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).
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:
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.
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
Paul Vogel: What was growing up in Hawaii like? What does your haole identity mean to you?
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
Here is the first in a series of student creative writing readings. Sophomore Madi McGirr reads her poem “19” which is after the poem “21” by Patrick Roche. You can read this poem as well as other poems and art by Madi in this year’s forthcoming issue of the Femellectual.
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 →
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 →
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 →
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”.
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