This was the last in this school year of this fine series run by Daniel Nester at the College of St. Rose. He has brought in some wonderful poets, both experienced masters & the newer generations. Tonight's program was just that, pairing Marilyn Nelson with Deborah Ager.
Deborah Ager has just published her first book, Midnight Voices but her work has been out there, & she is the editor & publisher of 32 Poems. She read a variety of poems, most springing from her own experiences, like "The Accident" in D.C., or the series of poems about living in Iowa. But sometimes she stepped into a persona such as "Deborah Samson," based on the story of a woman who enlisted into the Revolutionary War disguised as a man, "Holocaust Museum," where she took on the voice of a man, & one poem as a telephone. In "The Problem with Describing Men" she riffed on a Robert Haas poem. Her work was like the best of the open mics, in her poems we always know where we are & what's happening.
Coming up to the mic Marilyn Nelson was still trying to decide what she should read. She was proud of the galleys of her children's book, Sweethearts of Rhythm, showing us the illustrations. The book is about an all-girl swing music band & the poems are in the voices of the instruments. She is a former Poet Laureate from Connecticut & read from book-length projects engendered by that role. Fortune's Bones is about a skeleton of a former slave on display in Waterbury, CT. She also read from The Freedom Business about an 18th Century slave who purchased his own freedom & went on to purchase the freedom of others. She concluded with 3 poems from an unpublished manuscript, "Seneca Village."
The College of St. Rose & Daniel Nester are a tremendous poetic resource for folks living in this area. As alwayes there were not just students & English profs in the audience but many from the community at large. I am looking forward to the next semester's lineup.