Sep 19, 2019, 7:00 pm
Salt Lake City
Wasatch Front Region
VenueArt Barn / Finch Lane Gallery
54 S Finch Ln
Salt Lake City , UT 84102-1809
The Guest Writers Series at the University of Utah welcomes poets Tom Sleigh and Alan Shapiro on Thursday, September 19th at the Finch Lance Gallery at 7:00 PM.
Tom Sleigh describes himself donning a flak jacket and helmet, working as a journalist inside militarized war zones and refugee camps, as “a sort of Rambo Jr.” With self-deprecation and empathetic humor, these essays recount his experiences during several tours in Africa and in the Middle Eastern region once called Mesopotamia, “the land between two rivers.”
Sleigh asks three central questions: What did I see? How could I write about it? Why did I write about it? The first essays in The Land between Two Rivers focus on the lives of refugees in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Kenya, Somalia, and Iraq. Under the conditions of military occupation, famine, and war, their stories can be harrowing, even desperate, but they’re also laced with wily humor and an undeluded hopefulness, their lives having little to do with their depictions in mass media.
Tom Sleigh is the author of a previous essay collection, Interview with a Ghost, and ten books of poetry, including Station Zed, Army Cats, and Space Walk, winner of the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award. He teaches at Hunter College and lives in New York.
We often ask ourselves what gets lost in translation—not just between languages, but in the everyday trade-offs between what we experience and what we are able to say about it. But the visionary poems of this collection invite us to consider: what is loss, in translation? Writing at the limits of language—where “the signs loosen, fray, and drift”—Alan Shapiro probes the startling complexity of how we confront absence and the ephemeral, the heartbreak of what once wasn’t yet and now is no longer, of what (like racial prejudice and historical atrocity) is omnipresent and elusive. Through poems that are fine-grained and often quiet, Shapiro tells of subtle bereavements: a young boy is shamed for the first time for looking “girly”; an ailing old man struggles to visit his wife in a nursing home; or a woman dying of cancer watches her friends enjoy themselves in her absence. Throughout, this collection traverses rather than condemns the imperfect language of loss—moving against the current in the direction of the utterly ineffable.
Alan Shapiro has published many books, including Reel to Reel, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. A member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he is the William R. Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professor of English and comparative literature at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
This event is made possible with support from the Guest Writers Series and Utah Humanities.