A poetic night with Ada Limón and Gregory Pardlo

April 13, 2017, by

RM3_7535Last Monday, the Inprint Margarett Root Brown Reading Series welcomed poets Ada Limón and Gregory Pardlo. The poets, former classmates at NYU, have both recently been recognized: Limón’s Bright Dead Things was a finalist for the 2015 National Book Award and National Book Critics Circle Award. Pardlo won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for his collection Digest, and as of Thursday, a Guggenheim Fellowship. Poet Kevin Prufer, who also serves as a professor at the University of Houston’s Creative Writing Program, moderated a discussion with both after the reading.

Limón opened with “How to Triumph Like a Girl,” in which she imagines the power of a race- winning filly’s 8-pound heart: “Don’t you want to tug my shirt and see / the huge beating genius machine / that thinks, no, it knows, / it’s going to come in first.” When Prufer asked after Limón’s performance of the piece, she referred to Frederico García Lorca’s duende, and the heightened expression embodiment can bring to the work. Many of Limón’s poems showcased the same, with lines like, “You wake some days / full of crow and shine,” and “[…] then there’s the silence that comes back, a million times bigger than me, sneaks into my bones and wails and wails and wails […]” Continue reading

Fred Moten packs the El Dorado Ballroom

April 4, 2016, by

IMG_5411On March 21st, a diverse community packed the historic El Dorado Ballroom to hear the words of Fred Moten. Moten, professor of English at the University of California, Riverside, is a celebrated scholar, who’s authored the critical books The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning & Black Study and In the Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition. In addition, his distinguished poetry collections include Hughson’s Tavern, B Jenkins, The Little Edges, and The Feel Trio, which was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2014.

Moten is known for his densely-packed lyricism, tackling social issues with wordplay, and complicating the conventional notions of radical poetic lineages. After an introduction by UH professor Michael Snedicker, Moten remarked that he “wanted to bring other voices” into the reading and played a “musical epigraph.” Some piano riffs, finger snaps, vocals, flute trills, and bass thrums later, the song, played uninterrupted in its entirety, was revealed as Carmen McRae’s version of the jazz standard “Sometimes I’m Happy (Sometimes I’m Blue).”

Earlier in the day, Moten delivered a talk on “Hesistant Sociology: Blackness and Poetry” at the University of Houston. There too, he employed musical epigraphs. One was a recording from a section from Zong!, the innovative masterwork by M. NourbeSe Philip, which linguistically and phonetically deconstructs the legal ruling of slave ship sailors who threw 150 humans overboard in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean in order to cash in on lucrative insurance. The other was a solo Thelonius Monk practicing his tune “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You.” Continue reading

If you want to read the latest Atwood, can you wait a while? Say, 100 years?

September 20, 2015, by

As we launch the 35th season of the Inprint Margarett Root Brown Reading Series tomorrow with National Book Award winner Jonathan Franzen, reading from his latest novel Purity, this story reminds us how fortunate Houston is to have the world’s great literary figures make a stop in our city. Both Margaret Atwood and David Mitchell have appeared in front of sell out audiences as part of the Inprint Margarett Root Brown Reading Series. Lucky for us, some of their work won’t be read for a 100 years!

Future Library, Katie Paterson  Photo (c) Kristin Von Hirsch 2016

Future Library, Katie Paterson
Photo (c) Kristin Von Hirsch 2016

If you want to read Margaret Atwood’s latest piece of writing, Scribbler Moon, you will have to wait a while, say, for another century.

Atwood is the first contributing author to the Future Library project, an artwork created by Scottish artist Katie Paterson for The City of Oslo. Paterson has planted a thousand trees in a forest just outside the city where they will be looked after for one hundred years, until 2114.  In each of those hundred years, one author will be commissioned to write a manuscript of some sort and that piece of writing will be placed, unpublished, in a secure and specially designed room in the new public library being built in Oslo. They will all remain unread until the collection of one hundred manuscripts is complete. Then in 2114, the trees will be cut down and the wood will be used to supply paper for a special anthology of books in which one hundred years of writing will be published. Continue reading

“People Have to Breathe Where They Live”: Mary Szybist and Kevin Young Inprint Reading

February 25, 2015, by

RM4_4264Monday night is rainy, cold—a good night for poems.

The weather keeps some people away, but not everyone.  Inprint executive director Rich Levy introduces Mary Szybist and Kevin Young as the readers for the Inprint Margarett Root Brown Reading Series in Cullen Theater at Wortham Center.  Szybist has won a National Book Award, Young an American Book Award.  I see some of my current students in the audience: I am happy they have come.  You don’t get a double billing like this every day.  Each poet has a theme it seems:  Mary, ascension, Kevin, grief.  There are difficulties with both, yet also acceptances.  You don’t have to resolve everything in order to understand it better.  Sometimes understanding it better is as good as it gets.

Szybist reads from Incarnadine, which won the National Book Award.  Before you even open the door to her poetry, you think of crimson, the red that is more luminous than cherry red, the red of Botticelli’s angels, the red of the Virgin Mary.  Szybist is preparing you for what is her obsession:  the strangeness of the annunciation, the anticipatory moments not only of the biblical Mary, but of our own every day lives, in which “dutiful” acquiescence has profound consequences.  Her poems circle around the scene of the Annunciation—but do not linger there, taking the notion of expectancy to every realm, both immediate and imaginative.

Before you even open the door to her poetry, you think of crimson, the red that is more luminous than cherry red, the red of Botticelli’s angels, the red of the Virgin Mary.

Continue reading