The Princeton Poetry Festival returns Friday and Saturday, March 13 and 14, with two days of readings and panel discussions including voices from around the world.
The biennial event was launched in 2009 and is directed by Pulitzer-Prize-winning poet and Princeton University faculty member Paul Muldoon.
A frequent participant in international poetry events, the Irish-born Muldoon says the event is a way to promote awareness beyond fact and border. “Despite our unfortunate tendency to get involved in other people’s business in what shortly become the war zones of the world, we in the U.S. are remarkably insular in our sense of world culture. One of the things poetry does is to give a sense of a culture that is even more profound than the historian’s, the geographer’s, the economist’s or the sociologist’s.
“That’s why we like to introduce students, and the wider public, to work with which they simply aren’t familiar. It’s a learning process for me, too, since running the festival forces me to keep my eyes and ears open in ways I otherwise might not.”
The writers featured in the 2015 festival are American Ellen Bryant Voigt (author of the book-length sonnet sequence “Kyrie: Poems”); Ghana-born Kwame Dawes (author 16 books and editor of Prairie Schooner journal); Liverpool-born poet and critic Paul Farley; Philadelphia-born Major Jackson (Cava Canem award-winning author of three volumes of poetry); Scottish poet and essayist Kathleen Jamie; American writer and New York foundation for the Arts recipient Ada Limon;
American poet and Boston Review contributing editor Maureen N. McLane; Belorussian poet and anthology editor Valzhyna Mort; American author of the New York Book Review Editor’s pick “Alien vs. Predator,” Michael Robbins; Polish poet, essayist, and translator Tomasz Rozycki; American translator Mira Rosenthal; award-winning and frequently published Vietnamese poet Ocean Vuong; and Meskwaki Tribal Settlement-based and National Endowment for the Arts winning poet Ray Young Bear (Meskwaki).
The event also includes participants in the national Poetry Out Loud competition, a partnership between the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation that encourages the nation’s youth to learn about great poetry through memorization and recitation. The New Jersey project is in partnership with the New Jersey State Council on the Arts.
In order to illustrate the range of artists and artistry in the 2015 Princeton Poetry Festival, U.S. 1 asked two participants to share a work with our readers.
Valzhyna Mort was called by the Irish Times as a “risen star of the international poetry world.” Born in Minsk, Belarus, in 1981, she is the author of the books “I’m as Thin as Your Eyelashes” and “Factory of Tears.” Of her imagery, she says, “I return to rural landscape because nature is the only place where it is possible for a human being to deal with emotional pain. It is only nature that can teach us (a child) what it means for a human being to have a will, to create.”
on a bare tree — a red beast,
so still it has become the tree.
now it’s the tree that prowls over the beast,
a cautious beast itself.
a stone thrown at its breast is
so fast — the stone has become the beast.
now it’s the beast that throws itself like a stone.
blood like a dog-rose tree on a windy day,
and the moon is trying on your face
for the annual masquerade of the dead.
death decides to wait to hear more.
so death mews:
first — your story, then — me.
Major Jackson is an American poet, professor and author of three collections of poetry: “Holding Company,” “Hoops,” and “Leaving Saturn,” winner of the 2001 Cave Canem Poetry Prize. The Poetry Daily called his work “devastatingly beautiful. strange and wonderful.” Jackson, born in Philadelphia in 1968, says that poetry is “where sound and sense are so interwoven that it goes beyond the first dimension of meaning.”
#b#Cries & Whispers#/b#
Each day I forget something, yet happy
I never forget to wake
to the bright corollas of summer
mornings. In the jury box of my bed,
I listen to the counter-arguments
of finches and blue jays, cardinals and
the tufted titmice, and the sharp judgment
of the crow, grow to sweet clamors.
In my neighborhood, someone like me
is sitting at a kitchen table taking down notes
between bites of granola and gentle sips
of oolong tea and recording the soap opera
in the trees. The pen is her large
antenna to the mysteries which come
in alternate currents of slapstick
and calamity. She writes away her nights
of emptiness and boredom. We’d be perfect
in a Bergman film, both of us entering into day
seeking the final appearance of things,
bumping around like this. A delivery truck
backs into a drive-way. The streets
begin their excited breathing.
The festival takes place in Richardson Auditorium on the Princeton University campus with the following schedule:
Friday, March 13
10 a.m. to noon: New Jersey State Finals of the national Poetry Out Loud in Richardson Auditorium on the University campus on Friday, March 13, at 10 a.m.
2 p.m.: Gala Opening Reading featuring the poets and introduced by Paul Muldoon.
3:30 p.m.: Panel Discussion: The Place of Poetry with Voigt, Jackson, Mort, Rozycki, Rosenthal, Vuong, and Young Bear, moderated by Paul Muldoon.
5 p.m.: Lecture: Maureen N. McLane on “Compositionism: Plants, Poetics, Possibilities,” introduced writer and Princeton University creative writing Susan Wheeler.
8 p.m.: Reading by Dawes, Farley, Limon, and Robbins, introduced by poet and university faculty member Michael Dickman.
Saturday, March 14
2 p.m.: Reading by Jamie, McLane, Rozycki, and Vuong, introduced by New York-based poet and literary critic Rowan Ricardo Phillips.
3:30 p.m.: Panel Discussion: The Place of Poetry with Dawes, Farley, Jamie, Limon, McLane, and Robbins, moderated by Paul Muldoon.
5 p.m.: Reading: Voigt, Jackson, Mort, and Young Bear, introduced by Pulitzer Prize winning poet and Princeton faculty member Tracy K. Smith
The festival kicks off with the New Jersey State Finals of the national Poetry Out Loud in Richardson Auditorium on the University campus on Friday, March 13, at 10 a.m.
Tickets for the festival are $15 for each day, $25 for a two-day festival pass, and free for students. Tickets are available through University Ticketing online or by calling 609-258-9220. The New Jersey State Finals of Poetry Out Loud is free. Advance tickets are required and available for reservation through University Ticketing. For more information, go to arts.princeton.edu/events/princeton-poetry-festival-2015/2015-03-13/.