Al Filreis convened Erica Hunt, Bob Perelman, and Tonya Foster to a virtual version of the Wexler Studio of the Kelly Writers House — for a conversation about a poem by Lorenzo Thomas. The poem, “Souvenir of the Manassah Ball,” was written in 1990 or 1991, and now appears on page 310 of the magnificent Collected Poems of Lorenzo Thomas, edited by Aldon Nielsen and Laura Vrana (Wesleyan, 2019). The performance of the poem we used as our audio recording for this episode was presented at a reading on November 13, 1991, at Buffalo.
Tyrone Williams, William J. (Billy Joe) Harris, Aldon Nielsen, and Erica Hunt joined Al Filreis — host, producer, and moderator — for a live presentation of a special episode of PoemTalk before an audience gathered in the Arts Café of the Kelly Writers House back in November 2019. They discussed many of Erica Hunt’s concerns, across her poetry and her work as public intellectual and activist, by way of a single poem called “Should You Find Me.” It is the final poem, and — the group comes to agree — the coda to the book Time Slips Right Before Your Eyes, published by Belladonna* in 2006.
The most provocative mark in this anthology may be the virgule or forward slash that separates the last quarter of the title — Radical Writing — from the opening three quarters of the title — Letters to the Future: Black Women. I’ve analyzed elsewhere the function of the colon, a staple in academic article and book titles, so I won’t discuss that here.
In Arcade, poet Erica Hunt’s 1996 collection and collaboration with the artist Alison Saar, the speaker describes herself as moving, through her stuckness and frustration, “against bureaucratic seizures of the possible.” The collection articulates a poetics of refusal, sometimes from a woman-identified subject position, sometimes as a woman of color, or as a mother of color. In other moments, as in the book’s title poem, the speaker’s identity is undisclosed.
Erica Hunt, Bruce Boone, Peter Inman, Jackson Mac Low, David Antin, Barbara Guest, Lorenzo Thomas, Steve McCaffery, Kathleen Fraser, Rachel Blau DuPlessis, Nathaniel Mackey, Ron Silliman, Bob Perelman, Anne Waldman, Nick Piombino
In 1985, Eileen Myles was the new director of the St. Mark's Poetry Project in New York. She asked me to curate a lecture series, the first such program at the church. I modelled the series at the Poetry Project on my earlier series New York Talk, giving it the amusing title, given the sometimes seeming resistance to poetics at the St. Marks at the time, St. Marks Talks. And talk it did.