Poems give life to our collective senses of identity and history, to individual feelings, to experiences of belonging and loss, and joy and sorrow. They shape our memories and help make sense of how we arrived where we are and where we are going. Please join us for an evening of readings by four outstanding poets, Herman Beavers, Airea D. Matthews, Raquel Salas Rivera, and Syd Zolf, as they reflect on heritage in all its richness and complexity.
A book signing will follow.
Cosponsored by the Center for Latin American and Latinx Studies; the Center for Research in Feminist, Queer, and Transgender Studies; the Department of English; the Department of Spanish and Portuguese; and the Program in Comparative Literature.
Herman Beavers is the Julie Beren Platt and Marc E. Platt President’s Distinguished Professor of English and Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. He teaches courses in 20th Century and contemporary African American literature and creative writing. His most recent poems have appeared in The Langston Hughes Colloquy, MELUS, Versadelphia, Cleaver Magazine, The American Arts Quarterly, and Supplement. His poems have been anthologized in The 2014 (and 2020) Moonstone Anthology of Featured Poets, Obsession: Sestinas for the Twenty-First Century, We Real Cool: Philadelphia Celebrates Gwendolyn Brooks, Who Will Speak for America? and Show Us Your Papers. His chapbook, Obsidian Blues, was published in May 2017 as part of Agape Edition’s Morning House Chapbook Series. His latest chapbook The Vernell Poems was published by Moonstone Press in 2019. His scholarly monograph, Geography and the Political Imaginary in the Novels of Toni Morrison (Palgrave) was published in 2018. He is also the co-editor, with John W. Lowe, of Approaches to Teaching Gaines’ The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman and Other Works (Modern Language Association). He also serves as an advisory editor for The African American Review, The Black Scholar, The Journal of Black Studies, The Langston Hughes Review, and Modern Fiction Studies.
Airea D. Matthews’ first collection of poems is the critically acclaimed Simulacra, which received the prestigious 2016 Yale Series of Younger Poets Award. Matthews is also the author of Bread and Circus (Simon and Schuster, 2023), a memoir-in-verse that combines poetry, prose, and imagery to explore the realities of economic necessity, marginal poverty, and commodification, through a personal lens. Matthews received a 2020 Pew Fellowship, a 2016 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award, and was awarded the Louis Untermeyer Scholarship in Poetry from the 2016 Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. Matthews earned her MFA from the Helen Zell Writers’ Program at the University of Michigan. In 2022, she was named Philadelphia’s Poet Laureate. She is an associate professor at Bryn Mawr College where she directs the poetry program.
Raquel Salas Rivera (Mayagüez, 1985) is a Puerto Rican poet, translator, and editor. His honors include being named Poet Laureate of Philadelphia, the New Voices Award from the Festival de la Palabra, the Lambda Literary Award, the inaugural Ambroggio Prize, the Juan Felipe Herrera Award, and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship. He is the author of six full-length poetry books that have been longlisted and shortlisted for the National Book Award, the Pen America Open Book Award, and the CLMP Firecracker Award. He holds a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature and Literary Theory from the University of Pennsylvania and lives, teaches, and writes in Puerto Rico, where he works as investigator and head of the translation team for El proyecto de la literatura puertorriqueña/ The Puerto Rican Literature Project (PRLP), a free, bilingual, user-friendly and open access digital portal that anyone can use to learn about and teach Puerto Rican poetry.
Syd Zolf has published six books of poetry, including Janey’s Arcadia, Neighbour Procedure, and a Selected Poetry, as well as a theoretical text, No One’s Witness: A Monstrous Poetics (Duke, 2021). Zolf’s poetry and essays have been widely published in journals and anthologies worldwide and translated into French, Spanish, and Portuguese. Awards include a Pew Fellowship in the Arts and a Trillium Book Award for Poetry, among other honors. Art films Zolf has written and/or directed have screened at venues such as the International Film Festival Rotterdam and White Cube Bermondsey. Zolf holds an MFA in poetry and a PhD in philosophy and is an Artist in Residence at the Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing at the University of Pennsylvania.