A capacity crowd of students, faculty and community members packed into the Student Life Center on Oct. 5 for the kickoff of this year’s Visiting Writers Series, featuring acclaimed poets Ilyse Kusnetz and Michael Broek.
The award-winning wordsmiths read selections from their latest works and spoke with the audience about the various themes, personal histories and historical events that have driven their art for decades.
“These poets are very much looking outward, placing themselves into a much larger context within the world,” said Suzanne Parker, associate English professor and director of Brookdale’s Creative Writing Program.
“As a writer myself, I find that reading poetry reminds me to get out of the “circle of I” and engage in the outside world. For me and for many people, it’s a reminder that we are engaged in a larger community. These are two writers who are very aware of that, and it informs their work very much.”
Broek has published a wide range of chapbooks, essays and poems, including the 2015 book “Refuge/es,” which won the Kinereth Gensler Award for poetry.
He has been featured in the “American Poetry Review,” the “Literary Review” and serves as editor of “Mead: the Magazine of Literature and Libations,” while working as an associate English professor at Brookdale.
Kusnetz is the author of “The Gravity of Falling”and “Small Hours,” which won the 2014 T.S. Eliot Prize from Truman State University Press. She has appeared in numerous national publications and anthologies including the “Crab Orchard Review,” “Cincinnati Review” and “Crazy Horse,” and published a range of reviews and essays about contemporary American and Scottish poetry.
Both authors discussed the various sets of impulses, influences and artistic drives that had informed their latest work. Broek said “Refuge/es” focused on themes including interconnectedness, love and patterns, while being inspired by recent historical events such as superstorm Sandy, the wreck of the Golden Venture in 1993 and Occupy Wall Street.
Kusnetz said she was largely informed by her family history, including the loss of her mother to cancer in 2004 and her own subsequent battle with cancer, which began two years ago.
Those events, Kusnetz said, may serve as the “surface story” of her poems, but the deep emotional connections and her complicated personal reactions to those events serve as the engine that drives her work.
“I think that a lot of writing comes out of that sense of change,” she said. “Sometimes change is good. Sometimes we don’t want change, but we always have to process it. And one of the ways we process it is to put it in some kind of language. That idea of processing – and the writing process – are very close.”
The Visiting Writers Series is one of Brookdale’s longest-running arts initiatives. All programs are free and open to the public, and donations are accepted in support of the Brookdale Creative Writing Club. Find out about upcoming events here.
Learn more about Brookdale’s Creative Writing Program here.
Check out more photos of the Oct. 5 Visiting Writers program here.