EP77circleDispatches from the Body Politic
interviews by Tony Trigilio
featuring Jan Beatty, Meg Day, & Douglas Kearney
with an afterword by CM Burroughs

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At first glance, it may not seem unusual in the twenty-first century for artists to talk about how the body resides at a political nexus of class, gender, race, and sexuality. But for Jan Beatty, Meg Day, and Douglas Kearney, the body also is a matter of poetics—a question of craft, not just a thematic locus for their poems. The cultural work of a poem can too easily overshadow the subtleties of craft in contemporary critical discourse, privileging the sociological dimensions of what a poem says at the expense of the aesthetic strategies deployed by the poet who brought the poem into being. These interviews with Beatty, Day, and Kearney begin with the assumption that the social and aesthetic dimensions of the poem are of equal importance in the production and reception of the work—and they affirm, in different ways for each poet, that we do a disservice to both politics and craft if we disengage those dimensions from each other.
“What is the book’s body? For me, it’s very difficult to imagine a focus on the bodies of the people in my family and not think of the political history of the black body and the cultural presentation of the black body. What is it approximated with? What are the risk factors of this particular body?”
JAN BEATTY‘s fifth full-length book, Jackknife: New and Selected Poems, will be published in 2017 by the University of Pittsburgh Press. Her last book, The Switching/Yard, was named by Library Journal as one of 30 New Books That Will Help You Rediscover Poetry. Other books include Red Sugar, Boneshaker, and Mad River, winner of the Agnes Lynch Starrett Prize. Beatty directs the Creative Writing program at Carlow University, where she runs the Madwomen in the Attic writing workshops and teaches in the MFA program.
MEG DAY is the 2015–2016 recipient of the Amy Lowell Poetry Traveling Scholarship, a 2013 recipient of an NEA Fellowship in Poetry, and the author of Last Psalm at Sea Level, winner of the Barrow Street Poetry Prize and the Publishing Triangle’s Audre Lorde Award. Day is an assistant professor of English and Creative Writing at Franklin & Marshall College and lives in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
Publisher’s Weekly called DOUGLAS KEARNEY’s collection of writing on poetics and performativity, Mess and Mess and, “an extraordinary book.” His The Black Automaton was a National Poetry Series selection. Someone Took They Tongues collects three of his opera libretti. Fence Books will publish Buck Studies in late 2016. He has received a Whiting Writer’s Award, residencies/ fellowships from Cave Canem, The Rauschenberg Foundation, and others. Raised in Altadena, California, he lives with his family in Santa Clarita Valley. He teaches at CalArts.
CM BURROUGHS is assistant professor of Poetry at Columbia College Chicago. Her first book is The Vital System. Burroughs has received commissions from the Studio Museum of Harlem and the Warhol Museum to create poetry in response to art installations, and has been awarded fellowships and grants from Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony, the Djerassi Foundation, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and the Cave Canem Foundation.
TONY TRIGILIO’s most recent collection of poetry is Inside the Walls of My Own House: The Complete Dark Shadows (of My Childhood), Book 2. His other books include, most recently, White Noise, and, as editor, Elise Cowen: Poems and Fragments. He plays in the band Pet Theories and teaches poetry at Columbia College Chicago, where he is the interim chair of the Department of Creative Writing.




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Essay Press is pleased to announce the two winners of the 2016 Essay Press Open Book Contest judged by Carla Harryman: Litany for the Long Moment by Mary-Kim Arnold and Of Sphere by Karla Kelsey, which will be published in Fall 2017.