Subjects

Celebrating 10 Years of “Night’s Dancer” by Yaël Tamar Lewin

September 13, 2021, marks the 10th anniversary of the publication of Night’s Dancer: The Life of Janet Collins, by dance scholar Yaël Tamar Lewin, referred to as a “must-read” by Charmaine Warren in her Amsterdam News review. It chronicles the life of an extraordinary and elusive woman, who became a unique concert dance soloist as well as a trailblazer in the white world of classical ballet—the first African-American prima ballerina at the Metropolitan Opera.

The book opens with Collins’s unfinished memoir, which gives a captivating account of her childhood and young adult years, including her rejection by the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo—based on Collins’s refusal to whiten her face. Lewin then picks up the thread of Collins’s story, drawing on extensive research and interviews to explore Collins’s development as a dancer, choreographer, and painter, giving us a profoundly moving portrait of an artist of indomitable spirit in an era in which racial bias prevailed. The book contains 65 illustrations, including 49 photographs as well as 16 color plates of Collins and her visual artwork.

Winner of the Marfield Prize, the National Award for Arts Writing, from the Arts Club of Washington, Night’s Dancer reveals that Collins’s brilliant performances transformed how African-American dancers were perceived in the world of ballet, making way for future ballet dancers of color. The 70th anniversary of her historic debut at the Metropolitan Opera will be celebrated on November 13, 2021.

Yaël Tamar Lewin is a dance historian, writer, and dancer living in New York City.

Praise for Night’s Dancer

Night’s Dancer: The Life of Janet Collins is an enthralling read. It reinforces Collins’s struggle, personal strength and ultimate success. While following her dreams with endless energy, she leapt over boundaries.”
—Karen Barr, Dance International

“Much of Collins’s career is lost in the gaps of performance history, and Lewin has done wonders to restore to the record the work of this pioneering woman, as well as printing Collins’s forty-odd pages of reminiscences for the first time… Night’s Dancer is a fine contribution both to dance history and the history of segregation in the United States.”
—Judith Flanders, Times Literary Supplement

“With Night’s Dancer, Lewin has produced a major work that continues to correct the absence of historical writing on African Americans in ballet and modern dance. The author incorporates Collins’s own writings, intimate details from the artist’s life, and rich contextual material to create a work that is emotionally touching and incredibly informative.”
—John O. Perpener III, author of African-American Concert Dance: The Harlem Renaissance and Beyond

“Blessed with extraordinary gifts for dance and painting, Janet Collins broke barriers as the first African-American prima ballerina at the world-renowned Metropolitan Opera. Her life’s journey is inspirational. History should recognize her as one of its pioneers. Janet Collins was truly one of earth’s angels.”
—Arthur Mitchell, co-founder of the Dance Theatre of Harlem

“Psychologists, sociologists, historians, painters, dancers, choreographers—here is your book! This is a careful, objective, revealing study of a complex and enigmatic person. Collins was richly blessed with creative talents and deeply drawn to a spiritual life. Night’s Dancer explores her struggle to fulfill and be fulfilled. A scholarly, beautiful, important work, and long overdue.”
—Raven Wilkinson, first African-American dancer with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo

Announcing “The Past”

“Xu’s lyricism and near-painterly control of the line are breathtaking. The Past shows us how the natural world tells of a shared history and language long after the traumas of revolution and immigration. These poems push outward at all of the seams.”—Wendy S. Walters, author of Multiply/Divide: On the American Real and Surreal

“Wendy Xu’s The Past embodies what James Baldwin said about poets, that they must excavate and recreate history. In her brilliant confrontations with the past, Xu is cultivating, caring for, and ultimately transforming the consciousness and the subconscious ground of poetry’s faithful yet fearless engagement with history, out of which descendant generations will approach and appraise, by the profound permission of her example, their own cultural and familial histories, and therefore all of our futures.”—Brandon Shimoda, author of The Grave on the Wall

 

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The poems in Wendy Xu’s third collection, The Past, fantasize uneasily about becoming a palatable lyric record of their namesake, while ultimately working to disrupt this Westernized desire. Who is “the past” for, after all, and what does it allow? Both sorrow and joy are found in these poems, knit into the silences and slippery untrustworthinesses of the English language.

Born in Shandong, China, in 1987, Wendy Xu immigrated to the United States in 1989, three days ahead of the events of Tian’anmen Square on June 4th—the poems of The Past partly concern the emotional reverberations of this annual double-anniversary, the place at which “the past” forked, over thirty years ago, putting the author on a path to the United States. The Past probes the multi-generational binds of family, displacement, the illness and passing of the author’s uncle and maternal grandfather in 2018, and immigration as an ongoing psychic experience without end. Moving spontaneously between lyric, fragment, prose, and subversions in “traditional” Chinese forms, the book culminates in a centerpiece series of “Tian’anmen Square sonnets” (and their subsequent erasures), an original form built from iterations of 6 and 4 in order to evade algorithmic censorship of references to June 4, 1989. Using form as inquiry, The Past conjures up the irrepressible past and ultimately imagines a new kind of poem: at once code and confession.

LOOKING AT MY FATHER

It’s the inside which
comes out, as I contemplate
him there half
in sunlight, weeding diligently
a Midwestern lawn.
On my persons, I have
only notes
and a drying pen,
the memory
of onion blossoms
scenting
in a window.
Reflection is my native
medium. I am never
arriving, only speaking
briefly on material
conditions between myself
and others. My country
inoculates
me lovingly, over time.
My country grasps me
like desire.
I will show you
my credentials, which is
to say my vivid description
if you ask.
Here we are, my father
and I, never hostile,
a small offering: pointless
cut flowers appear
on the kitchen table
when one
finally arrives
into disposable income.
Still possible.
Am I living? Do I
accept revision
as my godhead
and savior? I do
and I am, in the name
of my Chinese father now
dragging the tools
back inside, brow
shining but always
a grin, faithless
except to protect whatever
I still have time
to become,

Amen.

WENDY XU (Brooklyn, NY) is the author of Phrasis, named one of the 10 Best Poetry Books of 2017 by the New York Times Book Review. She teaches writing at the New School, and serves as poetry editor for the arts magazine Hyperallergic.

Celebrating LGBTQ+ Pride

Pride Month (June) commemorate the Stonewall Riots which took place in Greenwich Village in late June 1969. The Stonewall Riots were a series of spontaneous demonstrations by members of the LGBTQ+ community in response to a police raid against the Stonewall Inn. When the police became violent, patrons of the Stonewall and members of the larger Village community fought back. Today, Stonewall is considered one of the most important events in the lead-up to the Gay Liberation Movement and the modern fight for LGBTQ+ rights in the United States.

To celebrate, we share with you a Wesleyan University Press Pride Reading List. These titles are by LGBTQ+ authors or detail an important aspect of LGBTQ+ history and culture. The LGBTQ+ community has made immense contributions and these texts are just one way in which we can see that influence. We are proud to support LGBTQ+ authors, readers, and stories—during June and always.

New and Forthcoming

Cover of Magnified by Minnie Bruce Pratt

Once in a blue moon, a love like this comes along….

“The poems in Magnified model a fearless relation with lost beloveds that is gorgeous, queer and fiercely alive. Minnie Bruce Pratt, who always writes verse with palpating radical breath, here ignites it with a vision for revolutionary afterlife.”
—Rachel Levitsky, author of The Story of My Accident Is Ours

Magnified is a collection of love poems drawing us into the sacred liminal space that surrounds death. With her beloved gravely ill, poet and activist Minnie Bruce Pratt turns to daily walks and writing to find a way to go on in a world where injustice brings so much loss and death. Each poem is a pocket lens “to swivel out and magnify” the beauty in “the little glints, insignificant” that catch her eye.

 

cover of Occasional Views Vol 1 by Samuel Delany

Essays and occasional writings from one of literature’s iconic voices

“By turns gutsy and erudite, challenging and gracious, Delany’s Occasional Views gives illuminating glances of his mind’s life journey. How lucky we are to have these proofs of the resonant truths he has discovered along the way!”
—Nisi Shawl, author of Everfair

Essays, lectures, and interviews address topics such as 9/11, race, the garden of Eden, the interplay of life and writing, and notes on other writers such as Theodore Sturgeon, Hart Crane, Ursula K. Le Guin, Hölderlin, and an introduction to—and a conversation with—Octavia E. Butler.

 

cover of Be Brave to Things: The Uncollected Poems and Plays of Jack Spicer

Indispensable volume of previously unavailable poetry by an American master

“Have you read a poet and suddenly feel the shoulders you stand on? Jack Spicer does this to many of us, and now there are more poems! Oh, more treasure! Magic is not a metaphor, and ‘Time does not finish a poem.’ Jack says, ‘Like a herd of reindeer / No one knows your heart.”
—CAConrad

Includes major unfinished projects, early and alternate versions of well-known Spicer poems, shimmering stand-alone lyrics, and intricate extended “books” and serial poems. This new cache of Spicer material will be indispensable for any student of 20th century American poetry, proffering a trove of primary material for Spicer’s growing readership to savor and enjoy.

Recent & Backlist

 

 

Featured books:

Magnified by Minnie Bruce Pratt

Un-American by Hafizah Geter

bury it by sam sax

Music & Camp by Christopher Moore and Philip Purvis

Inquisition by Kazim Ali

Impossible Dance: Club Culture and Queer World-Making by Fiona Buckland

Occasional Views Volume 1: “More About Writing” and Other Essays by Samuel R Delany

My Vocabulary Did This to Me: The Collected Poetry of Jack Spicer

Be Brave to Things: The Uncollected Poetry and Plays of Jack Spicer

How Reading Is Written: A Brief Index to Gertrude Stein by Astrid Lorange

Same-Sex Marriage: The Legal and Psychological Evolution in America by Donald J. Cantor, Elizabeth Cantor, James C. Black, and Campbell D. Barrett

Celebrating Poetry Month? Consider poetry-in-translation!

When selecting your next poetry read, consider reading work in translation.  Welsleyan has a number of volumes of poetry in translation.

Aimé and Suzanne Césaire

The Complete Poetry of Aimé Césaire gathers all of Cesaire’s celebrated verse into one bilingual edition. The French portion is comprised of newly established first editions of Césaire’s poetic œuvre made available in French in 2014, edited by AJ Arnold and an international team of specialists. To prepare the English translations, the translators started afresh from this new French edition. These translations of the poet’s early work reveal a new understanding of Cesaire’s aesthetic and political trajectory.

AIMÉ CÉSAIRE (1913–2008) was best known as the co-creator (with Léopold Senghor) of the concept of négritude. CLAYTON ESHLEMAN (1935–2021) was emeritus professor of English at Eastern Michigan University and the foremost American translator of César Vallejo and Aimé Césaire. His translation work earned him a National Book Award and a Griffin Poetry Prize. A. JAMES ARNOLD is emeritus professor of French at the University of Virginia. He edited A History of Literature in the Caribbean and authored Modernism and Negritude: The Poetry and Poetics of Aimé Césaire.

     

 

César Vallejo

For the first time in English, readers can now evaluate the extraordinary breadth of César Vallejo’s diverse oeuvre that, in addition to poetry, includes magazine and newspaper articles, chronicles, political reports, fictions, plays, letters, and notebooks. Edited by the translator Joseph Mulligan, Selected Writings follows Vallejo down his many winding roads, from Santiago de Chuco in highland Peru, to the coastal cities of Trujillo and Lima, on to Paris, Madrid, Moscow, and Leningrad. This repeated border-crossing also plays out on the textual level, as Vallejo wrote across genres and, in many cases, created poetic space in extra-literary modes. Informed by a vast body of scholarly research this author’s writing puts forth a new representation of this essential figure of twentieth-century Latin American literature as an indispensable alternative to the European avant-garde. Compiling well-known versions with over eighty percent of the text presented in English translation for the first time, Selected Writings is both a trove of and tribute to Vallejo’s multifaceted work. Includes translations by the editor and Clayton Eshleman, Pierre Joris, Suzanne Jill Levine, Nicole Peyrafitte, Michael Lee Rattigan, William Rowe, Eliot Weinberger, and Jason Weiss.

CÉSAR VALLEJO (1892–1938) was born in the Peruvian Andes and, after publishing some of the most radical Latin American poetry of the twentieth century, moved to Europe, where he diversified his writing practice to encompass theater, fiction, and reportage. As an outspoken alternative to the European avant-garde, Vallejo stands as one of the most authentic and multifaceted creators to write in the Castilian language.

JOSEPH MULLIGAN is a professional translator and scholar. He has translated Against Professional Secrets by César Vallejo, The Antiquarian by Gustavo Faverón Patriau, and a selection of Sahrawi poetry included in Poems for the Millennium Volume IV: The University of California Book of North African Poetry. He lives in Rochester, New York.

 

 

Bold translations by Matt Reeck

Prix Goncourt winner Patrick Chamoiseau, hailed by Milan Kundera as “an heir of Joyce and Kafka,” is among the leading Francophone writers today. With most of his novels having appeared in English, this book opens a new window on his oeuvre. A moving poetic essay that bears witness to the forgotten history of the French penal colony in French Guiana, French Guiana—Memory Traces of the Penal Colony accompanied by more than sixty evocative color photographs by Rodolphe Hammadi and translated, here for the first time, deftly by Matt Reeck.

PATRICK CHAMOISEAU is an award-winning francophone author from Martinique. He is author of twelve novels, as well as several films and essays.

MATT REECK is the translator of five books and has won Fulbright, NEA, and PEN/Heim grants.

RODOLPHE HAMMADI is an award-winning French photojournalist, photographer, and sculptor.

Celebrate Earth Day: Connecticut Walk Book

 

Earth Day is an opportunity to explore the rich natural world that we may take for granted in our day-to-day lives. In a time of social distancing, appreciating the outdoors has become more important than ever!

The Connecticut Forest & Park Association provides many great ways to get out and enjoy Connecticut. The CFPA maintains over 825 miles of trails that wind through state parks and forests, land trusts, town open space and across private land. Wesleyan University Press published the twentieth edition of The Connecticut Walk Book: The Complete Guide to Connecticut’s Blue-Blazed Hiking Trails. It is a comprehensive guide to blue-blazed trails that includes detailed, full color maps, mileage/destination tables, and a lay flat design for ease of use. The book is also offered as an e-book so you can have all the maps available on your favorite device when you’re out on the trail. The CFPA website also provides an interactive trail map, a great accompaniment to the book.

The Blue-Blazed Hiking Trail System covers 825 miles of woodlands and offers spectacular views, fresh air, exercise, and tranquility. In addition, CFPA partners with Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) to manage the James L. Goodwin Conservation Center, set among 2,000 acres of managed forest and wildlife habitats. The Center’s goal is to educate children and adults about conservation. Goodwin Forest is also home to the Haley Native Plant Wildlife Gardens, 1.5 ares of gardens of North American plants, as well as three large ponds for fishing, boating, and bird-watching, a picnic pavilion, and the Goodwin Nature Museum.

CFPA is a leader in state conservation efforts, working with leaders at all government levels to promote sound conservation laws in Connecticut. Those interested in volunteering with the CFPA in the future can sign up here. The website offers a portal in which you can sign up for volunteer opportunities and track your hours. People can also donate to the CFPA to support their conservation efforts and protect parks and forests throughout Connecticut.

Will Harris Wins Felix Dennis Prize

Congratulations to poet Will Harris! His debut poetry collection RENDANG is the recipient of the Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection.

Given by the Forward Arts Foundation, the prize honors excellence in contemporary poetry published in the UK and Ireland, including Best Collection, Best First Collection, and Best Single Poem. Harris is the winner of the prize for Best First Collection.

Using long poems, ekphrasis, and ruptured forms, RENDANG is a startling new take on the self, and how an identity is constructed. Drawing on his Anglo-Indonesian heritage, Will Harris shows us new ways to think about the contradictions of identity and cultural memory. He creates companions that speak to us in multiple languages. They deftly ask us to consider how and what we look at, as well as what we don’t look at and why. It is intellectual and accessible, moving and experimental, and combines a linguistic innovation with a deep emotional rooting.

An event announcing Harris and other winners will be hosted by the British Library online at 3 PM (British time). Check out more information here.

 

“Public Figures” Revisited

The topic of monuments and memorialization of historical figures has been a point of contention in the United States. We recall the removal of confederate statues in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017, resulting in retaliation from violent white supremacist groups. In more recent news, the removal of similar statues has swept the nation after the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Riah Milton, and Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells. As protests against police brutality occur in states across the nation, calls for the removal of statues that stand as symbols of racism and oppression have increased. Some monuments, such as one of Christopher Columbus in Boston and Thomas Jefferson in Portland, have been physically removed by frustrated people demanding a more accurate recognition of American history.

Many of these Civil War-related statues were erected long after the war, in the early 20th century. This fact might leave one to ponder, what was the intention of honoring Confederate military leaders in the early 20th century?

Jena Osman’s book Public Figures examines the monuments and statues of Philadelphia, pondering each statue’s literal “view” on the city as well as the embedded history within their creation and placement. As the book progresses, including photographs of various figures, the common theme remains of militarism and pride in the state. Regardless of the historical context of a statue, whether it be a Civil War soldier or a replica of a classical Greek statue, weaponry including guns, swords, spears, and grenades are attached to the hands and arms of these iron men. Many are dressed in military uniform, differentiating them from the civilian life of the passersby.

Osman ponders what we do and do not notice as we move about our lives. Does our oblivious walk past such statues parallel our nation’s ability to ignore the deadly work of state-sanctioned violence and indicate an implicit acceptance of our country’s racist history? What kind of message do statues symbolizing slave owners and colonizers send to communities of color? And why must these communities accept these statues looming over their daily lives?

When you next find yourself in a public space, take a look around at the monuments and art placed there. Ponder what the intended message is.

To learn more about Public Figures, check out our Reader’s Companion. Teachers might find these classroom exercises useful, including a research project for students to investigate their local “public figures.”

 

 

More award-winning music titles from Wesleyan!

We are pleased to announce that Dynamic Korea and Rhythmic Form, by Katherine In-Young Lee, is the recipient of The Béla Bartók Award for Outstanding Ethnomusicology from ASCAP.

From the judging committee citation:

Dynamic Korea and Rhythmic Form by Katherine In-Young Lee, published by Wesleyan University Press, received The Béla Bartók Award for Outstanding Ethnomusicology. The book explores how a percussion genre from South Korea (samul nori) became a global music genre. In it, Lee contends that rhythm-based forms serve as a critical site for cross-cultural musical encounters.”

About the book:

The South Korean percussion genre, samul nori, is a world phenomenon whose powerful rhythmic form is its key to its international popularity and mobility. Similar to other music genres that have become truly global—hip-hop, Indonesian gamelan, Japanese taiko—samul nori’s rhythmic forms are experienced on a somatic level, making the movement between cultures easier. Based on both ethnographic research and close formal analysis, author Katherine In-Young Lee focuses on the kinetic experience of samul nori, drawing on the concept of dynamism to explain how qualities of movement and energy shifts in its rhythmic form appeals to audiences and practitioners worldwide. Lee explores the historical, philosophical, and pedagogical dimensions of the percussive form while breaking with traditional approaches to the study of world music that privilege political, economic, institutional, or ideological analytical frameworks. Lee argues that because samul nori is experienced on a somatic level, the form easily moves beyond national boundaries and provides sites for cross-cultural interaction. Her work provides a study of how a national cultural form goes transnational, based on ethnographic interviews with samul nori ensembles in South Korea, the United States, Switzerland, Mexico, and Japan

Katherine In-Young Lee is assistant professor of ethnomusicology at UCLA and her work has appeared in Journal of Korean Studies, Ethnomusicology, and Journal of Korean Traditional Performing Arts.

Also of interest:

Citizen Azmari: Making Ethiopian Music in Tel Aviv, by Ilana Webster-Kogen, published by the Wesleyan University Press, received the Society for Ethnomusicology’s 2019 Publication Prize given by the Special Interest Group of Jewish Music. The books sheds light on Ethiopian-Israeli music, and in it, Webster-Kogen challenges notions of Jewishness, of Israeli-ness, and of global blackness, showing how Ethiopian-Israelis move within all of these groups and create complex webs of belonging through musical performance.

“Language Turned Into Pure Sound”

Alvin Lucier – Parshall, Colorado, 1997. Photo: Amanda Lucier.

“A lot of my work is revealing sounds that are already there…”

Composer, educator, and writer Alvin Lucier was interviewed by Maggie Malloy for Second Inversion at the 2019 Big Ears Festival, where his music was performed by Joan La Barbara, the Ever Present Orchestra, and the composer himself.

In the interview, which features a recording of Lucier’s most iconic work I Am Sitting in a Room, Lucier discusses not only the music itself but how it is perceived and felt and what separates it from the work of his contemporaries. His work is experimental, dealing with the science of sound, playing with the wavelengths of sound itself and discovering how the physical dimensions it occupies changes its resonances.

Alvin Lucier is John Spencer Camp Professor of Music, Emeritus, at Wesleyan University, where he taught from 1968 to 2011. Recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Society for Electro-Acoustic Music in the United States, Lucier was the guest composer at the Tectonics Festival in Glasgow and the Ultima Festival in Oslo, gave a portrait concert at the Louvre, Paris, was honored by a three-day festival of his works at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam.

Books by Alvin Lucier

Music 109: Notes on Experimental Music

Eight Lectures on Experimental Music

To listen to recordings of his music, visit Alvin Lucier’s webpage.