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An Afternoon with Jessica Cuello, Matt Donovan, and Jennifer Martelli (in person & on Zoom)

June 4 @ 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm

Free – $100.00

Join us in person at the Hudson Valley Writers Center or live on Zoom as we welcome Jessica Cuello, Matt Donovan, and Jennifer Martelli as they read from their most recent collections. This reading is the launch of our HVWC Summer Reading Series! Masks are encouraged but not required. Tickets are free but donations towards the poets’ honoraria are welcome and appreciated.

Jessica Cuello’s most recent book is Yours, Creature (JackLeg Press, 2023). Her book Liar, selected by Dorianne Laux for The 2020 Barrow Street Book Prize, was honored with The Eugene Nassar Prize, The CNY Book Award, a finalist nod for The Housatonic Book Award, and a longlist mention for The Julie Suk Award. Cuello is also the author of Hunt (The Word Works, 2017) and Pricking (Tiger Bark Press, 2016). Cuello has been awarded The 2022 Nina Riggs Poetry Prize, two CNY Book Awards, The 2016 Washington Prize, The New Letters Poetry Prize, a Saltonstall Fellowship, and The New Ohio Review Poetry Prize. In addition, Cuello has published three chapbooks: My Father’s Bargain (2015), By Fire (2013), and Curie (2011). In 2014 she was awarded The Decker Award from Hollins University for outstanding secondary teaching. She is poetry editor at Tahoma Literary Review and teaches French in CNY.

Matt Donovan is the author most recently of The Dug-Up Gun Museum (forthcoming from BOA Editions in November 2022) and the collection of lyric essays, A Cloud of Unusual Size and Shape: Meditations on Ruin and Redemption (Trinity University Press 2016). He is the recipient of a Whiting Award, a Rome Prize in Literature, a Creative Capital Grant, and an NEA Fellowship in Literature. In addition to his poetry and nonfiction, Donovan frequently collaborates with his wife, the artist Ligia Bouton. Collaborative work includes Inheritance, a chamber opera about America’s gun violence that’s based on the life of Sarah Winchester, and the forthcoming Missing Department, a visual art and poetry erasure project that responds to missing person ads published in early 20th century pulp western magazines. Donovan lives in Massachusetts and serves as the Director of The Boutelle-Day Poetry Center at Smith College.

Jennifer Martelli (she, her, hers) is the author of The Queen of Queens(Bordighera Press) and My Tarantella (Bordighera Press), awarded an Honorable Mention from the Italian-American Studies Association, selected as a 2019 “Must Read” by the Massachusetts Center for the Book, and named as a finalist for the Housatonic Book Award. She is also the author of the chapbooks In the Year of Ferraro from Nixes Mate Press and After Bird, winner of the Grey Book Press open reading, 2016. Her work has appeared in The Academy of American Poets Poem-a-Day, Poetry, The Tahoma Literary Review, The Sycamore Review, Cream City Review, Verse Daily, Iron Horse Review (winner of the Photo Finish contest), and elsewhere.Jennifer Martelli has twice received grants from the Massachusetts Cultural Council for her poetry. She is co-poetry editor for Mom Egg Review.

Praise for Jessica Cuello:

“A highly original vision, voice, concept, style, language and image all working together to produce a world inside our world. Filled with fire and violence, mystery and magic, the loneliness of laundromats, rented houses, suicide, cornfields, hunger, and ultimately a naked raw survival, ‘charred walls pulled back from the frame.'”—Dorianne Laux

“The genius of Jessica Cuello’s LIAR is signaled by the (mis)spellings. Spelling, capitaliza-tion, and punctuation were not standardized until the eighteenth century, the era of printers and profit. These poems remind us that children, before they are indoctrinated into a world of correctness and pecuniary value, absorb the raw emotions swirling around them. Children hear truth even as they are told to spell it differently. The trauma of that disparity is conveyed in these poems. LIAR carries the reader into the world of a child for whom ‘love is the sideswipe in the hall.'”—Natasha Sajé

“In her gutting LIAR, Jessica Cuello, a master of the persona poem, flings off the mask to bare and bear remembered and imagined pasts. Writing often from the point of view of a child, Cuello’s intricate and spellbinding poems take us on a journey of hunger and house burnings, lost fathers and distant mothers, laundromats and lust–girls longing to wear something other than shame, to claim and hold themselves in welcoming arms. ‘Uncross,’ she writes, ‘Let your chest see.’ Through poem after poem, she uncrosses, she welcomes them.”—Philip Metres

  • JackLeg Press will publish Cuello’s manuscript of epistolary poems in the voice of Mary Shelley in May 2023. Poetry editor Simone Muench wrote that the “manuscript transcends its ostensible subject matter, spinning outward into issues related to feminism, textuality, motherhood, and monstrosity….These are heart-wrenching missives that unfurl with exquisite monstrosities.”

Praise for Matt Donovan

“In The Dug-Up Gun Museum, Matt Donovan is anthropologist, empath, parent, skeptic, participant-observer, critic, and mourner, as he takes us on a riveting tour (and indictment) of America’s gun culture. These profoundly moving and wildly expansive documentary poems travel through NRA Headquarters, Emergency Rooms, school hallways, memorials, museums, battle reenactments, police test-firing ranges, crime scenes, and historical sites searching for answers to an elusive question: how can this country be as hypervigilant as it is careless when it comes to lives of its citizens? With equal parts curiosity, grief, and rage, Donovan limns a clear-eyed hymn to one of the most pressing national issues of our time.”— Erika Meitner, author of Useful Junk and Holy Moly Carry Me (BOA)

In The Dug-Up Gun Museum, Matt Donovan unearths and deconstructs that icon of material culture in the haunted museum that is American culture—the gun. Awhirl with pop cultural references and inhabiting an array of forms, from documentary poetry to poems that teeter on essay to the lush anaphoric spillage of the title poem, Donovan disinters, bravely, the gun fetish at our core, where “the slash of police tape…is the only horizon / that matters just now,” and even the night sky is “a black cloth riddled with holes.” I am moved by the speaker’s anger, his fear, and his tenderness. In his tenacious witnessing of the ultimate mechanism of invulnerability, he makes himself vulnerable.— Diane Seuss, author of frank:sonnets (Graywolf Press)

“Matt Donovan’s The Dug Up Gun Museum should be required reading and at the center of any conversation concerning 2nd Amendment rights.  Unlike most of these conversations, though, Donovan’s collection is complex, nuanced, and is not at all shy about cutting to the heart of the matter.  In verse, prose poems, and lyric essays, Donovan holds up a mirror to America, so that we may, as Yusef Komunyakaa once wrote, ‘see and know the terror we are made of.’” — John Murillo, author of Kontemporary Amerikan Poetry (Four Way Books)

Praise for Jennifer Martelli:

What we are reminded of in Jennifer Martelli’s All Things Are Born to Change Their Shapes is that women have been mythologized as a means to control, and, therefore, it is best to lean into this mythology and adopt the guise of the witch we are so often accused of being, or risk eclipse. There is power in that magic as Martelli demonstrates with these talismanic poems of fauna, flora, and monstrous women. Martelli has built a world for us, and in that world—haunted by the ghosts of Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton—fog slinks through the trees, and among those trees the women either shapeshift, or they perish.—Sonia Greenfield, Author of Letdown & Helen Troy is High

The poems in All Things Are Born to Change Their Shapes are sharp as “bone blades,” electric as “live wires,” their lines unfolding like “rind pared off with a sharp knife into a perfect coil.” Mythical and literary figures roam the pages as so much more than symbols or ghosts—they are fused with the brutality and beauty of culture and social consciousness, here to give shape to the present moment. While Martelli spells the reader with images of talons, owls, skeletons, and snakes, she also notes, “A poem is not a list of pretty things.” After reading this collection, one would not dare to reduce these poems into something as frail as “pretty”— they are instead gigantic, powerful, and unflinching. I could not look away, nor did I want to.

—Megan Merchant, author of Before the Fevered Snow

The poems in Jennifer Martelli’s All Things Are Born to Change Their Shapes are elemental, allegorical, imaginative, shape-shifting, and brave. She begins the book with instructions and a spell of protection, a digging down for a walling out: a moat. And the poems make their own castle, sarcophagus, owl pellet. They are occupied with what cleaves and is cloven. They are of sex, and blood, and bodies, and bones, and violence visited upon women, from Grecian punishments, to The Handmaid’s Tale, to Polanski, to Hillary Clinton. They ghost, moon, haunt, and Ouija. Martelli has a whale-sized mind, generous and expansive. Her work is sacred and profane as Mary’s bathtub half-shell, resilient as the beating heart of Joan of Arc after her burning. This poet knows trees are magic witches and rhubarb wears crowns. How a snake is born from “your friend’s arm in a black Danskin holding out a Granny Smith apple.” I want to say I think of Lucie Brock-Broido, of Brigit Pegeen Kelly, of Sexton and of Plath. And these giants walk through her poems, it’s true, but in the end there is such astonishing originality in Martelli’s lines that she crowds out all associations with her brilliance.

—Rebecca Hart Olander, editor/director of Perugia Press & author of Uncertain Acrobats



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June 4
4:00 pm - 5:30 pm
Free – $100.00
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Hudson Valley Writers Center
Philipse Manor Station
Sleepy Hollow, NY 10591 United States
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