Prize Poets 2013 ~ Fady Joudah and Katherine Larson
Poet Martha Serpas (left)
introduced the Prize Poet readings by Fady Joudah and Katherine Larson. Martha Serpas’ remarks are reproduced below:
Today we hear from two Yale Younger poets, both with Louise Glück as a fan. But I do not want to speak about them as one, except, for a moment, in gratitude that they embody two principles of my poetic faith: first, that passion and precision enable the life-affirming practice of attention. Without attention, there is no poetry and no true presence. Without presence, there is only sleep-walking and separation. And second, that there is nothing under the sun, certainly not science, that can be isolated from poetry’s animating mystery nor can poetry be distilled from any part of existence. It is the close attention to the particulars of this world—that is passion, precision, and paradox—that embodies the poetry I find most vital.
Fady Joudah spoke in an interview with David Baker of The Kenyon Review of his attempt to universalize the particulars of tragedy and suffering, of humanity, that of the speaker and of the “other.” I struggle with and against the classification of suffering, which often perpetuates further dehumanization of victims, through justification of violence or of silence.
Joudah is a Palestinian-American, a physician, a father, a translator. One senses the rush toward what we sometimes call the poetic event is so strong for this poet that consideration of roles and modes are not even afterthoughts. Louise Glück talks about Joudah’s “circumstance and profession” as opposed to “will and fashion” as being what is necessary to his luminous poems and, I’d say, to the constituent self Joudah creates and recreates in his poems. Glück calls Joudah “a political artist,” which describes, for me, both his presence with suffering and the response of his inextricable, inventive lyricism.
THE EARTH IN THE ATTIC is the title of his Yale Younger volume chosen by Gluck in 2007. He has published two translations of Mahmoud Darwish’s poetry, THE BUTTERFLY’S BURDEN and IF I WERE ANOTHER. LIKE A STRAW BIRD IT FOLLOWS ME is his translation of Ghassan Zaqtan’s poetry. (Joudah, through heroic personal efforts, enabled audiences all over the country to hear Zaqtan this year. So add committed attaché to his list of vocations. He brings masterful poetry to our awareness through his person and through his award-winning translations.) His second book of original poems, ALIGHT, is due in 2013 from Copper Canyon.
About Katherine Larson’s 2011 volume RADIAL SYMMETRY, Louise Glück writes:
Most poets who are, like Katherine Larson, deeply attuned to the natural world tend to be specifically attuned to a particular landscape. RADIAL SYMMETRY has no one context; its shifting backgrounds take the place of motion giving the collection a feeling of progression or drama, as though movement in space substituted for movement in time.
As a writer for whom the wetlands—at this point—are the only animating landscape, I admire Larson’s ability to awaken a number of different ecologies—Naples to Uganda—and I am moved by how the swamps and oysters and shrimp boats I thought I knew well shimmer in the varied contexts she creates. As Larson says herself, the title RADIAL SYMMETRY is art’s “guiding principle,” what allows us to approach the environment from any angle. Louise Glück writes, “Larson’s repose is also a quivering suspension, in which multiple perceptions, multiple elements, are held in extended and mysterious relation.” Again, this is passionate attention that is undeterred by paradox.
Katherine Larson holds degrees from The University of Arizona and the University of Virginia. She has worked as a molecular biologist and field ecologist.
Larson’s poems have been published in such anthologies as Prentice Hall’s Literature: An Introduction to Reading and Writing, as well as journals including AGNI, Boulevard, the Kenyon Review, the Massachusetts Review, Poetry, Poetry Northwest, and others.
She is the recipient of a Kate Tufts Discovery Award, a Ruth Lilly Fellowship, and The Union League Civic and Arts Foundation Poetry Prize. Larson currently lives in Arizona with her husband and daughter.
Fady Joudah is a Palestinian American poet, translator and physician of internal medicine. Alight, (Copper Canyon Press, 2013) is his second book of poetry, after The Earth in the Attic which won the Yale Prize for Younger Poets in 2007. He is also internationally acclaimed as a translator of the poetry of Mahmoud Darwish, and most recently of Ghassan Zaqtan’s Like a Straw Bird it Follows Me,which is a finalist for the 2013 Griffin Poetry Prize. Textu, an e-book of short poems tapped out on his cell phone, is also being released. He has served in the field with Doctors Without Borders.