Author: Jack Chelgren

“Dismal Situations”: Loneliness, Racism, and Knowing the Present Through Verse

By Jack Chelgren | Special Projects Intern and Contributing Writer   As a word is mostly connotation,  matter is mostly aura?  Halo? (The same loneliness that separates me  from what I call “the world.”) — Rae Armantrout, “A Resemblance”   I. It’s afternoon not long ago. I’m listening to music in my apartment, and “The Last Time I Saw Richard,” the closer from Joni Mitchell’s Blue, comes on. The last time I saw Richard was Detroit in ’68 And he told me, “All romantics meet the same fate someday: Cynical and drunk and boring someone in some dark cafĂ©.”

Afterwords // Kay Ryan: All Your Flamingos

By Jack Chelgren | Special Projects Intern   When Tree Swenson, the executive director of Hugo House, introduced Kay Ryan for a lecture on rhyme last week, she noted the delightful sense of “hidden treasure” lurking in Ryan’s work. That treasure, Swenson said, was rhyme: glowing little ingots of resonance between words. It’s an apt observation. Take these lines from “All Your Horses,” published recently in Poetry: Say when rain cannot make you more wet or a certain thought can’t deepen and yet you think it again: you have lost count. A larger amount is no longer a larger amount.

Afterwords // Anne Carson for Seattle Arts & Lectures

Two takes on Carson & Friends’ performance Tuesday, May 13 at Town Hall by Jack Chelgren & Cali Kopzcick. Two takes because how many eyeballs did you wish you had that night? The Maximalist: Anne Carson at Seattle Arts & Lectures by Jack Chelgren, Special Projects Intern During the Q&A after Anne Carson’s performance at Seattle Arts & Lectures last week, someone in the crowd asked Carson if she’d ever considered translating the New Testament. Carson cooed wistfully, thought for a moment, then replied, “No—the New Testament’s too minimalist for me.” A warm chuckle rose from the crowd, filling the dim, vaulted ceiling of Town Hall. But for all the ironical self-parody of her answer, it’s conceivable that Carson wasn’t really joking. She is an artist and intellectual whose work consistently shatters our rote expectations of poetry, smashing divisions of ancient and modern, lyric and academic, fictional and historical, personal and mythical with the zeal of Hektor chopping down the Achaian ranks in Homer’s Iliad.

Afterwords // Achoo! Local Feminist Readings Combine Poetry and Activism

by Jack Chelgren and Cali Kopczick, Contributing Writers


Last Wednesday night, a small crowd settled onto the red velvet couches of the Rendezvous for Allergic to Cats, a feminist reading series combining poetry and activism. This installment featured poets Elaina Ellis and Jade Sylvan (both with books out from Write Bloody Publishing), and a presentation by Ane Mathieson and Easton Branam, local advocates for prostitutes and prostitution survivors.

Afterwords // The Present Tense: Joshua Beckman, Matthew Dickman, and Dorothea Lasky Read at the Henry

by Jack Chelgren Special Projects Intern   It’s a long shot, but if someone were to ask me what contemporary poetry looks like, I would direct them to hop in a time machine, turn the knobs back to around 1:45 Saturday October 19, and then hustle to the Henry Art Gallery auditorium. There, in the front row, my querier might spy poets Matthew Dickman and Dorothea Lasky all abuzz on Instagram, snapping photos of just about everything—including themselves Instagramming each other—Dickman garbed modestly in a powder-blue shirt, loose jeans, and galoshes, Lasky dazzling in supersized jewelry, a leopard-print dress, and multicolored suede high-heeled boots. The curious chrononaut might also pick out Joshua Beckman, poet and editor at Wave Books, chatting off to the side, shuffling folded pages of poems in his hands, and looking quite a bit like folk star Justin Vernon in a beige stocking cap and loose pinkish shirt. Of course, the object of this clock-thwarting jaunt would not be to observe these poets’ personal fashion or Instagram hijinks—contemporary though they may be—but …

Afterwords // Deep Circles: Mary Jo Bang Talks Translation at Hugo House

It is not that Bang rejects the challenges and responsibilities typically associated with translation, for even as she radically questions and suspends many long-held assumptions about how Dante should read in English, she does so ultimately in the hope of creating a more truthful rendering of the text. Bang discussed in her lecture how many translations of the Inferno are written in elevated, renaissance-style English—a trend she speculates stems from translators’ desire to acknowledge the poem’s age and the disparities between modern English and fourteenth-century Italian. Yet Bang argued that such piously old-fashioned renderings of the Inferno were flawed from the start, since the fourteenth-century English of Dante’s contemporaries differed drastically from the seventeenth-century Elizabethan variety favored by these translators. A truly historically accurate translation of the Inferno in this sense would have to sound a lot less like Milton or Shakespeare and a lot more like the Middle English of Chaucer.

Afterwords // Unauthorized Whitman

by Jack Chelgren Poetry Northwest Staff   The Unauthorized Readings: Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself August 13, 2013 at Fremont Abbey Arts Center   On Thursday night, poets Adam Boehmer, Christine Deavel, James Hoch, and Janie Miller kicked off a new poetry series, the Unauthorized Readings, with a hearty and variegated performance of Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself.”  A crowd of about fifty gathered in the basement of the Fremont Abbey Arts Center, where the four readers took turns delivering selections from the poem, each with no small measure of zeal.  Theirs was a skillful and imaginative rendering of Whitman, with each poet’s distinct reading style highlighting the competing tones that cycle throughout the work: playfulness and hysteria, didacticism and uncertainty, mysticism and sexuality.