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May 04, 2010, 7:00 PM

The Art of the Sonnet

Poetry Reading & Discussion
Participants: Heather Dubrow (moderator), Phillis Levin, Paul Muldoon, Susan Wolfson

Perhaps more than any other single poetic form, the sonnet has long fascinated writers and readers. Witness the range of poets who have explored the sonnet, a group that in the Anglo-American tradition alone includes Shakespeare, many of the Romantic poets, members of the Harlem Renaissance, such canonical figures in modern poetry as Robert Lowell and W.B. Yeats, and many contemporary and experimental poets. Subjects addressed in sonnets include not only love but also religion, politics, the natural world, Elvis Presley, and socks. Sonnets have been associated with both elite and mainstream culture, but many writers who see themselves as out of the mainstream have determinedly adopted—and adapted—this mode of writing, e.g., the English working class writer Tony Harrison and a number of LGBT poets. Panelists will read a selection of poems, and discuss sonnets in relation to larger questions about reading and writing poetry, such as the role of form, the poet's relationship to his or her predecessors, and what, or who, determines when something is a sonnet.

Heather Dubrow is John D. Boyd, S.J., Chair in the Poetic Imagination at Fordham University and director of the Poets Out Loud reading series. She is the author of six scholarly books, most recently The Challenges of Orpheus: Lyric Poetry and Early Modern England. A collection of poetry, Forms and Hollows, is forthcoming from Word Press in 2011. Most relevant to the discussion of sonnets is her 1995 book, Echoes of Desire: English Petrarchism and Its Counterdiscourses. Other publications include a co-edited collection of essays, two chapbooks of poetry, and articles on early modern literature and on teaching, as well as poems in numerous journals. Current projects include a book on the academic profession and a revisionist study of immediacy in lyric poetry, focusing especially on spatiality and temporality. Among Dubrow's interdisciplinary interests is the relationship between the visual and literary arts.

Phillis Levin is the author of four collections of poetry: Temples and Fields, The Afterimage, Mercury, and May Day. She is the editor of The Penguin Book of the Sonnet: 500 Years of a Classic Tradition in English. Her poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Grand Street, The Nation, The New Republic, Poetry, The Kenyon Review, The Paris Review, Agni, PN Review, and Poetry London, and have been published in many anthologies, including The Best American Poetry and Poetry 180. Her honors include an Ingram Merrill grant, the Poetry Society of America's 1988 Norma Farber First Book Award, a 1995 Fulbright Scholar Award to Slovenia, the 1999 Amy Lowell Poetry Travelling Scholarship, a 2003 Guggenheim Fellowship, and a 2007 National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship. She is a professor of English and poet-in-residence at Hofstra University.

Paul Muldoon's main collections of poetry are New Weather; Mules; Why Brownlee Left; Quoof; Meeting The British; Madoc: A Mystery; The Annals of Chile; Hay; Poems 1968-1998; Moy Sand and Gravel, for which he won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize; and Horse Latitudes. The End of the Poem, a collection of Oxford lectures, was published in 2006. He is Howard G. B. Clark '21 Professor in the Humanities at Princeton University and the Poetry Editor of The New Yorker. His awards include an American Academy of Arts and Letters award in literature in 1996, the 1994 T. S. Eliot Prize, the 1997 Irish Times Poetry Prize, the 2003 Griffin International Prize for Excellence in Poetry, the 2004 American Ireland Fund Literary Award, and the 2004 Shakespeare Prize.

Susan Wolfson is Professor of English at Princeton University, President of the Association of Literary Scholars, Critics, and Writers, and General Editor of Longman Cultural Editions. She is the author of the prize-winning Formal Charges: The Shaping of Poetry in British Romanticism and Borderlines: The Shiftings of Gender in British Romanticism. She is co-editor (with Marshall Brown) of the anthology Reading for Form, and editor of The Cambridge Companion to John Keats. Her most recent critical study is Romantic Interactions: Social Being and the Turns of Literary Action, forthcoming from Johns Hopkins University Press. Among her honors are grants from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. She will be giving the Clark Lectures at Trinity College, Cambridge in 2011. Her current project is co-editing a special issue of Literary Imagination on "The Sonnet," which will include among its contributors Heather Dubrow, Paul Muldoon, and Phillis Levin.

The Association of Literary Scholars, Critics, and Writers is a participating sponsor of this event.

This program is made possible, in part, with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council, and the New York State Council on the Arts, a state agency.


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