If education, as Stefan Collini said last night in his Enlightenment Lecture at the University of Edinburgh, is “more or less like a pizza — with knowledge being delivered from point A to point B”, then I’m grateful to have placed an order for an extra-large. I’ve just taken up a position as a researcher at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, and will be in residence in Edinburgh from now until the end of the summer. I’m looking forward to studying a wide range of topics, among them, the cultural history of the haar — the freezing fog so famous along the eastern coast of Scotland (and what greeted me as I left the flat this morning). And, of course, what the Scots have invented in order to combat its effects.
Reports are still trickling in (Twitter stream here), but the core of the story is official: Kristen Dupard, a high school senior from Ridgeland, MS, is this year’s 2012 Poetry Out Loud National Champion.
I cannot say how thrilling this is.
I had the honor of judging Kristen during the Mississippi state finals earlier this year, when she recited poems by Cornelius Eady and Ben Jonson, and knew from her performance that she was a sure shot for national-level entry. Her poise, her command of the poems, her sheer joy at performing them, and her impeccable stage presence told us all that if there was anyone who had a shot at the national title, it was her. She’d won the state-level contest in 2011, too, fending off eight other ferociously talented contestants both years, no small feat itself — but that she took it home over fifty-two other contestants — reciting “Invitation to Love” by Paul Lawrence Dunbar for her final poem — is fantastic news for Kristen, for her family, for the state of Mississippi, and for poetry everywhere. I know no more deserving champion.
Congratulations, Kristen. Way to hit one out of the park.
Bittersweet as it is, my last column is up today on UptownMessenger.com. It’s been a great run, I’ve enjoyed the work, and I’ll miss it while I’m away this summer — but if there’s one thing that’s true of the news business, it’s that the news never stops. And that — with bang-proof bling and trigger-happy Whole Foods customers gracing the headlines — Uptown isn’t exactly the sleepy, oak-lined neighborhood one might think. I can only imagine what’s going to happen next.
It’s one of the most beautiful days of the year, a wonderful day out here in New Orleans, and I’m honored to be a part of it — this Saturday, the 12th, is the annual FORESTival at A Studio in the Woods. I’ll be reading new work from Ecotone, the book I began in residence there, alongside music by such talents as Mark Growden and Meschiya Lake, art projects by Jane Hill and Rebecca Snedeker, and the premiere of a new puppet opera by Nina Nichols. That plus silent auction, benefit raffle, incredible food, and tours of the woods and the property — with so much art in the space of just a few acres, days like this are as rare as a supermoon.
I’m incredibly honored to be reading at the 17 Poets reading series this coming Thursday — it’s actually a joint birthday reading for Dave Brinks and myself, so anyone in the area is are welcome to come and help us celebrate. We’ll both be reading new work, Dave from his just-published The Secret Brain: Collected Poems 1996-2012, and myself, poems from the past few months, including from Ecotone, and from my trip to the Middle East.This is what the night will look like:
7:00 – 8:00 p.m.
Casual reception begins promptly @ 7:00pm
featuring a performance by PETER NU (on steel drums)
+ complimentary wine, beer, juice, soft drinks
+ complimentary red beans & rice (provided by Megan burns!)
8:05 – 8:35pm
THE POET OF NEW ORLEANS BRASS BAND performs
8:40 – 9:00pm
Poetry reading featuring BENJAMIN MORRIS
9:05 – 9:35pm
JAZZ POETRY featuring
poet DAVE BRINKS
w/ THE POET OF NEW ORLEANS BRASS
9:40 – 11:00pm
OPEN MIC hosted by JIMMY ROSS(sign-up begins at 8:00pm)
More details are available at www.17poets.com.