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In the Guardian, Michael Symmons Roberts writes, “We often mystify and misunderstand each other, but we are even more opaque to ourselves, so a powerful self-portrait is a work of exploration.” This class will take up that exploration. We’ll consider a variety of approaches to self-portraiture in poems (via Charles Wright, Jorie Graham, Tarfia Faizullah, and more) and experiment with them ourselves. Please bring photos of yourself at different ages (phone photos are fine). If you keep a notebook of promising lines, bring that too. Szybist’s talk with Robert Wrigley occurs Sept. 29.
Co-presented by Seattle Arts & Lectures.
Mary Szybist is a poet who is described by Robert Hass as having “a gift for music, a gift for aphorism, a gift for being haunted.” She is the recipient of numerous awards including the Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award, two Pushcart Prizes, and the 2013 National Book Award for Poetry for her most recent work, Incarnadine. She has also received fellowships and residencies from many institutions, such as the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center in Bellagio, Italy.
The National Book Award Committee calls Incarnadine, “a religious book for nonbelievers, or a book of necessary doubts for the faithful.” The language of the book explores the relationship between prayer and poem as it circles around the biblical moment of Annunciation, when Gabriel tells Mary she will birth the Son of God. Szybist has been interested in this relationship since childhood, “when I was young, I reached a point where I found myself unable to pray. I was devastated by it. I missed being able to say words in my head that I believed could be heard by a being, a consciousness outside me. That is when I turned to poetry.”
Her first book of poetry, Granted, has also received numerous praise and was a finalist for the 2003 National Book Critics Circle Award.
Szybist spent her childhood in Pennsylvania and earned degrees from the University of Virginia and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She now lives in Portland, Oregon where she teaches English at Lewis & Clark College and is a faculty member of the Warren Wilson College MFA Program for Writers.