Caution: Flashing Words Ahead As Poets Jeff Friedman, Graham Foust, and Stefene Russell Visit Observable Readings on Monday, April 4
Tuesday, March 15, 2011 at 08:56 PM
How do we describe Jeff Friedman? Other poets have tried: Master ventriloquist, comedian, great liar, visionary. Let's agree with Gerald Stern and simply say he is a "true poet." Friedman is the author of five collections of poetry: Working in Flour (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2011) Black Threads (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2007), Taking Down the Angel (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2003), Scattering the Ashes (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 1998) and The Record-Breaking Heat Wave (BkMk Press-University of Missouri-Kansas City, 1986).
He has won two fellowships from the New Hampshire State Arts Council, the Editor's Prize from The Missouri Review, and the Milton Dorfman Poetry Prize. Since 1994, he has taught at Keene State College, where he and poet William Doreski co-founded the Keene State Writers' Conference. In 2003 he was the Distinguished Poet-In-Residence in the MFA program at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. He lives in West Lebanon, New Hampshire, with the painter Colleen Randall and their dog Bekka. To read a sample of his work, click here.
Graham Foust is a master of the quicksilver hyperbole, the plangent aphorism. His terse lines and their brilliant harmonies began in his upper Midwestern childhood (Eau Claire, Wisconsin-raised) and received approval at Beloit College, George Mason University (an MFA), and the Poetics Program at the State University of New York-Buffalo, where on his way to a doctorate he passed under the instruction of two of America's finest poets, Robert Creeley and Susan Howe. Several destinations later, Foust teaches at St. Mary's College of California (Oakland, to be precise) where he lives with his wife and son. He remains even there a poet of culture and place, one of the most sophisticated titlers and demotic sidewinders in our climate. Foust has written four collections of poetry: As in Every Deafness (Flood Editions, 2003), Leave the Room to Itself (Ahsahta Press, 2004), Necessary Stranger (Flood Editions, 2007), and A Mouth in California (Flood Editions, 2009). To read some of his work, click here.
Stefene Russell belongs to the kaleidoscope school of poetry as exemplified by Pablo Neruda-shattering and remixing images to create a startling, stained-glass window of the mind. She is true to the etymology of the word kaleidoscope--observer of beautiful forms--as she takes clearheaded, loving, and sometimes lamentful looks at the world. In one series of poems, she celebrates and mourns extinct animals like the Las Vegas dace, one more creature giving way to urban encroachment: "Go whirl around in the river, outlines of/Indian paintbrush wavering over you in the darkness,/and the lights of the city, far off/ promising you everything,/lights effervescing/like a pirate's flying saucer." Her vision also encompasses bittersweet urban treasures, as exemplified by the poem "Stardust in a Phrygian Key," where she writes: "Tiny old car lots, strung with lantern-lights/make me feel like I have tears in my eyes."
Russell is a member of the Poetry Scores, a collective dedicated to translating poetry into other media. In 2007, Poetry Scores published her long poem "Go South for Animal Index" as a letterpress book with a full-length CD inside. She is the culture editor of St. Louis Magazine, executive editor of St. Louis AT HOME, and the former co-editor of the late 52ndcity.com. To read a selection of Russell's work, click here.