Poems in Conversation & A Conversation
2008, 32 pages; Series Editors: Margo Taft Stever, Suzanne Cleary.
“When Alexander and Stefanon scrutinize the variegated surfaces of Romare Bearden’s art, the intensity of their gazes gives way to speech. In the blues of ‘Reclining Nude,’ Stefanon’s speaker discovers ‘I could hear / her holding / her breath.’ Alexander finds images that transmute into sounds: ‘Flowered dresses. / A woman’s holler. River or guitar.’ In the hands of these poets, ekphrasis is an act of inquiry, a mode of poetic transformation as well as cultural analysis. For both, the lacunae inherent in acts of reading and looking are openings for empathy, uncertainty, discourse”—Barbara Fischer
Elizabeth Alexander is a poet, essayist, playwright, and teacher. She is the author of four books of poems, The Venus Hottentot, Body of Life, Antebellum Dream Book, and American Sublime, which was one of three finalists for the 2005 Pulitzer Prize. She is also a scholar of African-American literature and culture and recently published a collection of essays, The Black Interior. She has read her work across the U.S. and in Europe, the Caribbean, and South America, and her poetry, short stories, and critical prose have been published in dozens of periodicals and anthologies. She has received many grants and honors, most recently the Alphonse Fletcher, Sr. Fellowship for work that “contributes to improving race relations in American society and furthers the broad social goals of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision of 1954,” and the 2007 Jackson Prize for Poetry, awarded by Poets and Writers.
Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon is the author of Open Interval, a 2009 finalist for the National Book Award and the LA Times Book Prize, and Black Swan, winner of the 2001 Cave Canem Poetry Prize, as well as the chapbooks Leading with a Naked Body with Leela Chantrelle and Poems in Conversation and a Conversation with Elizabeth Alexander. She has been awarded fellowships from Cave Canem, the Lannan Foundation, and Civitella Ranieri. She has written plays and lyrics for The Cherry, an Ithaca arts collective, and in 2018, her work was featured in Courage Everywhere, celebrating women’s suffrage and the fight for political equality, at National Theatre London.