Watershed Review

Est. 2012

Month: October, 2013

Writer’s Voice Spotlight: Jon Raymond

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The Chico State Writer’s Voice is proud to present author Jon Raymond.  Raymond is the author of the novel’s Half-Life and Rain Dragon, and a collection of short stories, Livability, winner of the 2009 Ken Kesey award for fiction.  He’s also a screenwriter whose credits include Old Joy, Wendy and Lucy, Meek’s Cutoff, Night Moves, and the HBO miniseries Mildred Pierce.  He lives in Portland with his family.  Raymond’s work was described by Publishers Weekly as, “Gorgeous…Raymond reveals how close failure (and worse) lingers,” and Booklist has described his work as “delicately refined and sublimely electric.”

You are strongly encouraged to see Jon Raymond read his work on Thursday, Oct. 17th at 7:30 pm in Ayers 201.

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Writer’s Voice Spotlight: Brenda Hillman

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The Butte College Literary Events Committee and CSU, Chico’s Writer’s Voice Series are proud to present poet Brenda Hillman. Hillman will be reading from her new collection, “Seasonal Words with Letters on Fire” at the 1078 Gallery, Tuesday, October 8th at 7:30 pm.

Born in Tucson, Arizona in 1951, Hillman has earned degrees at Pomona College and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She is currently a professor of creative writing at Saint Mary’s College in Moraga, California and is the author of nine books of poetry. She has received a number of awards, including a Pushcart Prize and the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Award, as well as fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Society of America. Hillman was also a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for her collection Bright Existence (1993) and a finalist for the National Book Critic’s Circle Award for her collection Loose Sugar (1997). Her latest collection, Seasonal Works with Letters on Fire (2013) is a nominee for the National Book Award.

Says Publishers Weekly: “Hillman’s fast-moving, energetic, and ample 10th collection blazes with indignation . . . . It’s one page lyrics its one-page lyrics connect the origins of the Roman alphabet, children’s reading habits, topical cries against our present-day wars, the evils of genetically modified seeds, the structure of Greek tragedy (“Tiny first with hurt earth spirits/ as in Aeschylus”), prose essays on poetry and protest, daily life on a West Coast campus, and larger-scale objections to the way that human beings have treated the earth…‘Around each word you’re reading/ there spins the unknowable flame.’”

Hillman’s poetry explores the way we use and interact with both the written and spoken word.  Her poetry works to displace our familiarity with language: the same letters we use to communicate “drone strike” or “mother” on one page have, on another, been literally turned on end as she does in “Autumn Ritual With Hate Turned Sideways.” In the case of “Two Summer Aubades, After John Clare,” she reduces lines to linguistic building blocks:

 

I.  towhee [Pipilo crissalis] wakes a human

               

                pp cp cp cp chp chp

pppppppppppp

cppppcpp   cpp   cpp

 

         (a woman tosses)

             Gulf disaster  ster sister

                aster    aster as   asp

         ppp cp cp p    bp  bp BP BP

           scree  screeeeem  we

       we we didn’t

         neee neeed to move so fast

2. woman in red sweater to humminbird

   sssssss  we  sssssss weee

no i’m not not  sweet not

 sweeeeetie i’m not

    something to eeeeeeat   

 

“Two Summer Aubades, After John Clare” – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zgxCNYzuHxI

The bold poetics found within the pages of “Seasonal Works With Letters On Fire” are further expressed through Hillman’s approaches to form. Take for instance a haibun entitled “The Body Politic Loses Her Hair,” which not only does not include a haiku, it does include a 1”x3/4” image of the poet holding a protest sign embedded within the text. Or a seemingly new form: a series of double columned “galaxies” dedicated to Helen Hillman and Ruth Gander. Hillman is also a vocal environmentalist, so Mother Earth as a potential subject is easy to imagine.

 

Ringed Galaxies Work With Our Mother

as they clean                             in skinny time

in desert autumn                                      drip on verbena

scraps of toast                          sorted rubber bands

scraps of string                         saved for the least

did she have to                     could someone else save

bits of matter                                could fail to rise

ask your doctor                        if cosmic fire

is right for you                                    when you were born

kingdom to creature                                  qui coisa

their iambs                                     of those

some galaxies rise                        as a furnace

needs cleaning                                               its arcing noise

the mom is our sheperd                her diving down

hummingbird baroque                   freedom you know

my substance                was not hid

from thee                  where I was

made in secret                   the visible talks back

her areas            of power   

just need                           not to worry

behind the tiny pizza                      behaviors

aren’t essences              you know that

Hillman’s poetry is at once deeply activistic while at the same time capable of transmuting language into its most basic parts. In doing so, she forces her readers to reevaluate their perspectives, their “new haircuts” and their “bosses” with their “new wars.”  She has distilled the fire of our language and the fires burning in the world around us into lines, stanzas, and dedications.

We hope you will join us in celebrating the work of Brenda Hillman.

By Stan Upshaw and Danielle Fernandez