Denise Riley and Jennifer Soong, reading and in conversation
With emcee, Brandon Brown
Supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts
This remote-access event starts promptly at 12:00 pm Pacific Time, and is free and open to the public. Media Captioning provided after the event, at our YouTube channel, and at Poetry Center Digital Archive. For other reasonable accommodations please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Please note early start-time, to accommodate our guest and audience in the UK, and elsewhere.
The Poetry Center is honored to welcome poets Denise Riley, in a rare US appearance, and Jennifer Soong. Joining us, respectively, from London and the Eastern US, the poets will each read from their work, then engage in conversation, along with emcee Brandon Brown, and the audience.
Maybe; maybe not
When I was a child I spoke as a thrush, I
thought as a clod, I understood as a stone,
but when I became a man I put away
plain things for lustrous, yet to this day
squat under hooves for kindness where
fetlocks stream with mud—shall I never
get it clear, down in the soily waters.
—Denise Riley, from Say Something Back
British poet Denise Riley is one of the finest and most individual writers at work in English today, and well-known among her peers as one of a generation of poets whose works and correspondences reach across the Atlantic. A distinguished philosopher and feminist theorist as well as poet, Riley has produced a body of work both intellectually uncompromising and emotionally open. Her first collection of poems from an American press appeared in 2020 in the New York Review of Books Poets series—Say Something Back / Time Lived, Without Its Flow includes her widely acclaimed lyric meditation on bereavement, composed, as she has written, “in imagined solidarity with the endless others whose adult children have died, often in far worst circumstances.” The accompanying prose work returns to the subject of grief. Time Lived, Without Its Flow is a book, as she indicates, “not…about death, but an altered condition of life.”
Riley’s poetry collections include Marxism for Infants (1977), Dry Air (1985), Mop Mop Georgette (1993), two selections in the Penguin Modern Poets series (with Douglas Oliver and Iain Sinclair, 1996; and, in 2017, with Maggie Nelson and Claudia Rankine), and, most recently, Selected Poems 1976–2016 (2019). Her critical and philosophical works include War in the Nursery: Theories of the Child and Mother (1983); “Am I That Name?”: Feminism and the Category of “Women” in History (1988); The Words of Selves: Identification, Solidarity, Irony (2000); The Force of Language (with Jean-Jacques Lecercle, 2004); and Impersonal Passion: Language as Affect (2005).
Come July, the yolk of a year
is dragged to lie on lawns of velvet sheen.
Dark-light blades, one-tenth-an-inch wide
over which the red sun hunches, immobilized.
With what do we lie, waiting the night
and the hot black earth to erupt from us
a muddled report? How little we do.
How little we rest. How much we demand
from the daily murders passing
Vulture-like, like stars.
—Jennifer Soong, from Near, At
Jennifer Soong was born in central New Jersey in the nineties. Her writing has appeared in Social Text, Berfrois, Prelude Magazine, DIAGRAM, and Fanzine, among other places, and been translated into Spanish. She holds a B.A. in English and Visual Studies from Harvard College and is currently a doctoral candidate at Princeton University, where she works on poetry and forgetting. Near, At is her first book.