The Monday Poets Reading Series at the Free Library started as a reading group of local poets 22 years ago, sponsored by the Literature Department, and it is now a hallmark program of the Free Library’s new Center for Public Life. Taking place on the first Monday of every month from October 2017 through April 2018, the series showcases a variety of talented local and regional poets. Each event features two poets, reading whatever of their poetry they choose—recent work, published, unpublished, what they think is their best poetry, or even what they are not so sure about.
These events are wonderful opportunities to hear not only original work, but the stories and inspirations of the poets themselves. Past presenters introducing to their work have touched on their personal motivations and private lives, as a way to shed more light on their work. They’ve offered stories about a step-father they didn’t like, a band that they performed in, and getting up at 4:00 a.m. in the morning to feed a child and hearing the owls in their backyard. Poetry critics often say a poem must stand by itself, without needing explanation—at least when we first read it. But the extra, sometimes intimate material offered during the Monday Poets Reading Series can be an illuminating, exciting look inside the work of today’s leading poets.
Join us the first Monday of every month from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in Room 108 of the Parkway Central Library, 1901 Vine Street.
This season, the Monday Poets Reading Series will feature the following events:
James Matthew Wilson and Ryan Wilson │October 2, 2017
James Matthew Wilson has published seven books, including three volumes of poetry: Four Verse Letters, The Violent and the Fallen, and, most recently, Some Permanent Things. His book on the contemporary crisis and ancient philosophy of poetry, The Fortunes of Poetry in an Age of Unmaking, has garnered extensive critical praises. He has also published a new study of metaphysics and aesthetics, The Vision of the Soul: Truth, Goodness, and Beauty in the Western Tradition. He is an associate professor of philosophical theology and literature at Villanova University.
Ryan Wilson’s work appears in periodicals such as First Things, Five Points, The Hopkins Review, The New Criterion, The Sewanee Review, and The Yale Review. His first book, The Stranger World, won the 2017 Donald Justice Poetry Prize and was published by Measure Press. Currently the editor of Literary Matters, he teaches at The Catholic University of America and lives with his wife in Baltimore.
Beth Feldman Brandt and Fiona Sze-Lorrain │November 6, 2017 (note: This month’s program begins at 6:00 p.m. and it is a Poetry Doubleheader, as Nikki Giovanni will also read in Montgomery Auditorium at 7:30 p.m.)
Beth Feldman Brandt is a poet and performer whose work on the page and stage explores diverse topics, from 16th-century herbal remedies to dating before the internet. Most recently, she wrote and performed in RetroLove with jazz collaborator Monnette Sudler.
Fiona Sze-Lorrain is a poet, literary translator, and zheng harpist who writes and translates in English, French, and Chinese. Her third poetry collection, The Ruined Elegance (from Princeton University Press), was a finalist for the 2016 Los Angeles Times Book Prize and was chosen by Library Journal as one of the Best Books 2015: Poetry. Her latest translation, contemporary Chinese poet-scenographer Yi Lu’s Sea Summit (Milkweed, 2016), is shortlisted for the Best Translated Book Award. Also the author of two previous titles, My Funeral Gondola (2013) and Water the Moon (2010), as well as several translations of contemporary Chinese, Taiwanese, and American poets, she lives in Paris. Explore her work at fionasze.com.
Andrew Nurkin and TBD │December 4, 2017
Andrew Nurkin’s poems have appeared in The Believer, North American Review, Los Angeles Review, Massachusetts Review, FIELD, Iron Horse Literary Review, and elsewhere. He holds his MFA in poetry from Vermont College of Fine Arts and was a 2016 Mid Atlantic Arts Fellow at the Millay Colony for the Arts. He currently serves as Deputy Director for Enrichment and Civic Engagement at the Free Library of Philadelphia.
Philadelphia Poets Laureate │January 8, 2018
An evening of poetry with the 2018–2019 Philadelphia Poet Laureate, to be announced in December 2017, and Husnaa Hashim, the current Youth Poet Laureate. Now housed at the Free Library, the Philadelphia Poet Laureate program celebrates poetry’s vital civic role in our city and the power of poetry to create community.
Yolanda Wisher and Lamont Dixon │February 5, 2018
Yolanda Wisher is the current Poet Laureate of Philadelphia, serving until the end of 2017. The author of Monk Eats an Afro, Wisher performs a unique blend of poetry and song with her band The Afroeaters. She is currently working on her second book of poems, a recording of original songs, and a collection of essays.
Lamont Dixon is a poet, teacher, and performing artist. He has been published in African Voices, Phylaxis, New Poet's Revolution, and Essence Magazine. He has received the Phylaxis Society's Award and the John G. Lewis Medal. He is once again our season’s moderator. Monday Poets is greatly enriched by his energy, talent, and charm.
Catherine Staples and Ernest Hilbert │March 5, 2018
Catherine Staples is the author of The Rattling Window and Never a Note Forfeit. Her poems and reviews have appeared in Poetry, Kenyon Review, Gettysburg Review, The Southern Review, and The Massachusetts Review. Honors include the McGovern Prize, a fellowship from Sewanee Writers Conference, and a residency from the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Annaghmakerrig, Ireland. She teaches in the English and Honors programs at Villanova University.
Ernest Hilbert is the author of three books of poetry: Sixty Sonnets, All of You on the Good Earth, and Caligulan, which was selected as winner of the 2017 Poets’ Prize. He lives in Philadelphia, where he works as a rare-book dealer and writes about books for The Washington Post.
Olga Dugan and Amy Baron │April 9, 2018
Olga Dugan is a Cave Canem poet and Lindback Professor of English at Community College of Philadelphia. Her award-winning poems appear or are forthcoming in Typehouse Literary Magazine, Kweli, The Southern Quarterly, Pirene’s Fountain, Tipton Poetry Journal, and Scribble. Scholarly research for a book Olga’s writing on Natasha Trethewey, U.S. Poet Laureate (2012–2014), has recently appeared in The Journal of African American History and Emory University’s MARBL Series “Following the Fellows.”
Amy Barone’s new poetry collection, We Became Summer, from New York Quarterly Books, will be released in 2018. Her chapbooks are Kamikaze Dance (Finishing Line Press) and Views from the Driveway (Foothills Publishing.) Her poetry has appeared in Gradiva, Standpoint (UK), Paterson Literary Review, Philadelphia Poets, and Sensitive Skin, among other publications. She spent five years as Italian correspondent for Women's Wear Daily and Advertising Age. Originally from Bryn Mawr, PA, Amy now lives in New York City.