December 7, 2017

The REV presents, November 30

"Blackout Poetry," an April 2016 project by the Sage Community
in the Carol Ann Donahue Poetry Room in the Shea Learning Center at Russell Sage College, for the last REV event of the semester featuring a reading and Q&A with visiting poets Erica Mena and Levi Bentley. This is the new series coordinated & hosted by Albany poet Matthew Klane.

Erica Mena used her book Featherbone (Ricochet Editions, 2015) as the "meat" in the sandwich between new work. Featherbone is a book-length poem playing off the ancient story of Icarus, but as a female Icarus, drawing “on cyborg feminism, ornithology, anatomy” as well as the Greek myth. The brief passages she read also seemed also to be about the metaphysical transformation in blood & bone, as well as the play of silence & sound. Of the newer pieces was one written after the devastation of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, mixing in Spanish words in a work on the meaning of citizens & colonizers. The ending piece was from a longer work entitled “Or the Dark Fillamenting,” a work about darkness, more abstract, but also a progression in images & themes from her earlier work.

Levi Bentley read from just a couple pieces, beginning with an extension from an earlier work called, I think, “Bucolic Eclogue.” What was read tonight focused on Claudia & Hen, an “I” in a struggle of language & imagery, mixing in personal history & memory, while being a part of a missionary family in Nepal. Then from another “project,” “Fish Moves” (or, perhaps, “Fish Songs”) which was described as moving toward animality, imaging what it would be like being a fish, an exploration of identity (a central theme with both poets), then on to a snippet from a project called “Fence Lines” that may become a work with photos & words.

Erica Mena & Levi Bentley
The reading was followed by a Q&A session, the audience mostly students, with some faculty, from Russell Sage (& an odd outsider). The questions focused on the role of political issues in both poets’ work, & about the imagery of identity in their work. The poets were collectively, white, queer, trans, Puerto Rican, & they pointed to the problem of picking one identity, against being more complex. A similar issue confronted their “experimental” poetry, that it too can’t be multi-faceted, can’t have a complex identity. Both poets’ work talked around, through, & in this issue, both for the work & for the person.

This series began in the Fall & indications are it will pick up again in the Spring semester. The Fall semester was run in conjunction with English and Modern Languages courses (in Creative Writing and Protest Literature) and explored the theme of “truth to power.” The events are co-sponsored by The Russell Sage Review (The REV), the department of Arts & Letters, and The Sage Colleges Libraries, and supported by the Carol Ann Donahue Poetry Fund.

Stay tuned for what the new year will bring.

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