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HEAR YE: Announcing the 2017-2018 WPR Creative Fellowship & Grants

I begin to go hear.
–Charles Olson

The Woodberry Poetry Room is pleased to announce that Kate Colby (of Providence, Rhode Island) is the recipient of the 2017-2018 WPR Creative Fellowship ($3,500) for her project “Mist on the Mirror: Writing in Olson’s Breath.”

The annual WPR Creative Fellowship invites poets, writers, multimedia artists, and scholars of contemporary poetry to propose creative projects that would benefit from the resources available at the Poetry Room and to generate new work that further actualizes the WPR’s collections and contributes to the culture at large. Previous recipients of the fellowship have included Eileen Myles, Fanny Howe and (most recently) Erín Moure.

Due to the unprecedented number of applicants and remarkable quality of the proposals, the committee will also be awarding two WPR Creative Grants ($1,000). The 2017-2018 grantees are Lillian-Yvonne Bertram (of Lowell, Massachusetts) and Christine Finn (of London, England). Finn’s grant is jointly funded by the Heaney Suite at Adams House. Past recipients of the WPR Creative Grant have included Dan Beachy-Quick and Lindsay Turner.

The WPR Creative Fellowships and Grants are generously funded by the Dr. Michael & Teresa Anagnostopoulos Fund.


Recipient: Kate Colby
Project: “Mist on the Mirror: Writing in Olson’s Breath”

Charles Olson famously stated that the measure of his poems is the breath, with which Colby will “procedurally engage—working with, into and against Olson’s binary local and metaphysical world-view from a gendered perspective.”

Colby grew up part-time in Gloucester, Massachusetts, where, she says, “the bulk of Olson’s work is not just located, in the conventional sense, but lain out, rhizomatically, with innumerable adventitious roots. His twin lenses are a would-be bachelor’s hermeticism and existential machismo, and I want to hold them to the light—in poetry—via the breath and the local information that Olson used to map his mind and certain exigencies of being he seemed to think specific to men.”

She also wants “to consider Olson’s pet concept of proprioception from a feminist perspective that includes aging and beauty, and the relationship between seeing and being seen—a topic she has been exploring recently in essays and poems concerning the phenomenology of seeing.”

Kate Colby is the author of six books, including I Mean (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2015), Unbecoming Behavior (UDP, 2008), The Return of the Native (UDP, 2011) and Fruitlands (Litmus Press), which won the Norma Farber First Book Award in 2007. She is a founding board member of the Gloucester Writers Center in Massachusetts and currently lives in Providence, where she was a 2012 fellow of the Rhode Island State Council for the Arts.


Recipient: Lillian-Yvonne Bertram
Project: “No One Living Knows How Long”

During her WPR Creative Grant, Lillian-Yvonne Bertram  will be using the WPR’s audio archives and Blue Star collection “to examine a shared racialized past, present, and future through the work of Black women poets.” She will place her current poetic work in dialogue with that of Gwendolyn Brooks (whose centennial is being celebrated in 2017), Wanda Coleman, Angela Jackson, Helene Johnson, Audre Lorde, Dawn Lundy Martin and Simone White.

She will give particular focus to the Poetry Room’s collection of “lesser-known chapbooks, broadsides and publications, such as Brooks’ Aloneness,” and explore the WPR’s collection of such small presses as “Detroit Broadside Press, Third World Press, Eidolon, Albion and Jihad Publications, which are hard to come by and represent very important works by necessary Black poets.”

Likewise, she states, that “crucial to this project are the actual voices of these women: their inflections, vernacular, tensions; their labor in sadness and anger.” She will be “listening to the one-of-a-kind recordings of Brooks reading with Clifton, Lorde’s reading introduced by June Jordan, and many others.”

A 2014 recipient of an NEA Creative Writing Poetry Fellowship, Bertram is the author of But a Storm is Blowing from Paradise (Red Hen Press, 2012), which was selected by Claudia Rankine as the 2010 Benjamin Saltman Award winner and was a 2013 poetry nominee for the Hurston/Wright Foundation Legacy Award. Her other books include slice from the cake made of air (Red Hen Press, 2016), and personal science (Tupelo Press, 2016).


Recipient: Christine Finn
Project: “Time-Tell: An Excavation
into Seamus Heaney’s Recordings”

During her WPR Creative Grant (jointly funded by the Heaney Suite at Adams House), Christine Finn will work with the Poetry Room’s extensive collection of Seamus Heaney recordings, specifically the analog recordings stored on cassettes—over 40 of which have recently been digitized. She has lectured widely on archaeology as inspiration to Heaney and has produced two BBC radio programs on the subject. During this sonic dig, she will create “another audio artifact out of layerings of words and traces of voices.” As a part of her grant, Finn will meet with Adams House students to present her work-in-progress in the very room where Heaney lived and wrote during his years at Harvard.

Finn works with various seams of investigation—archaeology, art, and reporting— in her career as a poet, scholar and broadcaster. Her Oxford doctorate Past Poetic: Archaeology and the Poetry of W. B. Yeats and Seamus Heaney was published by Duckworth Press. A short art-film, “Strange Powers,” based on Heaney’s reading of bog body poems was a sculptural installation in London in 2005. Finn has presented more than 50 foreign news essays for the BBC’s “From Our Own Correspondent,” and her journalism has appeared in the Sunday Times, The Guardian and Wired. She also writes on retro technology, and is the author of Artifacts: An Archaeologist’s Year in Silicon Valley (MIT Press, 2001).

Cover Image: Charles Olson, The Maximus Poems (University of California Press, 1983), 498.


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