Poet Sharon Bryan in the Cyber Arena
By Emily Jaeger, Features Editor
The first word that comes to mind when thinking of Sharon Bryan’s new website, The Poetry Conversation, is generosity. An award-winning author of four collections of poetry, Sharp Stars, Flying Blind, Objects of Affection, and Salt Air as well as a professor of Creative Writing at the low-residence MFA at Lesley College, Bryan writes, “Talking to other people about poetry is one of my greatest pleasures, and my teaching has always fueled my writing—and vice versa.” In The Poetry Conversation Bryan shares her poetic expertise while inviting the audience, from poetry aficionados to seasoned writers, to weigh in.
Bryan launched the site on June 4 2016 with an invocation to her readers to join an intimate feast. She wanted to create a warm forum for participants to talk about their mutual love: “I think of it as a group of people gathered informally around a big table, talking about poets and poetry over wine and food (it’s BYOB).” Promising to post weekly about poems, craft, and translation, she in turn invited readers to reply. Only three months in the making, The Poetry Conversation already has an active following.
Available both by email subscription and as a regular feature on Bryan’s website, The Poetry Conversation is clean and modern in format. The black and white posts with few pictures emphasize the important stuff: poetry:
Bryan usually begins with an eloquent but brief reflection on a poem or theme, quoting a poem or two in full. Then mirroring a classroom format, Bryan opens the floor. Each post contains five or more reader responses, answering prompts and sharing poems they admire. Often Bryan responds as well. Bryan’s reflections are astute and scholarly, yet the intention is always admiration over criticism, as Bryan writes, “Someone commented recently on the celebratory nature of most of the posts…. I prefer sharp perceptions to sharp tongues.”
Throughout The Poetry Conversation, Bryan showcases her penchant for facilitating discussion in the cyber arena. A recent post about Marvin Bell embodying, “the inseparability of life and death,” in the poem “Poem After Carlos Drummond de Andrade,” sparks a lively discussion of Drummond’s poetry. Bryan skillfully crafts the conversation into further posts, creating a larger discussion of poetic translation and incorporating links to an essay by Carol Muske-Dukes as well as Drummond translations by Lloyd Schwartz and Mark Strand.
It is worth following The Poetry Conversation just for the discovery of the poems that Bryan curates, like Marvin Bell’s:
…Too late: Life got its tentacles around you, its hooks into your heart,
and suddenly you come awake as if for the first time, and
you are standing in a part of the town where the air is
sweet–your face flushed, your chest thumping, your
stomach a planet, your heart a planet, your every organ a
separate planet, all of it of a piece though the pieces turn
separately, O silent indications of the inevitable, as among
the natural restraints of winter and good sense, life blows
you apart in her arms.”
from “Poem After Carlos Drummond de Andrade” by Marvin Bell
Bryan has plans to continue growing the site, both by expanding her audience and featuring guest blogs. Hopefully this will also bring new poets beyond Bryan’s albeit illustrious bookshelf under discussion. Visit the site to join the conversation.
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