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The Menil Collection Presentes Poems for a Quarter Century

Poems for a Quarter Century
The Menil Collection
Saturday, November 3, 2012, at 7 p.m.

Three years ago, the Menil Collection presented an exhibition of paintings and drawings by the artist Marlene Dumas. Also a poet, Dumas encouraged the Menil to host “a poetic response” to the exhibition. That extraordinary program, organized by Sasha West, a poet and PhD graduate of the University of Houston Writing Program, has inspired Poems for a Quarter Century, a free public program celebrating the Menil’s opening in 1987.

The program, which takes place at the intersection of the visual and the verbal arts, brings together a group of distinguished poets to read work (their own, as well as that of others), exploring art and artists in the Menil Collection.

Poems for a Quarter Century begins with readings by Houston elementary and secondary school students, who have come to know the collection through the museum’s acclaimed education program, Writing at the Menil. The next five readers form a group of American poets at significant stages in their careers.

For centuries poets have used visual art as a tool to explore the world. The Menil’s program of what is called ekphrastic poetry—poems that respond to art—will include work from such great poets as Rainer Maria Rilke, Kevin Young, Alice Fulton, John Ashbery, Jorie Graham, and Frank O’Hara.

The evening’s range of poetry promises to suggest new ways of looking at art at the Menil.

Writers include:

  • Three students from Writing at the Menil: third, fourth, and eighth graders whose poems have been inspired by works of art in the Menil Collection.
  • Tomás Q. Morin teaches literature and writing at Texas State University. His debut collection, A Larger Country, won the American Poetry Review Honickman First Book Prize.
  • Jennifer Grotz, poet and translator, teaches creative writing at the University of Rochester. Her books include Cusp, winner of the Texas Institute of Letters’ First Book Award, and The Needle.
  • Dean Young Dean Young’s books include Elegy on Toy Piano, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and Fall Higher. He teaches at the University of Texas at Austin, where he holds the William Livingston Chair of Poetry.
  • Stanley Plumly co-founded the University of Houston Writing Program. He teaches at the University of Maryland, and received the Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
  • Terrence Doody teaches courses in modernism, the novel, and contemporary literature at Rice University.  He is working on a book to be called Streets of Strangers: Some Aspects of the City in Literature, where Frank O’Hara is right at home.

Sasha West holds graduate degrees from Johns Hopkins and the University of Houston. She has served as Managing Editor and board president of Gulf Coast, Houston’s journal of literature and the arts. Currently, she teaches writing at UT Austin’s LBJ School of Public Affairs. Next year HarperCollins will publish her first book of poems, which was a winner of the 2012 National Poetry Series.

Franci Crane was a trial lawyer with Susman Godfrey for more than twenty years. Her focus turned from law to community volunteerism, with a particular passion for the arts. She sits on the boards of the Menil Collection, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Houston Grand Opera, and Inprint, and is founding board chair of the Houston Cinema Arts Society.

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