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In a Western Light: Poetry at the Edge of America

Readings by Poets Victoria Chang, Brendan Constantine, Kim Dower, Blas Falconer, Amy Gerstler, Doug Kearney and Brynn Saito
Co-presented With Red Hen Press
Thursday, May 11, 2017
Episode Summary

California poetry has looked to the future, as well as to its complex past and the present, as a way of understanding our place at the edge of the continent. California is about the magic of the land and the promise of possibility— yet the question remains, for whom? Seven contemporary California poets celebrate the diverse poetry of seven distinguished California writers, hoping to provide a lens through which to experience these visions of a life lived in the harsh clarity of a Western light.

Featuring Douglas Kearney reading Charles Bukowski; Victoria Chang reading Diane Di Prima; Brendan Constantine reading Wanda Coleman; Brynn Saito reading  Adrienne Rich; Kim Dower reading Gertrude Stein; Amy Gerstler reading Czeslaw Milosz; and Blas Falconer reading Juan Felipe Herrera.

Participant(s) Bio

Victoria Chang’s the third book of poems, The Boss, published by McSweeney’s, won the PEN Center USA Literary Award and a California Book Award. Her other poetry books are Salvinia Molesta and Circle. She has also published a children’s picture book, Is Mommy?. She lives in Southern California.

Brendan Constantine’s work has appeared in FIELD, Ploughshares, Virginia Quarterly Review, Zyzzyva, and Ninth Letter, among other journals. His most recent collections are Birthday Girl With Possum (2011) and Calamity Joe (2012). He has received grants and commissions from the Getty Museum, James Irvine Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. He currently teaches poetry at the Windward School and regularly offers classes to hospitals, foster homes, & with the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project.

Kim Dower is the City Poet Laureate of West Hollywood. Author of three collections of poetry — Air Kissing on Mars, Slice of Moon, and Last Train to the Missing Planet, her poems also appear in several anthologies including Wide Awake: Poets of Los Angeles and Beyond, Beyond Baroque Books, as well as journals including Rattle, Barrow Street, Ploughshares, and Garrison Keillor’s, The Writer’s Almanac. Kim teaches the workshops Poetry and Dreaming and Poetry and Memory at Antioch University.

Blas Falconer is the author of A Question of Gravity and Light and a coeditor of two essay collections, The Other Latino: Writing Against a Singular Identity and Mentor and Muse: Essays from Poets to Poets. The recipient of an NEA Fellowship, the Maureen Egen Writers Exchange and a Tennessee Individual Artist Grant, his poems have appeared in various literary journals, including Crab Orchard Review, Hampden-Sydney Poetry Review, and Puerto del Sol. He is the Coordinator for the Creative Writing Program at Austin Peay State University and the poetry editor at Zone 3 Journal/ Zone 3 Press.

Amy Gerstler is a writer of poetry, nonfiction and journalism. Her book Dearest Creature was named a New York Times Book Review Notable Book. Her previous twelve books include Ghost Girl, Medicine, Crown of Weeds (California Book Award), Nerve Storm, and Bitter Angel (National Book Critics Circle Award in poetry.) She was the 2010 guest editor of the yearly anthology Best American Poetry. Her work has appeared in a variety of magazines and anthologies, including The New Yorker, Paris Review, American Poetry Review, several volumes of Best American Poetry and The Norton Anthology of Postmodern American Poetry. She currently teaches in the MFA Writing Program at the University of California at Irvine. Scattered at Sea, her most recent book of poems, was published in 2015.

Douglas Kearney’s collection of writing on poetics and performativity, Mess and Mess and (2015), was a Small Press Distribution Handpicked Selection. His third poetry collection, Patter (2014), examines miscarriage, infertility, and parenthood. Kearney’s second book, The Black Automaton (2009) was a National Poetry Series selection. A collection of opera libretti—Someone Took They Tongues—is forthcoming. He has received a Whiting Writer’s Award, and residencies/fellowships from Cave Canem, The Rauschenberg Foundation, and others. His work has appeared in a number of journals, including Poetry, nocturnes, Pleiades, Iowa Review, Boston Review, and Indiana Review; and various anthologies. He teaches at CalArts.

Brynn Saito is the author of The Palace of Contemplating Departure, winner of the Benjamin Saltman Poetry Award from Red Hen Press and a finalist for the 2013 Northern California Book Award. Her second collection, Power Made Us Swoon, will be published in 2016. Brynn co-authored a chapbook with Traci Brimhall, titled Bright Power, Dark Peace. Her work has been anthologized by Helen Vendler and Ishmael Reed; it has also appeared in such journals as Virginia Quarterly Review, Ninth Letter, and Poetry Northwest. Born in Fresno, CA, Brynn now lives and teaches in the San Francisco Bay Area.