St. Louis Poetry Center

Observable Readings
for 2014-2015

September 8th:
Jessica Baran
David J. Daniels

October 13th:
Nathan Hoks
Devin Johnston
Tyler Mills

November 10th:
Kara Candito
Bridget Lowe

December 8th:
Jennifer Perrine
Phillip B. Williams

February 9th:
Lauren K. Alleyne
Ye Chun
Gary L. McDowell

March 9th:
Tarfia Faizullah
Ruben Quesada

April 13th:
Jennifer L. Knox
Richard Newman

May 11th:
Rebecca Hazelton
Ted Mathys

View Past Seasons

Poets Joshua Corey, Brian Teare, and Jessica Baran Offer St. Louis "A Momentary Stay Against Confusion" at the Regional Arts Commission on May 14

Tuesday, April 24, 2012 at 07:52 PM

Please Note: Observable Readings will hold this reading at the Regional Arts Commission at 6128 Delmar Blvd. in the Loop instead of the Schlafly Bottleworks.  As usual, our event starts at 8 p.m.


Joshua Corey's poetry reflects his sage movement over our vast land. Born in 1971 in northern New Jersey, he was interested in poetry by the time the rest of us gave Reagan a second term in office.  Attending Vassar College, the University of Montana, Stanford University (as a Stegner Fellow), and then Cornell University, where his doctoral work was in modernist pastoral, Corey has taken Olsonian strides across America and back again - now he calls Evanston, Illinois home, where he is the Gustav E. Beerly Jr. Assistant Professor of English at Lake Forest College.  The intelligence bespoken by these erotic pursuits is raptorial, and like his dissertation subject, Charles Olson, Corey has expanded his poetic generation's awareness of  how the printed page isolates the desire that readers may hear in a lovely phrase, and can begin a recombinant movement of eye, of ear, of taste, to find its like, or sense, in a restless, forward movement through series, sequence, language (if you know French, you're as likely to hear it in a Corey poem as you are to hear a line from a pop song, or a dense, Cranesque metonymy).

Certainly it was Corey's ear that first drew Robert Pinsky's attention to him, with the result that Pinsky chose Corey's manuscript as winner of the 2003 Sawtooth Poetry Prize for his first volume, Selah. This was followed, however, two years later by the still more remarkable volume, The Fourier Series, awarded by Christian Bok the Fitzpatrick-O'Dinn Award for booklength formal work. In turn came Composition Marble (2006), Hope and Anchor (2007), and most recently, Severance Songs (2011).  Corey's poetry offers a rich, highly engaged response to the Romantic tradition, an experimental work in renewing and re-appraising the modernist tradition in our poetry. 

Few poets resemble an architect as nearly as does Brian Teare.  That he is a bookmaker in addition to a poet with prodigious talent makes perfect sense when one encounters the intricate, well-planned structures within his own books.  Their designs lead readers through a layered experience to an altogether new space.  Reading his first book "The Room Where I Was Born" is like playing with a Russian nesting doll.  Each beautifully detailed doll is also a passageway to the next. Epigraph leads to introductory poem, which leads to section, which leads to titled sequences within the section, and then to the poems themselves. And so the story and lines of inquiry deepen.  While Teare's themes and voice give these parts a family resemblance, the character of each nested doll is wildly different from the last, suggesting the range of Teare's literary education.

"Brian Teare's poetry is turning the lyric on its ear," writes D. A. Powell, "along with the Southern Gothic, the fairy tale, the Old Testament--anything that gets in the way of his powerful voice gets pulled in, chewed up, spit out as a new and frightening (and sexy!) utterance."  But Teare is no mere collagist.  The poems, whether elegies, letters, songs, a so called "floating poem," or a "poem between line breaks," have their own integrity and consistency.  Their reasons for being (and reason for being different) are not mere whimsy, as Teare himself has explained in an interview:

"Though I wouldn't dare to extrapolate a universal definition from my own experience, poetry's role in my life is simple: it seems to me the best, most flexible way to address the thousand questions that arise from being alive. Why? I love that it is as much music as logic, as much rhythm as syntax, and I love its essentially dialectical mix of ideal and quotidian, the poetic and anti-poetic, its marriage of heaven and hell, spirit and matter."

Teare experiments with traditional forms--perhaps most significantly the elegy--cross-pollinating them with the sounds and sights of contemporary and popular culture to create savvy, even sassy hybrid poems that invigorate the genres from which they derive.  And the best of Teare's explorations offer us the best of what Frost hoped poetry could offer: "a momentary stay against confusion." 

Teare is the author of three full-length books-The Room Where I Was Born, Sight Map, and Pleasure.  A fourth, Companion Grasses, is forthcoming in 2013 from Omnidawn. A former Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, Teare also has been awarded fellowships by the National Endowment for the Arts and the MacDowell Colony. He won the Brittingham Prize in 2003 and the Triangle Award for Gay Poetry in 2004. He is an assistant professor in the creative writing program at Temple University. 

Jessica Baran is the art writer for the Riverfront Times. Her first book, Remains to Be Used, a collection of ekphrastic poetry, was published in late 2010. A chapbook of prose sonnets, Late and Soon, Getting and Spending, came out in 2011.