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National Book Festival Presents “Poetry Spotlight: Victoria Chang and Brenda Shaughnessy” on April 29

Victoria Chang and Brenda Shaughnessy banner

On Thursday, April 29, at 7 p.m. ET, poets Victoria Chang (“Obit”) and Brenda Shaughnessy (“The Octopus Museum”) discuss their poetry collections, which address issues of loss, fear, and the future of the planet.

National Poetry Month is winding down (where does the time go?), but we’re ending on a high note: We invite you to join us this Thursday, April 29, at 7 p.m. ET, for a special National Book Festival Presents “Poetry Spotlight” program featuring Victoria Chang and Brenda Shaughnessy. The event will premiere on the Library’s Facebook page and its YouTube site, and will be available for viewing afterward on the Library’s website.

The two poets read from and discuss their newest collections, which both palpably contend with loss, grief, and parenting under duress. In “Obit,” Victoria Chang writes obituaries for the “many casualties” of her mother’s death and her father’s declining health. Shaughnessy’s “The Octopus Museum” envisions an apocalyptic near-future with a world decimated by climate change, racism, and greed.

Chang and Shaughnessy’s conversation (which this writer had the good fortune to moderate) explores the immediate and inevitable forces operating in their books—notions shared by both poets that ordinary life consists of a “piling up” and “a series of fragmentary problems that are unsolvable,” as Chang says. Shaughnessy agrees, adding that “poetry seems uniquely suited for trying to make sense out of these fragments and pieces.”

The poets also discuss the forms at play in “Obit” and “The Octopus Museum.” Both Chang and Shaughnessy employ forms of public speech as “containers” for their poems—obituaries, letters to the editor—and talk about the ways in which poetic forms can help hold or control what seems uncontrollable and unknowable.

The conversation closes with a moving exchange on motherhood, and how both poets—in and outside of their poems—grapple with the fears of parenting, being parented, and how poetry really is the mode to capably (or incapably!) probe these complexities.

We look forward to sharing this program with you, and hope you tune in. Happy National Poetry Month to you and yours.

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