Conversation digital salon: Poetry as Radical Expression

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3:00pm EDT


The Goethe-Institut New York welcomes award-winning poets Roger Reeves and Solmaz Sharif for a poetry reading and discussion of poetry as radical expression.

When the American poet and activist Audre Lorde began a visiting professorship in West Berlin in 1984, she helped establish the term ‘Afro-German’ and encouraged a form of resistance through linguistic and poetic expression. In setting an example for a politically engaged practice of poetry which embraced intersectionality across racial and ethnic borders, she also challenged the aestheticizing ideals of Germany’s tradition of romantic poetry, which purported to represent universal truth through a depoliticized and tenacious commitment to beauty.

Lorde’s legacy continues to resonate today. Black Lives Matter began as a movement protesting police brutality and violence against African-Americans. BLM has expanded to confront the ways in which profound racism and racial inequality continue to define the global experience. Language is central to that experience. The language we use to articulate our sense of belonging in the world is always already politicized, including our bodies, which are claimed by language and never entirely our own. Nonetheless, beauty survives, miraculously, under conditions of persisting violence.

What tense space does poetry occupy at the intersection of race, politics, and aesthetics? Can poetry be a catalyst for social change and emancipation? The radical expressive potential of poetry in the present is the subject of this reading and discussion between two acclaimed poets.

digital salon is an online event series by the Goethe-Institut New York. It offers a space for thinkers from diverse and vibrant cultural, artistic, and intellectual disciplines to come together for spontaneous and engaging discussions. Its topics are culled from the social, political, and cultural life of contemporary Germany.

Roger Reeves earned his PhD from the University of Texas, Austin, and is the author of King Me (Copper Canyon Press, 2013), winner of the Larry Levis Reading Prize, the PEN/Oakland Josephine Miles Literary Award, and a John C. Zacharis First Book Award. He is the recipient of a Whiting Award and a Pushcart Prize, as well as fellowships from Cave Canem, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Poetry Foundation, and Princeton University. An associate professor of poetry in the English Department at the University of Texas, Austin, Reeves was the February 2020 guest editor for Poem-a-Day. His second collection of poetry is forthcoming from W. W. Norton.

Born in Istanbul to Iranian parents, Solmaz Sharif holds degrees from U.C. Berkeley, where she studied and taught with June Jordan’s Poetry for the People, and New York University. Her work has appeared in Harper’s, The Paris Review, Poetry, The Kenyon Review, the New York Times, and others. The former managing director of the Asian American Writers’ Workshop, her work has been recognized with a “Discovery”/Boston Review Poetry Prize, Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award, and an NEA fellowship. She was most recently selected to receive a 2016 Lannan Literary Fellowship and the 2017 Holmes National Poetry Prize from Princeton University. A former Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, she is currently an Assistant Professor in Creative Writing at Arizona State University. Her first poetry collection, LOOK, published by Graywolf Press in 2016, was a finalist for the National Book Award.