Reading & Discussion Subversive Structures: The Poetry of Jan Wagner and Yusef Komunyakaa

Subversive Structures: The Poetry of Jan Wagner and Yusef Komunyakaa Nancy Crampton / Alberto Novelli - Villa Massimo


Goethe-Institut New York

30 Irving Place
New York, NY 10003

Earlier this year, Jan Wagner won the prestigious Georg Büchner Prize of the German Academy for Language and Literature. The jury praised his poems for the way they “combine playful use of words and masterful command of form, musical sensuality and intellectual concision.” English-speaking readers now have the opportunity to experience his poetry in translation in a new volume of his poems,The Art of Topiary (Milkweed Press, 2017). On the occasion of this publication, Wagner and his translator David Keplinger join renowned American poet Yusef Komunyakaa for a reading of their poetry in German and in English, followed by a brief discussion.
How to be playful and subversive within strict forms is an art that both Wagner and Kommunyakaa master, and though they encase their poems in very tight structures, their lines remain spontaneous and fluid.  Wagner and Komunyakaa’s reading will reveal questions of control and freedom in their respective work, as well as the influence of translation and translating.
Jan Wagner, is a poet, essayist and translator of English-language poetry (including Charles Simic, James Tate, Simon Armitage, Matthew Sweeney and Robin Robertson). He has received numerous prizes for his poetry, which has been translated in over 30 languages, including the Prize of the Leipzig Book Fair and the Georg Büchner Prize. The Art of Topiary is his first volume of poems to be published in North America.
Yusef Komunyakaa’s books of poetry include Taboo, Dien Cai DauNeon Vernacular (for which he received the Pulitzer Prize), WarhorsesThe Chameleon Couch, and most recently, The Emperor of Water Clocks. His awards include the William Faulkner Prize, the Kingsley Tufts Award for Poetry, the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the Poetry Society of America’s Shelley Memorial Award, and the 2011 Wallace Stevens Award. His plays, performance art and libretti have been performed internationally, and include Wakonda’s Dream, Saturnalia, and Gilgamesh: a Verse Play. He teaches in the Graduate Creative Writing Program at New York University and serves as State Poet of New York.

David Keplinger is the author of five poetry collections, which include the forthcoming Another City (Milkweed Editions, 2018) and The Most Natural Thing (New Issues, 2013). He has been awarded the Colorado Book Award, the T.S. Eliot Prize, the Cavafy Prize from Poetry International, and two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts. As a translator he has collaborated with the Danish poet Carsten René Nielsen on two collections, recently House Inspections (BOA, 2011), a Lannan Translation Series selection, and in 2017 his collaborations with the German poet Jan Wagner, The Art of Topiary,was published by Milkweed Press. Keplinger directs the MFA Program in Creative Writing at American University in Washington, D.C.