concern. I’ve also been close friends with him for many years and understand how important he is to his former students and poets in Milwaukee.

Paul Vogel: What was growing up in Hawaii like? What does your haole identity mean to you?

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“The Time to Play among the Borders of the Possible is a Gift:” An Interview with cris cheek

National Poetry Month 2020

cris cheek is a documentary performance writer, sound composer, and photographer. They worked alongside Bob Cobbing and Bill Griffiths with the Consortium of London Presses in the mid 1970’s to run a thriving open access print shop for little press poets. In 1981 they co-founded a collective movement-based performance resource in the east end of London at Chisenhale Dance Space, working in collaboration with choreographers, musicians, and performance artists to make interdisciplinary events. cris taught Performance Writing at Dartington College of Arts (1995-2002), played music with Sianed Jones and Philip Jeck as Slant, collaborated on works about value and recycling with Kristen Lavers in Things Not Worth Keeping and has been a professor at Miami University in Ohio since 2005. cris lives in Cincinnati. Most recent publications are the church and the school, the beer (Critical Documents, 2007), part:short life housing (The Gig, 2009), pickles & jams (BlazeVOX Books, 2017), and fukc all the king’s men: the tower and a few beasts living in its rubble (Xerolage, 2019). They podcast with Mark Hagood as Phantom Power: sounds about sound.

It would be, in every sense, a fool’s errand to try and pin down what particularly interested me so thoroughly in cris cheek’s work that I was compelled to reach out to them for an interview; not because it couldn’t be done, but because any attempt to delineate singular points of interest would inevitably only serve to push away others just as present as I read their work. To say, for example, that I was drawn immediately to the way in cheek’s pickles & jams that words, lines, even stanzas dance staggeringly across the page, often floating towards and juking away from stability, while certainly true, would ignore how equally pulled I felt toward the way cheek’s refusal of alphabetic context in fukc all the king’s men: the tower and a few beasts living in its rubble simultaneously implodes reading-as-such and constructs images so literal they refuse to not be read. Perhaps the most sensible argument I can make for the following interview is that cheek’s work is, at every point, a performance; therefore, like all great performances, cheek’s work inspired in me the festering curiosity that ignites every behind-the-scenes documentary. I needed to know the distance between the artist in the wings and art unfolding on stage. More importantly, I needed to know how, and by what crafty devices, the distance might be crossed so fluidly, so fully, and with such clarity of motion that I found myself unsure the distance actually existed.

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Rodrigo Toscano and two poetry students stand intent, reading from sheafs of paper during a poetry performance skit.

Rodrigo Toscano performs with MFA students

Last semester, on Tuesday, November 6, acclaimed poet (and labor organizer by trade) Rodrigo Toscano, along with five Miami Creative Writing MFA students, performed for a full house in the Bachelor Hall reading room. (Pictures here.) Toscano has lived a double life, splitting his time between working in the labor movement and weaving his poetry. A writer who has authored multiple books of poetry, recordings, and essays, he most recently released a collection based off a single sentence, one that also gave him the title for the book: Explosion Rocks Springfield. With Miami graduate students, he performed a string of poem-skits that combined to create an astute reflection on the modern human experience. Continue reading

Visiting writer Peter Manson, in a pale linen jacket, stands at the microphone and gestures. Miami University faculty poet cris cheek, in a hand-painted shirt, kilt, and glasses, watches Manson intently.

Peter Manson and cris cheek: a night of poetry

On October 30th, the seats of Irvin 40 filled quickly with poetry enthusiasts, there to see the reading of cris cheek and Peter Manson, two writers hailing from across the pond. Manson is from Glasgow and is the author of a variety of works including a book-length translation titled Stéphane Mallarmé: The Poems in Verse (Miami University Press). cheek, originally from England, now teaches here at Miami. He has done it all—music, publishing, dancing, and e-poetry. It made for an interesting scene, Scottish and English poets who cut their teeth performing and writing abroad and in online spaces now reading together for a US crowd. The reading was a melting pot of European Anglophone styles, countries, cultures, and languages as each author brought his own flavor to the mix. Continue reading

Miami Alumni Return for National Poetry Day

Sitting in the audience of the Alumni Poets Reading this past Thursday evening, I had the honor of listening to two very different poets read their original works. Listening to a poet read their own work is a wonderful way to begin to understand their writing – the movement is particular, and the exquisiteness of images, metaphors, and chosen words is communicated best by their creator. Continue reading

Je Ne Sais Quoi: Miami’s Third Annual Translation Symposium

Translation, as mentioned by Kinsey Cantrell in the previous post, is generally seen as a service instead of an art, where the translator is simply rendering a poem into a different language. The assumption is that translation is as much an art as transcribing the words of someone else. However, as English Ambassador Abigail Mechley notes in her great article for the English Department, the practice of bringing a piece of writing from one language to another “insists on stretching language to its limit”.

Rosa and Erin1

Guest speakers Rosa Alcalá and Erin Moure, respectively.

The Miami University Symposium on Literary Translation brought two distinguished speakers to campus for a two-part event – a Panel on Literary Translation, followed by a reading from their translated works. They, too, echoed the importance of translation. “I realized that there was a world that I understood through Spanish language that wasn’t being expressed in English, a way of thinking and a way of being in the world, and I wanted to capture this in English,” said Alcalá. Moure agreed, noting that translation is an ethical responsibility that allows readers to see their language and the world differently.  A huge thank-you to our guest speakers, and to everyone who attended the symposium!
To read more about the 2016 Miami University Translation Symposium, click here