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Poets Carl Dennis and Sherry Robbins read at the Center for Inquiry tonight

Two of the finest poets to ever call the Buffalo area home--Carl Dennis and Sherry Robbins--will share the lectern at the Just Buffalo Literary Café reading at 7:30 this evening (Wednesday) at Center for Inquiry, 1310 Sweet Home Rd. in Amherst.

Dennis, the winner of the 2002 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for his volume “Practical Gods” and the Poetry Foundation’s career achievement honor--the Ruth Lily Prize--in 2000, is professor emeritus in English and Artist-in-Residence at the University at Buffalo.  He is the author of eleven books of poems, including “New and Selected Poems, 1974-2004” (Penguin, 2004) and "Unknown Friends" (Penguin, 2007), as well as “Poetry as Persuasion” (2001), an essay collection.

His most recent book is "Callings" (Penguin Poets Series, 2010).  Writing in this space about the book last year, we described Dennis as "perhaps our foremost practitioner of a kind of conjectural poetics in which ordinary speech and commonplace observation give rise to a cosmologist's dream of possible worlds of intention and outcome. Taken in this way, poetry is not only linguistic construct of plausibly voiced speech acts, but also a liminal art of empathic and moral possibility that attempts to transcend the particularity of its occasion...Nominally, 'Callings' is about 'vocations': the work we believe defines us as much as we define it.  But more specifically, it is a book about how we talk through, rationalize and ultimately come to arrive at the life decisions we make."

Robbins, a writers-in-education movement pioneer who was named the New York State Teaching Artist of the Year for 2005 by the Association of Teaching Artists, is the author of “Snapshots of Paradise” (1981) and “Or, the Whale” (BlazeVOX Books, 2010).  

Writing in this space about "Or, the Whale" last year, we described the book as "a career defining work of epic scope and imagination. Based on her close reading of the ideas and structure of Herman Melville's Moby-Dick--even borrowing quotes and chapter headings from that classic--Robbins offers a subtle feminist reading of what is perhaps the great American novel of obsession and pursuit of the unfathomable... 

"Beyond this, she weaves her own counter-narrative back onto Melville's tale: not only a 're-conception' of its structure from the standpoint of a contemporary woman, but also an extensive 'turning inside-out-of' Melville's central metaphors for the existential threat and predation of whaling to those of the alternative water-born(e) lexicon of pregnancy and birthing...Of these disparate metaphors and contradictions--to say nothing of the competing orders of symbolism--Robbins crafts a kind of 'umbilical' poetics..."

Perry Nicholas, professor of English at ECC North, host of the Center for Inquiry Series and recent author of "What the World Sees" (Saddle Road Press), will introduce both of the poets.

--R.D. Pohl

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