Ekphrasis is defined as the literary description of a visual work of art. It also is a key theme underlying the poetry of Cole Swensen, a Guggenheim Fellow and National Book Award nominee.
In each of her 14 collections, Swensen selects a single theme or subject, generally drawn from the arts or history, then explores it through her own writing process.
For example, in Such Rich Hour (2001) — inspired by Très Riches du Duc de Berry, a 15th-century book of hours — Swensen mimics the calendar rhythms of days and months while skipping forward and backward across the years.
The Glass Age (2007) investigates depictions of windows by the impressionist painter Pierre Bonnard, while Ours (2008) centers on French landscape architect André Le Nôtre, who designed Gardens of Versailles for King Louis XIV.
At 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 3, Swensen will read from her work for Washington University’s Writing Program in Arts & Sciences.
The event, sponsored as part of The Writing Program’s fall Reading Series, is free and open to the public and takes place in Hurst Lounge, Room 201, Duncker Hall.
Duncker Hall is located at the northwest corner of Brookings Quadrangle. A reception and book signing will immediately follow.
For more information, call (314) 935-7130.
Born and raised near San Francisco, Swensen earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from San Francisco State University and a doctorate in comparative literature from the University of California–Santa Cruz.
Currently professor of literary arts at Brown University, she spent 10 years on the faculty of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and previously directed the Creative Writing Program at the University of Denver.
In 2004, Swensen was a finalist for the National Book Award, for her collection Goest, loosely based on John Beckmann’s 19th-century text A History of Inventions, Discoveries, and Origins. She received the Guggenheim fellowship in 2006. Other honors include the New American Writing Award, for Noon (1997); the Iowa Poetry Prize, for Try (1999); and two Pushcart Prizes.
Swensen also is founder and editor of La Presse, which publishes English translations of contemporary French explorative writing. Her own translations from the French include Nicolas Pesquès’ Physis (2007), Olivier Cadiot’s Future, Former, Fugitive (2004); and Jean Frémon’s Island of the Dead (2002), which was awarded the 2004 PEN USA Award for Literary translation.
WHO: Poet and translator Cole Swensen
WHAT: Reading from her work
WHEN: 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 3
WHERE: Hurst Lounge, Room 201, Duncker Hall
COST: Free and open to the public
SPONSOR: Washington University’s Writing Program Reading Series
INFORMATION: (314) 935-7130.