Monday, 02 March 2015 00:00

Trio of Michigan Poets Converge for Collaborative Reading

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Diane DeCillis, Linda Nemec Foster and Miriam Pederson
Kent District Library – Kentwood Branch
March 23, 6:30 p.m., (616) 784-2007

Whether it’s a duet or a mass protest, something incredible happens when human voices join together. The convergence of different ideas and expressions allows us to see, think and feel from a perspective far broader than our own. This is especially true in the world of poetry, where many are finding that collaboration both in and outside of the medium reveals a wealth of untapped potential.

“People are learning that collaboration is a necessity,” said Poet Miriam Pederson. “It inspires different possibilities for poetry because people are experimenting and you get this kind of fuel that moves you out of your comfort zone.”

On March 23, Pederson will join fellow Michigan poets Diane DeCillis and Linda Nemec Foster for a special reading that unites their individual talents together in concert. No strangers to collaboration, these three women have forged lasting poetic careers in large part by allowing their art to cross boundaries.

Over their 40-plus years of marriage, Pederson and her husband Ron, a sculptor, have produced 10 collaborative exhibitions of poetry and sculpture that mine their collective experience and shared values. They’ve also taught a course at Aquinas College for two decades called Artists and Writers in Collaboration. There, students learn how to open their creativity up to these kinds of intersections.

When Foster released her poetry collection, Ten Songs from Bulgaria, in 2008, she never imagined it would turn into something larger. Three years later, she got a call from Laszlo Slomovits, a musician who had read her collection and begun composing music that was lyrically and melodically inspired by her haunting imagery. Soon, they had enough material to release a full album, Cry of Freedom, that artfully weaves sound and word together.

DeCillis owned and operated Lido Gallery & Gifts, an art gallery that presented poetry, fiction and visual art side-by-side, for 34 years. For the release of her first collection of poems, Strings Attached, which won a Michigan Notable Book Award in 2014, she had puppeteers from the Detroit Puppet Theatre act out the poems as she read them. For her next project, she’s working with a classical composer to create a 20-minute opera using her poetry as a springboard.

“I can read a poem and my words can be interpreted by whoever is listening to them, but then to see another interpretation through music or art or actors, I think it pulls people in more to see another element added to the reading,” DeCillis said.

At their upcoming reading, the trio aims to play their poems off of one another in a jazz-like call-and-response. Deeper than their desire to push the boundaries of poetry, however, is their collective identity as women. With the reading taking place, fittingly, during Women’s History Month, expect a rich narrative to emerge out of each poet’s exploration of their individual experience, one that doesn’t limit its scope to one group of people or another.

“For me, feminism is not just a label; it’s an expression of the unique individual and having that uniqueness not stopped by laws or prejudice or bias,” Foster said. “I think of men as feminists too, wanting their voices heard, but also wanting the voices of their mothers, grandmothers, sisters and daughters heard, too. It takes on this aspect of the human potential.”

Other Literary Events

E.J. Levy and Joe Wilkins
March 5, 7 p.m.
Hope College, Winants Auditorium, (616) 555-5555

March brings a literary double header from the Jack Ridl Visiting Writers Series at Hope College. Flannery O’Connor Award-winning fiction writer E.J. Levy joins Paterson Poetry Prize-winning poet and memoirist Joe Wilkins onstage for a rowdy collision of talent. Catch an exclusive Q+A session at 3:30 p.m. in Hope’s Fried-Hemenway Auditorium.

A Polish Doctor in the Nazi Camps
March 12, 7 p.m.
Grand Rapids Public Library - Main Branch, (616) 988-5413

Medical anthropologist Barbara Rylko-Bauer discusses her book, A Polish Doctor in the Nazi Camps – a taut recounting of her mother Jadzia's 15-month endurance of three Nazi concentration camps and a 42-day death march, spending part of the time working as a prisoner-doctor to Jewish slave laborers. A book signing will follow Rylko-Bauer’s insights into her mother’s amazing story.

Peter Ho Davies
March 18, 7:30 p.m.
Aquinas College, Grand Rapids, (616) 632-8900

Born in Britain in 1966 to Welsh and Chinese parents, fiction writer Peter Hoe Davies has appeared in Harpers, The Atlantic Monthly, The Paris Review, the Guardian, Independent, Washington Post and Chicago Tribune, among others. He is the author of the novel The Welsh Girl (2007), and two short story collections: The Ugliest House in the World (1997) and Equal Love (2000).

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