New film on dancer Martha Hill

Martha Hill (1900–1995), the first Director of Dance at the Juilliard School, was one of the most influential dance figures of the twentieth century. Her leadership was instrumental in cementing dance’s position as an art form and as an area for serious scholarship. She carved out a place for contemporary dance in America, paving the way for artists like José Limón and Merce Cunningham. Recently, Hill has come back into the public eye with Greg Vander Veer’s movie Miss Hill: Making Dance Matter, which premiered at the 2014 Dance on Camera Festival in New York. In her review of Miss Hill for Film Journal International, Lisa Jo Sagolla writes that “Hill’s crucial role in modern dance history is comprehensively delineated in Janet Mansfield Soares’ exemplary 2009 biography, Martha Hill & the Making of American Dance. Yet director Greg Vander Veer’s smartly constructed documentary bears viewing, even by those who’ve thoroughly digested Soares’ book.”

Author Janet Mansfield Soares was a student, colleague, and teacher of dance composition with Martha Hill at the Juilliard School and is a professor emerita of dance at Barnard College, Columbia University.

Janet Mansfield Soares and her book, Martha Hill & the Making of American Dance

Janet Mansfield Soares and her book, Martha Hill & the Making of American Dance.

Martha Hill, along with contemporaries like Martha Graham, Hanya Holm, and Doris Humphrey, broke away from the old-world paradigms of ballet and European dance to create the distinctly American art form of modern dance. Soares traces the social and political forces that shaped Hill’s life, following her as she challenged the expectations placed on women in terms of their physical capabilities. Hill questioned the tenets of “white-gloved” physical education for women, and battled members of the “old boys’ club” in her mission to gain acceptance and status for dance as an independent performing art. Her work was essential in proving female dancers, teachers, and choreographers to be true artists in their own right. In her introduction to Martha Hill & the Making of American Dance, Soares wrote: “Hill worked to position dance as a valued artistic practice, one that belonged in the sociocultural life of campuses and arts centers in the United States and around the world—and one that would gradually shape a cultural entity of its own… [Hill], with her colleagues, managed to transform a many-faceted group of eccentrics into a community of talents with a single goal: to assure the survival of contemporary dance into a new millennium.”

President Gerald Ford greeting Martha Hill in 1976. Courtesy of the Martha Hill Archives.

President Gerald Ford greeting Martha Hill in 1976. Courtesy of the Martha Hill Archives.

#tbt: Joseph Ceravolo’s “Night Wanderer”

Today’s Throwback Thursday poem is Joseph Ceravolo’s “Night Wanderer” from Collected Poems.

In his lifetime, Ceravolo published six books. The publication of Collected Poems made these six books available again, and also includes a substantial amount of work that has never been in print. Collected Poems offers the first full portrait of Ceravolo’s aesthetic trajectory, bringing to light his highly original voice that often operated at a remove from his contemporaries.

Ceravolo’s poem, “Hidden Bird,” also found in Collected Poems, was selected for the anthology The Best American Poetry, 2014. The paperback edition of Collected Poems is due out in April, 2015.


 Ceravolo Blog Post

Night Wander

Eyes without light,

night without eyes,

scum of the earth, primordial skin.

A black, a beautiful universe.

Skin and eyes and fever

travels within itself

into the other.

Do not be afraid.


Recline with your hopes

on this resplendent day.

Birds cry out to the morning,

the ground calls me brother.

I crawl to you

wiped out,

stains on the heart.

O you who from our eyes is hid

with one odor

one note

and no explosion at all.


JOSEPH CERAVOLO (1934–1988) was a poet and civil engineer who was born in Astoria, Queens, and lived in New Jersey. He was the author of six books of poetry and won the first Frank O’Hara Award.

Ceravolo was not the only Wesleyan poet to be honored for a stand-out poem. Rae Armantrout’s “Control,” from Just Sayingwas also included in The Best American Poetry, 2014



Gerald Vizenor visits Minneapolis and the White Earth Nation

Gerald Vizenor read at the Bockley Gallery, in Minneapolis, on November 14th, where Louise Erdrich introduced him.

Vizenor then headed northwest, approximately 225 miles, to visit the White Earth Nation. On November 19th, he was a co-signer of the Constitution of the White Earth Nation. At this time, Dr. Vizenor was honored with a golden eagle feather for his service as a delegate and principal writer of the Constitution.

His latest literary works are Blue Ravens and Favor of Crows: New and Collected Haiku. Attendees of AWP 2015, in Minneapolis, can enjoy a Wesleyan sponsored panel (event F214), a “Tribute to Gerald Vizenor.” Panelists, including Heid Erdrich, Gerald Vizenor, Kimberly Blaeser, Gordon Henry, and Margaret Noodin, will discuss Dr. Vizenor’s vast body of work and reflect on how this elder statesman of Anishinaabe literature influenced and supported their own work. Vizenor’s political writing, nationalist poetry, and history-steeped novels will be represented in this tribute, fittingly held in his homeland of Minnesota. Panelists will reflect on Vizenor’s role as a mentor and teacher who enabled generations of Native writers to find their voice. The panel is on Friday, April 10th, 1:30pm – 2:45pm. Attendees can meet with Gerald at Wesleyan booth #907, after the panel, where he will sign copies of his books until 4:30pm. Favor of Crows: New and Collected Haiku will be available in paperback for the first time.


Erma Vizenor, Chief of the White Earth Nation, honors Gerald Vizenor with a golden eagle feather for service as a delegate and principal writer of the Constitution of the White Earth Nation.


Gerald Vizenor signing the official documents as a delegate and principal writer of the Constitution of the White Earth Nation. The Constitution Signing was held at the White Earth Nation on November 19, 2014.


Louise Erdrich introduces Gerald Vizenor at a reading of Blue Ravens at the Bockley Gallery in Minneapolis, November 14, 2014. This event was co-sponsored by Birchbark Books, a store operated by a spirited collection of people who believe in the power of good writing, the beauty of handmade art, the strength of Native culture, and the importance of small and intimate bookstores. Photograph, copyright John Ratzloff, 2014.


#tbt: “Democracy” by prisoner Stephen Todd Booker, for his mother

Today’s Throwback Thursday poem is “Democracy,” from the book Tug, which was written by Stephen Todd Booker, a prisoner on Florida’s death row.





A dandelion seed of a woman,
She, the daughter hated by her own
Mother and sisters for having two sons—
Because perhaps too she wasn’t so alone
As to agree that black men were evil,
Each an agent of Satan, the devil;
Nor could she revel in the slaughter
Of her brothers, and became outspoken
In refusing to speak ill of anyone.
For that she was persona non grata,
And even mentioning her name was shunned.
It probably helped to kill my Mother,
Never being let back into the warmth
Of what should’ve been a familial sun.

Many another dandelion seed,
While buffeted by the four winds’ reprise,
Will invariably still crave the love
Of her own blood-kin, and suffer the need
To be needed by them—so what if lies.
And that is the way she gets dealt the card
Filling her cupboard with nothing but lard,
As her siblings maintain their faith in fate,
Their girths increasing along with their hate—
Prosperity telling them they have guts,
They telling themselves nigguhmen need nutts.
Across town, Sis will live by candlelight,
And chicken-delight, or take-out chinese.
She will teach her sons to pray on their knees.

Sometimes allmotherfuckinnight she prayed;
Or, she’d writhe in pain, unable to sleep,
Fighting a migraine she had had for days.
In the morning, she’d be a quantum leap
Ahead of her time, and again her long,
Go-getter legs would have her up, swinging—
She, the very embodiment of strong.
Once dead, you would have sworn by the keening
Of her sisters and Mother she was loved.
Once cremating her, that mission was scrubbed.
In the posthaste time, both sisters and Mother
Were squabbling over her meager estate.
One son claimed it his law; the other
Quietly watched them dicker and debate.


You can read more about Booker’s work and his troubled life in the New York Times.

Happy Halloween, Happy Samhain & Happy Birthday, Annie Finch

Happy Halloween and Samhain (an ancient Gaelic festival marking the end of the harvest season)—and happy birthday to one of Wesleyan’s celebrated poets, Annie Finch. Finch was born on October 31st, 1956. She is a Wiccan, and her latest book is Spellspublished by Wesleyan on April 2, 2013. Spells, which brings Finch’s most striking old poems together with new and previously unpublished work, brings readers to “experience poetry not just in the mind, but in the body.”


Annie Finch/Spells


Her other books include poetry collections Eve (1997) and Calendars (2003), and the long poems The Encyclopedia of Scotland (1982) and Among the Goddesses: An Epic Libretto in Seven Dreams (2009), as well as several critical works. Her work has been published in journals including Yale Review, Harvard Review, Partisan Review, and Paris Review, and anthologized in collections like The Penguin Book of Twentieth-Century American Poetry and The Penguin Book of the Sonnet. She is the winner of the Sarasvati Award for Poetry and the Robert Fitzgerald Award, and is currently at work on a memoir, American Witch.

Finch has read and performed her work across the U.S. and in Canada, Europe, and Africa. She is a featured columnist for The Huffington Post, writing on poetry, feminism, and paganism. She teaches in the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast writing program, and as a visiting poet across the country. In the coming year she will head to Arizona to participate in the Tucson Festival of Books, as well as to teach a workshop at the University of Arizona Poetry Center.

Finch has also appeared on the airwaves in KRCB’s WordTemple, which showcases the most interesting work and stories in the world of literature. In November 2013, Finch appeared on the program with fellow Wesleyan author Kazim Ali to discuss their books, Spells and Sky Ward. In March 2014, Finch appeared alongside the influential feminist poet Carolyn Kizer, who passed away on October 9th. In April, an essay of Finch’s about her relationship with Kizer was read on-air. That essay, “Visiting Carolyn Kizer,” can also be found online at the Poetry Foundation.


In honor of Samhain, please enjoy two poems from Spells“Samhain” and “Spider Woman.”


(October 31)

In the season leaves should love,
since it gives them leave to move
through the wind, towards the ground
they were watching while they hung,
legend says there is a seam
stitching darkness like a name.

Now when dying grasses veil
earth from the sky in one last pale
wave, as autumn dies to bring
winter back, and then the spring,
we who die ourselves can peel
back another kind of veil

that hangs among us like thick smoke.
Tonight at last I feel it shake.
I feel the nights stretching away
thousands long behind the days
till they reach the darkness where
all of me is ancestor.

I move my hand and feel a touch
move with me, and when I brush
my own mind across another,
I am with my mother’s mother.
Sure as footsteps in my waiting
self, I find her, and she brings

arms that carry answers for me,
intimate, a waiting bounty.
“Carry me.” She leaves this trail
through a shudder of the veil,
and leaves, like amber where she stays,
a gift for her perpetual gaze.


Spider Woman

Your thoughts in a web have covered the sky.
A thread from the northwest is carrying beads from the rain,
a thread from the southwest is carrying beads from the rain,
a thread from the southeast carries bright beads,
a thread from the northeast is bringing the beads
of the rain that has filled up the sky.
Spider, you have woven a chain
stretching with rain over the sky.

#tbt: Robert Bly, “The Clear Air of October”

This week’s Throwback Thursday selection—for the last Thursday of October—is “The Clear Air of October,” from Robert Bly’s 1962 collection Silence in the Snowy Fields (also available in a special-edition minibook).


bly blog


The Clear Air of October

I can see outside the gold wings without birds
Flying around, and the wells of cold water
Without walls standing eighty feet up in the air,
I can feel the crickets’ singing carrying them into the sky.

I know these cold shadows are falling for hundreds of miles,
Crossing lawns in tiny towns, and the doors of Catholic churches;
I know the horse of darkness is riding fast to the east,
Carrying a thin man with no coat.

And I know the sun is sinking down great stairs,
Like an executioner with a great blade walking into a cellar,
And the gold animals, the lions, and the zebras, and the pheasants,
Are waiting at the head of the stairs with robbers’ eyes.


ROBERT BLY, poet, translator, editor, lives on a farm near Madison, Minnesota, in the region where he was born. He has been dedicated to poetry even before his student years at Harvard. His second book, The Light Around the Body, won the 1968 National Book Award for poetry. Among several translations is Times Alone: Selected Poems of Antonio Machado (Wesleyan 1983).

“Engaging Bodies” wins Selma Jeanne Cohen Prize in Dance Aesthetics

We are pleased to announce that Ann Cooper Albright’s book Engaging Bodies: The Politics and Poetics of Corporeality, has been selected as the winner of the Selma Jeanne Cohen Prize in Dance Aesthetics.

albright blog

The prize honors Selma Jeanne Cohen‘s work in dance theory, dance history, and dance aesthetics, and is funded by a bequest from her estate. The winner will be publicly announced during the national meeting of the ASA on October 29 to November 1, 2014 in San Antonio, Texas.

The American Society for Aesthetics was founded in 1942 to promote study, research, discussion, and publication in aesthetics. “Aesthetics,” in this connection, is understood to include all studies of the arts and related types of experience from a philosophic, scientific, or other theoretical standpoint, including those of psychology, sociology, anthropology, cultural history, art criticism, and education. “The arts” include the visual arts, literature, music, and theater arts.

The ASA publishes the Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism and The ASA Newsletter.

Holiday Gift Ideas from Wesleyan UP

Something for everyone on your list!!!

Order from using discount code W301 to receive a 30% discount.

For History Readers

Vizenor - Blue Ravens R-72-3 Blue Ravens
by Gerald Vizenor
$27.95 Hardcover

From one of today’s most important Native American writers, this “emotionally wrought and finely crafted” (ForeWord) novel follows two Anishinaabe brothers from the battlefields of World War I, to their home on the White Earth Reservation, to the streets of post-war Paris. The book is based on his great uncle’s stories, as well as extensive research.

Campbell_Tempest-Tossed.indd Tempest-Tossed:
The Spirit of Isabella Beecher Hooker
by Susan Campbell
$28.95 Hardcover

The youngest child of one of America’s most famous families, a mover and shaker with a wild streak, Isabella Beecher Hooker is remembered in this engaging, breezy biography. Pulitzer-winning author Susan Campbell combines the research skills of a “born historian” (Connecticut Explored) with a breezy, accessible style.

Williams - Prudence R-72-3 Prudence Crandall’s Legacy:
The Fight for Equality in the 1830s, Dred Scott, and Brown v. Board of Education
by Donald E. Williams, Jr.
$35.00 Hardcover

In 1833, despite public backlash, Prudence Crandall admitted a black girl to her private school, resulting in the first integrated classroom in the country. Former CT state senator Donald E. Williams Jr. details Crandall’s life and work, and her unique role in the fight for civil rights, including her battles in the court system and the legacy of these battles, which include Brown v. Board of Education, the civil rights movement, and the problems and progress we see today.

Farrow - Log Books R-72-3 The Logbooks:
Connecticut’s Slave Ships and Human Memory
by Anne Farrow
$27.95 Hardcover

Anne Farrow, co-author of the bestselling Complicity: How the North Promoted, Prolonged, and Profited from Slavery, takes readers on a harrowing journey onto the slave ship of a Connecticut merchant via the journal of that merchant’s son, bearing witness to our most shameful forgotten history. 

For Film & Theater Buffs

Eichenbaum _ Director R-72-3 The Director Within:
Storytellers of Stage and Screen
by Rose Eichenbaum
$30.00 Hardcover

Thirty-five masterminds of film, television, and theater—the directors of such productions as The Lion King, Chicago, and Rain Man–open up to Rose Eichenbaum about the entertainment industry, the role of the director, and how their work impacts our culture and lives.

For Poetry Readers

Shapiro - Momentary-croppedR-72-2x3 A Momentary Glory:
Last Poems
by Harvey Shapiro
$24.95 Hardcover

Acclaimed poet Harvey Shapiro “plays for keeps” (Hugh Seidman) in this posthumous collection. With his signature brilliance he reflects on war and eroticism, illness and aging, love and death, all in search of a worldly wisdom and grace that the poet calls “a momentary glory.”

Coultas.indd The Tatters
by Brenda Coultas
$22.95 Hardcover

Brenda Coultas turns her keen eye to everyday objects—a pigeon feather, a discarded piece of jewelry—to make sense of the landfill we humans have made of our world. “These poems,” wrote The Kenyon Review, “cataloguing and owning and turning from and grappling with our vast trash, are trouble in the most useful sense of the word.”

. In Defense of Nothing:
Selected Poems, 1987-2011
by Peter Gizzi
$26.95 Hardcover

Bookslut calls Peter Gizzi “a major force in the ever-expanding vastness of the poetry world.” In this landmark collection, representing over twenty years of work, Gizzi cements that reputation, enlisting the very American vernacular in a magical and complex music all his own.

vizenor_crows_R-72-3 Favor of Crows:
New and Collected Haiku
by Gerald Vizenor
$24.95 Hardcover

Gerald Vizenor unites the imagistic poise of haiku with the early dream songs of the Anishinaabe people in this stunning new collection, in which ordinary moments “come to shimmering life on the page” (David G. Lanoue, president of the Haiku Society of America).

 For Music Lovers

 KlostyBookwOutline72DPI John Cage Was
by James Klosty
$55.00 Hardcover

A lavish 12 x11″ art book with a textured hardcover, velum wrap, and over 170 stunning duotone photographs of the great composer at work and at play, combined with eclectic remembrances of Cage from figures like John Ashbery, Yoko Ono, and Stephen Sondheim. This book a memorial to treasure.

 Lucier - Music 109 R-72-3 Music 109:
Notes on Experimental Music
by Alvin Lucier
$19.95 Paperback

Composer and performer Alvin Lucier brings clarity to the world of experimental music as he takes the reader through more than a hundred groundbreaking musical works, including those of Robert Ashley, John Cage, Charles Ives, Morton Feldman, Philip Glass, Pauline Oliveros, Steve Reich, Christian Wolff, and La Monte Young. No previous musical knowledge is required, only a love of music.

 Jarrett - Producing R-72-3 Producing Country:
The Inside Story of the Great Recordings
by Michael Jarrett
$27.95 Paperback

In what Music Tomes calls “one of the best oral histories of country music to come around for quite some time,” Michael Jarrett interviews the producers behind the most iconic country recordings of Elvis, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, and more—revealing how producers have shaped our music and our tastes over the decades.

 . Making Beats:
The Art of Sample-Based Hip-Hop
by Joseph G. Schloss
$24.95 Paperback

Schloss examines the way hip-hop artists have managed to create a form of expression that reflects their creative aspirations, moral beliefs, political values, and cultural realities. This second edition of the book includes a new foreword by Jeff Chang and a new afterword by the author.

 Walser - Running 2-R-72-3 Running with the Devil:
Power, Gender, and Madness
in Heavy Metal
by Robert Walser
$22.95 Paperback

Dismissed by critics and academics, condemned by parents and politicians, and fervently embraced by legions of fans, heavy metal music continues to attract and embody cultural and societal conflicts. Walser explores how and why heavy metal works, both musically and socially, and investigates the genre’s formations of identity, community, gender, and power. This edition includes a new foreword by Harris M. Berger and a new afterword by the author.

#tbt: John Luther Adams and Experimental Music at Wesleyan

This week’s Throw-Back-Thursday post is dedicated to composer John Luther Adams. Below you’ll find a passage from his 2004 book, Winter Music: Composing the North

John Luther Adams, who received the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Music, for his symphony Become Ocean, is a widely praised composer, and author of two books published by Wesleyan: Winter Music and The Place Where You Go to Listen: In Search of an Ecology of Music. Adams is the subject of a recent Radiolab podcast, which aired earlier this month on WNYC . Give it a listen if you are interested in “all the forces at play in Adams’ work,” or in “the dark majesty of Adams’ take on the apocalypse.”


From Winter Music. “Love the Questions”

John Cage said that in the course of his life and work he gradually came to understand composition ‘‘not as the making of choices, but as the asking of questions.’’

Morton Feldman put it even more succinctly, when he advised simply: ‘‘Love the questions.’’

The most important questions in music and in life may turn out to have many answers, or no answers at all. In any case, the questions may well be more important than the answers.

Varèse had a maxim for composing: ‘‘Keep it level, especially in times of invention.’’

Lou Harrison has written: ‘‘When I find myself inspired I enjoy it—but, I try to lay the pencil down, for, if I continue, I know that I shall have to use the eraser in the morning.’’

Although the music of Cage, Feldman, Varèse, and Harrison sounds nothing alike, all four composers speak of a healthy mistrust of ‘‘inspiration,’’ ‘‘self-expression,’’ and the artist’s ego. In very different ways each of them placed his faith in something larger than his own will and intentions: a deep belief in the power of the music and the sounds themselves.

In my own work I try to follow a similar path. I try to ask as clearly and directly as possible a few essential questions about the music at hand. Once I articulate these questions, my discipline is simply to keep faith with the musical materials, to listen carefully to the sounds and follow wherever they might lead me.

# # #

Wesleyan University Press and Wesleyan University’s music department are well known for their commitment to experimental music. Our press has published a number of John Cage titles. John Cage Wasby James Klosty, is newly available. Cage was an assistant professor in Wesleyan’s music department, collaborating with members of our community from the 1950s until his death in 1993. Our press also published Alvin Lucier’s Music 109 (now available in paperback), aptly named after his Wesleyan course “MUSIC 109: Introduction to Experimental Music.” Lucier is the John Spencer Camp Professor of Music, Emeritus, at Wesleyan. Another recent retiree from Wesleyan, Anthony Braxton (Emeritus, Faculty of Music), continues his musical life with the Tri-Centric Foundation. You can read more about Wesleyan University’s music department here.

This weekend (October 11), Wesleyan’s Center for the Arts will host a performance by the Vijay Iyer Trio. Vijay Iyer was described by Pitchfork as “one of the most interesting and vital young pianists in jazz today.” The trio also includes bassist Stephan Crump and drummer Tyshawn Sorey (Wesleyan, MA ’11).

In the brief piece above, “Love the Questions,” Adams considers the virtues of letting music itself take the lead while composing. Experimental music allows listeners to consider sound and art in ways they might never have imagined. Wesleyan remains committed to facilitating such artistic innovation. Experimental music has certainly enriched the cultural life at Wesleyan University. We hope our readers will enrich their own lives through experimental music.

Celebrating “John Cage Was”


We are pleased to announce an important new book of photographs by James Klosty — John Cage Was, a collection of intimate portraits and remembrances of one of the most influential artists of the twentieth century. Books will be available at the October 18th release party, and on October 31st in all other locations.

John Cage at a piano

Wesleyan is honored to continue our close relationship with the memory of Cage and his works. In his recent review of John Cage Was (Paste magazine) Bill Taft notes:

John Cage Was adds an important work to the Cage canon published by Wesleyan University Press. The small press published Cage’s first book, Silence, in 1961. The success of that book enabled Cage to author five more tomes (all published by WUP) filled with lectures, essays and scores. Thanks to WUP’s fine stewardship of the Cage archive, today’s readers have easy access to a wealth of his written work. Klosty gives us a pictorial representation of a man whose life became as significant as his art.”

Wesleyan’s collection of Cage’s books include Musicage, Anarchy, Year from Monday, Empty Words, Cage:M, and Cage:X. Our recent 50th Anniversary Edition of Silence exposed a new generation of readers to his genius. In his foreword to the 50th Anniversary Edition, Kyle Gann explains why Silence was not only groundbreaking for its time, but also how it remains an innovative text in the 21st century.

“Personally, I have tried, at Cage’s urging, to enjoy a baby crying at a concert, not letting it ruin a piece of modern music; so far I’ve failed. But that’s why I keep coming back to Cage, because I keep thinking that if I could evolve or relax a little more, I could enjoy babies crying and fire alarms ringing, and feel as comfortable with the universe as he always seemed to be. He thought his way out of the twentieth century’s artistic neuroses and discovered a more vibrant, less uptight world that we didn’t realize was there. Silence is the traveler’s guide to that world. Every visit it to it lifts the feet a little more off the ground.”

We are overjoyed to add John Cage Was to our collection of John Cage titles. This volume is a true celebration of a remarkable figure who redefined music forever.

For more information on John Cage Was by James Klosty, click here.