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May 11, 2016

Poet Serena Chopra Embodies Calm in a Hectic Time

Poetlandia

Photo Credit: Kasey Ferlic

It’s been a minute, Athens. So many things have happened in the writing world; I can’t even. Well, I can, but I won’t. For the moment, I’d like to focus on this week’s Avid Poetry Series reading, which features Atlanta-based writers Phillip B. Williams and Kirstin Valdez Quade, and Colorado-based poet and performer Serena Chopra. Let me be clear: This is a must-see (or must-hear) event. And you should add to your summer reading list Williams’ first book of poems, Thief in the Interior, as well as Valdez Quade’s collection of stories, Night at the Fiestas.

Chopra, who has family in Atlanta, finds herself “smitten” with Athens and is looking forward to our “greenery and wet air.” As a professional modern dancer (with Evolving Doors Dance) and a poet who reaches out often to the visual arts, she illustrates perfectly what it takes to keep an art form lively and relevant. As she puts it, “There’s always something going on movement-wise for me.” This would seem to apply also to all her work. It makes sense, then, that Chopra digs Athens so much, given the potential in Classic City to move freely between the arts.

Chopra is a PhD candidate in creative writing at the University of Denver. She is the author of two full-length books of poems, This Human (Coconut, 2013) and Ic (Horse Less, forthcoming in summer 2016). She is the co-founder and an actor in the poet’s theater group, GASP. She currently teaches in the MFA program at Naropa University's Jack Kerouac School. She lives and works in Denver. Check out collaborative work here.

Soon, Chopra will heading to Bangalore, India, where she will be a Fulbright Research Scholar working with queer women and composing a novel on the Indian diaspora and queerness. Again, on the move: across the globe, into the social justice arena and into fiction.

Below are two poems (with the same title) from Chopra’s manuscript Queerly is the Night. For me they serve as incantations. These are high-stakes poems. And what’s remarkable is that amidst all the language play you have a questioning and explosive self or set of selves. Join me:

“Morning”

That day is noxious though clean-bruised with snow
and melt swallows the thin quest of morning
the harness of wooly sleep, traffic
stepping near me and streams invoke anxiously, clever ways out
Those sounds, sounding out, invoke me distant from the world I am within
That the tree was removed and the hospital imposes a view
That I am nothing between the world
That a rivulet should cave beneath
That loneliness is a wave of amplitude and pitch
In which the animal inside is not the animal without
        voice of her feral marks
        the harness of her feral marks
        where
That I am handled bravely, manifest
That I am nothing between the world between me

“Morning”

Where in the long work of urgency, memory’s acres of muscle.
Whereas creatures blessed with wings, in us ossified blades.
Wherefore the obtuse weather of vision and the indulgent dish of sight.
Wherein an animal cocks to the right, up and to the right.
Where queerly is the night, queerly is the land’s far colored dexterity.
Where are the tools of superfluous implication.
Where we make our bed of sleeping woman.

Send your literary events or brief prose or poetry, along with a bio, to poetlandia@flagpole.com.

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