Arts Society & Culture

Poetry series explores inspirations behind works

Melisa Cahnmann-Taylor at mic-h
Melisa Cahnmann-Taylor

Athens, Ga. – A weeklong poetry series in June not only puts University of Georgia graduate students on stage, but also allows them to share it with several established, published poets.

The readings, which are free and open to the public, are part of the fourth annual “Seat in the Shade: A Summer Poetry Reading Series.” Performances take place at 7 p.m. June 4-11 at The Globe, 199 N. Lumpkin St. in Athens. A different professional poet is featured each night, while the finale performance, titled “Poetry By and For Educators: Readings from the Collective,” features both professionals and students.

Featured poets delve into topics such as the death of a loved one, being gay, and the natural world. Melisa Cahnmann-Taylor, professor in the UGA College of Education’s department of language and literacy education, organized the series and the class to which it corresponds. She said the format will make the poetry accessible to both students and the general public.

“This is the kind of experience where if you didn’t think you understood poetry, this is the place where you can ask questions,” she said, noting that the poets will discuss their creative process and inspiration following their readings. “Everyone has a different quality to their work.”

Poets scheduled to read include:

June 4: Collin Kelly, author of “Render,” which was selected as one of the best books of the year by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, as well as two other collections of poetry. He is also the author of the Venus Trilogy of novels and has won numerous awards for his work.

June 5: Melissa Hotchkiss, whose poems and prose have appeared in numerous publications. She is one of the founding editors of Barrow Street Press and lives in New York City. Her first book of poems, “Storm Damage,” was recently published by Tupelo Press.

June 8: Jericho Brown, the recipient of a Whiting Writers Award and fellowships from the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University and the National Endowment for the Arts. His poems have appeared in national magazines and his first book, “Please,” won the American Book Award.

June 9: Tom Lombardo, author of poetry collections “What Bends Us Blue” and “The Name of This Game.” His poems have also appeared in national and international journals and he is poetry series editor for Press 53 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

June 9: Samuel Prestridge, who has published poems, articles, essays and newspaper articles and is completing his first volume of poems, “A Dog’s Job of Work.”

June 10: Ed Pavlic, award-winning author of more than a half-dozen books and a professor of creative writing at UGA. Pavlic is author of the forthcoming books, “Let’s Let That Are Not Yet : Inferno” and “Who Can Afford to Improvise?: James Baldwin and Black Music, the Lyric and the Listeners.”

June 11: Cahnmann-Taylor and students showcase their poetry. Cahnmann-Taylor was a 2013-2014 Fulbright scholar in Oaxaca, Mexico, writing a book about English-speaking Americans moving south and becoming Spanish-English bilinguals.

The event is part of an annual class on poetry writing for UGA graduate students. By day, Cahnmann-Taylor takes the students on and off campus to experience another world and the dialogue that surrounds it-whether that’s the Georgia Museum of Art, a greenhouse laboratory on the UGA campus or a Burmese refugee enclave in Madison County. Then, heads filled with ideas, the students watch the guest poets in their public readings for even more inspiration.

“During the day the students are swimming in these words, then they hear a professional poet, and by 9 a.m. the next day they have to produce a new poem,” she said, adding that the public performances are a chance for everyone to be involved in the creative process. “Not everyone can take the day off for the class, but they can come in the evening and get a seat in the shade.”