Join CavanKerry poet Harriet Levin in a reading alongside Jill Bialosky at Book Culture’s Columbus Avenue location in New York City!
Join Bayo Olayinka Ojikutu & CavanKerry poet Harriet Levin for a free reading at Myopic Books, an award-winning bookstore in the heart of Chicago’s Wicker Park community!
Come one, come all, for a reading and discussion with Harriet Levin, author of My Oceanography, and Rebecca Entel, author of Fingerprints of Previous Owners. A Q&A and signing will follow the discussion.
At the Co-op
RSVP HERE (Please note that your RSVP is requested but not required.)
About My Oceanography: Levin plunges into psychic depths to confront desire, fear and loss. These poems expand borders as her language strives toward transcendence. The life and work of post-minimalist sculptor Eva Hesse serves as a starting point, yet these poems extend far beyond ekphrasis in their imaginative renderings of Hesse’s life against the demands of her art. In exploring the persona’s struggle to create art, Levin’s poems engage the reader and connect us to the demands of work, marriage and the everyday.
About Harriet Levin: Prize winning poet and novelist Harriet Levin has been combining her writing with activism for over twenty years. The author of the newly released poetry book, My Oceanography, her two previous collections include The Christmas Show (chosen by Eavan Boland for the Barnard New Women Poets Prize and the Poetry Society of America’s Alice Fay di Castagnola Award) and Girl in Cap and Gown (a National Poetry Series Finalist). Her debut novel, How Fast Can You Run, a Novel Based on the Life of Lost Boy of Sudan Michael Majok Kuch was originally excerpted in The Kenyon Review and came out of a One Book, One Philadelphia writing project she founded with her family and students to help reunite several Lost Boys and Girls of Sudan with their mothers living abroad. She has written for The Forward, PEN America, The Smart Set, The Kenyon Review, Ploughshares, and other journals. She holds a MFA from the University of Iowa and teaches creative writing and directs The Certificate Program in Writing and Publishing at Drexel University.
About Fingerprints of Previous Owners: At a Caribbean resort built atop a former slave plantation, Myrna works as a maid by day; by night she trespasses on the resort’s overgrown inland property, secretly excavating the plantation ruins. Rapt by the crumbling walls of the once slave-owner’s estate, she explores the unspoken history of the plantation— a site where her ancestors once worked the land, but which the resort now uses as a lookout point for tourists. Suffused with the sun-drenched beauty of the Caribbean, Fingerprints of Previous Owners is a powerful novel of hope and recovery in the wake of devastating trauma. In her soulful and timely debut, Entel explores what it means to colonize and be colonized, to trespass and be trespassed upon, to be wounded and to heal.
About Rebecca Entel: Rebecca Entel’s short stories and essays have been published in such journals as Catapult, Guernica, Joyland Magazine, Literary Hub, Electric Literature, and Cleaver Magazine. She is Associate Professor of English and Creative Writing at Cornell College, where she teaches multicultural American literature, Caribbean literature, creative writing, and the literature of social justice. She also teaches fiction workshops for Catapult and the Iowa Writers House. Fingerprints of Previous Owners is her first novel.
My Water Bottle
Croix de Bouquet, Haiti
The real thing he pulled was greater than the water bottle
turned toy—bottle cap wheels attached to a string—
as it followed behind him across the cracked cement.
In it had been rivers and rain. The strong force of a waterfall.
A stream winding through certain bodies. Another child came running out
the door asking to play with it. I watched the string exchange hands,
loop a finger as the children outran it and their creation rolled,
wobbled, tipped forward on its neck.
The speckled wings fluttered and rose, even as I hid somewhere
in my childhood basement, my mother shouting from the kitchen
to pick up all my toys scattered from their boxes,
toys I held in the darkness of night, clutched close in whispers.
The child without any stood beside me, followed me around,
stayed near, waited until my last sip and my bottle was empty.
He tapped it lightly and my heart burst. It took time
for me to understand. What did I not offer?
The water bottle my fingers gripped in heat so extreme
each knuckle swelled, my breath grew slow, my head pounded,
walking was difficult, thinking, how far can I make it
with nothing to pull along? I’ve nothing,
nothing behind me. No bottle turned toy,
no container empty enough to transform
into a caterpillar’s sixteen bouncing legs,
waiting to grow the wings to support it in air.
In a matter of moments, I could shed my old skin,
pupating my greediness over what I did not offer,
though the boy did not consider me greedy. He waited
so patiently for me to hold the bottle to my lips
and drink the very last drop, having waited under rubble,
himself a survivor, overwintering in ash.
He sat next to me on the cracked cement steps,
leading to the collapsed second floor.
Water could not sustain him. He required nectar
sweet between leaves. It was all over the news.
The water was contaminated. Peacekeepers defecated in water,
bringing cholera to the Artibonite River.
The world’s carelessness now set afloat.
I know. I was ready to discard my bottle,
set it on its journey of decomposition,
strip it of its corporeal form. My bottle,
held in the hands of so many people who will never
drink from it, those who delivered it from earth,
mined it, heated it, spun it a long while to become the axis
on which the day moves, wholly imaginary.
A boy waiting with a string in his hand.
Apart from the 2010 Haiti earthquake which caused an unprecedented natural disaster, the population suffered a man-made disaster when waste from a UN base leaked into the rivers and introduced a cholera epidemic. When I wrote “My Water Bottle” I wanted to depict the resilience of the people I’d met in Haiti. While Haiti is a victim of poverty and corruption, (according to a July 17, 2018 Miami Herald article, 80 percent of the people live on less than $2 a day), it is a place of beauty where everyday people engage in great acts of courage.
Since 2013, I’ve been traveling to Haiti as the leader of a Drexel University creative writing study abroad trip. On the trip we attend workshops at PEN Haiti and meet with renown Haitian writers, poets, artists and musician activists whose life and work cannot avoid representing change. Haitian literature has been compared to Russian literature before the Revolution, because it is that gorgeous, that rich, that filled with foment and despair. One great example is Marie Vieux Chauvet’s masterpiece Love Anger Madness. The early pages depict one of the main characters touching herself in her bed while she hears through her open window the screams of political prisoners who are being tortured in the nearby jail. These two actions are juxtaposed in a way that is uniquely Haitian and characterizes much of Haitian life and consequently its literature. Forrest Gander’s words in his new book, Be With, “the political begins in intimacy,” resonate here.
Besides meeting Haitian artists, our study abroad group fundraises for Love Orphanage, where we engage with the children for days at a time. Love Orphanage’s director Gabriel Fedelus is a father to eighteen children who were orphaned after the earthquake. Unlike the US, Haiti’s governmental agencies do not fund its orphanages. All assistance is received from overseas. The children lack basic needs such as soap and toothpaste not to mention medicine and meat. Needless to say, the children don’t own toys or games. Every penny that the orphanage receives goes toward sustaining the children’s basic needs. I was particularly awakened to this fact when I returned to the orphanage the following morning after one of the children, a six-year-old boy named Olson, asked me for my water bottle, to see he had constructed a pull-toy out of it. I could not help comparing his childhood to mine with its many toys. Are toys a kind of armor or shield against the imagination or do they give root to imaginative impulses? I think of Rilke’s idea of how necessary it is to be bored for the real imagination to grow.
Love Orphanage accepts donations at http://www.loveorphanage.org
No donation is too small.
Kevin Carey, The Lilypad (1353 Cambridge St, Inman Square, Cambridge, MA)
Friday, July 15th at 7pm
Kevin will be reading in the Boston Poetry Marathon 2016
Cindy Veach has three poems in the current issue of Zone 3
Sarah Bracey White, Travelers’ Rest (Ossining, NY)
Thursday, May 19th
Sarah is peaking about and reading from Primary Lessons, A Memoir at Somers League of Women’s Voters’ Annual Authors Luncheon
Sarah Sousa won a Massachusetts Cultural Council Fellowship for 2016
Harriet Levin Millan’s work was featured in Drunken Boat. Both of these poems will appear in her forthcoming book, My Oceanography.
This poem is part of CavanKerry’s series for National Poetry Month. Every day in April, we post a poem from our community of writers.
by Harriet Levin
I wish I could bumble and buzz
transfer honey to the tongue
of the stranger gyrating his hips,
his drink in his hand,
and lick off the salt rim
encrusting his tongue stud
with the unsullied swagger
of honeybee daggers in captivity
for three thousand miles
when their crate doors swing open
on almond blossoms.
When I sashay up, he recognizes me
as if after 18 years, an event more momentous
than the honeybee release, because at that moment
someone bumps my elbow
and my drink spills and his drink spills
and as he reaches over
to help assemble
the ghostly broken vessels
his knuckles brush the crotch on my too tight jeans
I’d like to hurriedly remove.
Is it just the clinging material
or my soul cleaving
or the solely material
weave of airways
collapsing the dark caves
beneath my eyes?
My fingers let go
stinging with ardor
as if into the bower
of each open flower.
“Ibiza” first appeared in Connotation Press.
Harriet Levin was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to first-generation Eastern European Jewish immigrants. She received her BA in English and Russian at Temple University and her MFA from the University of Iowa, where she also translated works for writers in the International Writing Program.
She is the author of two books of poetry: Girl in Cap and Gown (Mammoth Books, 2010), which was a National Poetry Series finalist, and The Christmas Show (Beacon Press, 1997), which was chosen by Eavan Boland for the Barnard New Women Poets Prize. She is also co-editor of Creativity and Writing Pedagogy: Linking Creative Writers, Researchers and Teachers (Equinox Books, 2014). How Fast Can You Run, a novel based on the life of Lost Boy of Sudan Michael Majok Kuch, (Harvard Square Editions) is forthcoming October 28, 2016.