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.
Come for a special night of poetry in a rustic speakeasy-style venue, featuring a fearsome foursome of CavanKerry’s finest!
A strand of algae leaves its rubbery
translucent swatch on my skin. My first impulse
is to peel it off lest a horror
movie version of contagion unfold
and my skin turn zombie green—telltale alien,
more slime than flesh, attracting gnats, pinhead skitters
moving so rapidly all is flux.
My second impulse is to keep it as a totem
of subterranean life, a scrap chiseled
from things that are meant to sink. Deep is form,
like a snail that burrows into silt, shell
growing out of sludgy cravings.
A life-in-death feel. The croaks frogs make
drowning in natural desire. Believe me,
diving into this mosh pit, I do not
float softly through water.
Pond life is too shallow. No flotsam or jetsam,
sneakers, ice-hockey gloves, Chinese message
in a bottle. Even the dam’s stopped up,
no bigger than an oversized sink filled
nightly with dishes. No reputable
oceanographer will chart its depth—
another thing I’ll never know
about myself. Territorial and fiercely defensive,
rock bottom will not be reached.
To be essential something must be both deep
and wide. Eyes with skies in them. Upswept
lashes and brows. A western monsoon.
Dreams that stretch over many nights to mimic
the feel of sea-foam on ankles,
down to the cellular properties of summer.
Eva Hesse escaped Nazi Germany as a five-year-old, separated from her parents and placed on the kindertransport to London. They eventually reunited and immigrated to the US. Although “My Oceanography” is rooted in my experience, the inspiration for this poem is certainly my preoccupation with Hesse. Alienation, fragmentation and absurdity are recurrent themes in her work.
Similar to so many people, I suffer from not feeling like I belong anywhere—a combination of of my particular background and psyche and the general human experience. Although I did not set out to write this poem in a way that would capture Hesse’s immigrant experience, (one to which I can find connections as the granddaughter of refugees and immigrants who fled pogroms in Eastern Europe), once I assembled the book I began to see how the poems are saturated with this history. For me, writing is a largely subconscious, intuitive process. I immerse myself in a project, often for years, (this time, in Hesse) and it entirely takes over my being. You could say it’s like method acting! I’m hard to be around because it’s all I can talk about.
The neuropsychologist Alice Flaherty discusses creativity in terms of irrepressibility in her book The Midnight Disease. She says that writers often experience extreme feelings of empathy when they think that everything relates to their project, so much so that they might believe that the universe is bestowing upon them gifts or signs. She gives the example of a flock of geese flying up after she lost twin daughters and how she believed the geese were a sign for her to finish writing her book instead of giving herself over to her grief. An irrefutable network of coincidence and connection guides me through all my projects. In fact, I would say that the mania of feeling like everything I say or do is forwarding a particular work, brings it into existence. I often walk around the ponds where “My Oceanography” is set, but on this particular day a strand of algae stuck to my skin.
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