Friday, October 13, 2006

The best city in the world for poetry?

Some would say London, Paris or New York are better, but I choose Washington because of the Library of Congress and its amazing poetry series. Thanks to the office of the Poet Laureate (more precisely known as the Consultant in Poetry), we attract all kinds of cool poets, and it's usually completely free.

Two weeks ago U.S. Poet Laureate Donald Hall read to a packed house. Last night Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and poet David Tucker, and the famous, venerable grizzled lion Galway Kinnell took the stage to a smaller but in many ways more devoted group (the Hall contingent had a number of college classes in attendance, many of whom surely showed up to get extra credit). Now it seems time to start taking small groups from this townhouse. The next event is Thursday, October 26.

Want to participate? After you RSVP, you should stop by this literary townhouse (address at the right) around 5 p.m. We'll walk down to Wisconsin Avenue, catch a 30 bus or the Circulator to Foggy Bottom, and then take Metro to Capitol South. Here's the event:

Jack Gilbert and Miranda Field

Gilbert’s book Refusing Heaven (Knopf, 2005) won the National Book Critics Circle Award for poetry last year, and his chapbook, Tough Heaven: Poems of Pittsburgh, was published in limited edition this year by Pond Road Press. Soon after Gilbert’s first book, Views of Jeopardy (Yale University Press, 1962) was published, he received a Guggenheim fellowship and moved overseas to live in England, Denmark and Greece. He toured 15 other countries as a lecturer on American literature for the U.S. State Department. His second book, Monolithos, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize of 1983. The title is Greek for “single stone,” a reference to the terrain on the island of Santorini, where he had lived. He is also the author of The Great Fires: Poems 1982-1992.

Miranda Field was born and reared in London. Her poems have won the “Discovery”/The Nation Award and a Pushcart Prize. Her debut book Swallow won a 2001 Bakeless Prize in poetry. According to the book’s publisher, Houghton Mifflin, “Swallow swoops and darts, tangling the lines we draw between the wild and the cultivated.” Field was a teaching fellow at the 2002 Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and lives in New York City with her husband, poet Tom Thompson, and children.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Writing about cinema

Washington is unmatched anywhere in the world for the variety, quality and quantity of free film programs available. William Wegman and Terry Gilliam are just two recent visual artists who have made experimental films as well, and who came to Washington to present and discuss their work, Wegman at the Reynolds Center/National Portrait Gallery, and Gilliam at the Hirshhorn. From time to time I'll announce a film program (especially in conjunction with an upcoming filmmaker's visit), and invite members of the Georgetown community to join me on a field trip. We usually travel by bus, and afterward we go to a cafe or bar to discuss the work and plan written pieces based on images from film.

The first offering is an evening with Danish artist Jesper Just, whose works No Man is an Island II (2004), and Something to Love (2005) are playing daily in the Hirshhorn's Black Box. Your assignment if you choose to accept it is to see both films sometime between now and November 8. Then I'll take a group (five people max, RSVP by e-mail) to see him live at 7 p.m. on the 8th. He'll discuss both, and then afterward we will go to nearby Cafe Atlantico for a drink and discussion about how we can write in response to his work.