The Writer’s Center welcomes poet/translator Nancy Naomi Carlson (Piano in the Dark) and poet David Keplinger (Ice) for a reading and discussion of their new books. Book signing to follow.
Free and open to the public, limited space, registration required below.
Nancy Naomi Carlson is a poet and essayist who won the 2022 Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize for translating Khal Torabully’s Cargo Hold of Stars: Coolitude. Author of thirteen titles (nine translated), her second poetry collection, An Infusion of Violets (Seagull Books, 2019), was named “New & Noteworthy” by The New York Times. Her co-translation, with Esperanza Hope Snyder, of Wendy Guerra’s Delicates (Seagull Books, 2023) was also noted in The New York Times. A recipient of two translation grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and decorated by the French government with the Academic Palms, Carlson has earned two doctoral degrees and is the Translations Editor for On the Seawall. Her work has appeared in the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day, American Poetry Review, The Georgia Review, Paris Review, and Poetry. She’s a professor of graduate counseling at Walden University.
David Keplinger’s eight poetry books include Ice (Milkweed Editions, 2023), The World to Come (Conduit Books and Ephemera, 2021), and Another City (Milkweed Editions, 2018). He has been awarded the 2020 Emily Dickinson Award from the Poetry Society of America, the 2019 UNT Rilke Prize, two artist fellowships from the NEA (Poetry and Literary Translation), The 2006 Colorado Book Award, the 2014 Cavafy Prize from Poetry International, and Mary Oliver selected his first book, The Rose Inside, for the 1999 T.S. Eliot Award. He teaches at American University, which named him 2022/2023 Teacher/Scholar of the Year.
About the Books
Piano in the Dark: This latest book of wonders from Nancy Naomi Carlson fixes upon one of the few defenses we have to confront the body’s betrayals—our words. Though in the end, even the world’s last word ‘forgets its name . . . has no word for this forgetting’. At once vulnerable and open, tempered and tempted equally by the erotic and the empathic, such dualities limn these affectingly beautiful and lyrical poems. Carlson’s lines, entreating as Scheherazade, ‘weave chords / into tales within tales, whirlpools within seas’ to save her life. Indeed, music has no need for voice or harp, as ‘in anechoic chambers, you become / the only instrument of your worldly sounds’, echoing Mozart’s credo ‘that music lies / in the silence between notes’. In a world scarred by pandemics, wars, and violent tribalism, the givens are gone—‘talismans we clung to, believing / we might be spared in some way / by marking our doors / with our own sacrificial blood’. In these unflinching free and formal verse poems, Carlson seduces us with the promise of the joy yet to be had, were we to look in the right places.
Ice: In a careful examination of personal and collective histories, David Keplinger’s Ice indexes the findings from memory’s slow melt—stories and faces we’ve forgotten, bones hidden in frost.
“I am asking how much more / I have to learn from this,” Keplinger writes. “You are asking that same question.” In these poems, he turns to our predecessors for guidance in picking apart the forces that govern modernity—masculinity, power, knowledge, conquest. Cryptic visitants arrive in the form of Gilgamesh, “searching for a way to stay in pain forever”; a grandmother mending socks, “her face in the dark unchanging”; Emily Dickinson, lingering at her window; a lion cub, asleep in ice for millennia.
With each comes a critique of the Anthropocene, our drive to possess the unpossessable. With each comes also the discovery of what—and who—we’ve harmed in the discovering. Ice shelves collapse. Climate change melts layers of permafrost to reveal a severed wolf’s head. A pair of grease-smudged reading glasses calls up a mother’s phantom. “I am sorry / for the parts you gave me / that I’ve misshapen,” Keplinger writes.
So is there “a point to all this singing”? Our ancestors cannot answer. The wolf’s head can’t, either. But sometimes, “out of the snow of confusion,” something answers, “saying gorgeous things like yes.” And the flowers “open up / their small green trumpets anyway.”
Delicates: Poems from a critically acclaimed Cuban writer available in English for the first time, translated by Nancy Naomi Carlson.
Imbued with a sensuality reminiscent of the work of Anaïs Nin, Wendy Guerra’s Delicates takes readers on an exhilarating journey through the cities of love, where women leave their bodies ‘in the showers of men’, marking their territory ‘like animals in heat’, their panties ‘saturated with sand and a sidereal isolating odor’. Guerra’s shocking metaphors and images invite us to enter her gallery of striking and provoking poems where we witness a flight through the air from a thirty-fourth-story window and a woman’s pilgrimage to the salt flats ‘to taste the pink in stones’ on her lover’s behalf. Guerra’s relationship with her native Cuba—much like her relationships with men—is complex and multilayered. Her work confronts the realities of a political system that doesn’t celebrate artistic freedom. Here we have a new way of looking at a woman, an artist, a country, and the colonizers of that country. In these music-infused poems, Guerra shares with us her hard-won truths.