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Alan Shapiro and Jonathan Farmer in conversation

April 2, 2019 @ 7:00 pm

In celebration of their latest collections, we invite you to a conversation between poets Alan Shapiro and Jonathan Farmer.


We often ask ourselves what gets lost in translation—not just between languages, but in the everyday trade-offs between what we experience and what we are able to say about it. But the visionary poems of Alan Shapiro’s Against Translation invite us to consider: what is loss, in translation? Writing at the limits of language—where “the signs loosen, fray, and drift”—Shapiro probes the startling complexity of how we confront absence and the ephemeral, the heartbreak of what once wasn’t yet and now is no longer, of what (like racial prejudice and historical atrocity) is omnipresent and elusive. Throughout, this collection traverses rather than condemns the imperfect language of loss—moving against the current in the direction of the utterly ineffable.

Then, in beautiful and generous essays on subjects of perennial poetic relevance and contemporary sociopolitical relevance, Jonathan Farmer rethinks topics like joy, decorum, humility, kindness, humor, and political discourse itself through insightful readings of contemporary poets as varied as Ross Gay, Patricia Lockwood, Paisley Rekdal, Jill McDonough, Mary Syzbist, Terrance Hayes, Claudia Rankine, and more, as well as a vast array of interlocutors across time, such as Hamlet, W. H. Auden, Elizabeth Bishop (whose phrase gives this book its title), Lucille Clifton, and even Allie Brosh of the iconic web comic Hyperbole and a Half. As befits an exploration of the social life of poetry, That Peculiar Affirmative is a book that will not only speak to you about poetry, affect, and politics, but will speak with you. Farmer has met his goal and then some: this book is dazzlingly and rewardingly worth your time.




Alan Shapiro has published many books, including Reel to Reel, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. A member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he is the William R. Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professor of English and comparative literature at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.



Jonathan Farmer is the editor in chief and poetry editor of At Length, and he has frequently written about poetry for, The Kenyon Review, and Los Angeles Review of Books. He teaches middle and high school English, and he lives in Durham, NC.


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