The final installment of the semester of the University of Maine New Writing Series in the Soderberg Center was marked by a full house, in attendance to hear poets Franklin Bruno and Matvei Yankelevich read.
The New Writing Series has hosted nine events this semester, providing a platform for over a dozen writers to exhibit their work. The events have focused on a variety of forms and genres, including poetry, translation and fiction.
Steve Evans, an associate professor of English at UMaine, introduced the poets.
“[Bruno] is a poet, songwriter and philosopher of language who grew up with a yearning to write New York school poems about life in LA,” Evans said. “Matvei Yankelevich is a poet, translator and publisher with roots in Russia that were — if sever or severed sounds too painful, we’ll say translated by an upbringing in and around Boston and New England.”
Bruno spoke first and read several pieces from his newly published collection of poetry, “The Accordion Repertoire,” as well as other unpublished poems.
In the middle of his reading, Bruno presented a small stack of paper and informed the audience that he would shuffle through his series of 27 poems titled “Adequated,” reading the first nine.
Bruno ended with a series of poems inspired by Hollywood B-movies. His poems primarily featured philosophical ideas, poignant observation and the use of language in a humorous way.
Bruno has written music criticism for The Village Voice, published a book about Elvis Costello’s 1979 album “Armed Forces,” and is a member of the band The Human Hearts. He is currently working on a book about music theory that will be published by Wesleyan University Press.
Yankelevich read from an assortment of work, focusing primarily on his newest poetry book, “Alpha Donut.” He also read from his book of translations, “Today I Wrote Nothing: The Selected Writings of Daniil Kharms,” and his own poetry collection, “Boris by the Sea.”
Yankelevich told the audience he would be reading excerpts from his Russian translations, but did not want to distinguish between his own work and the work of Kharms. As a translator, he feels that his own poetry and his translations should be “mixed up as much as possible.”
“There are some of you studying poetry here: This is for you,” Yankelevich said. “Only the red wheelbarrow has such small hands.” This reference to Williams Carlos Williams’ famous poem “The Red Wheelbarrow” elicited laughs from the audience.
His reading began with humorous poems about abstract scenarios and observations and ended with a more serious tone, prompting Yankelevich to add, “This is the end of the entertaining section.”
Yankelevich is also the author of several chapbooks and is one of the founders of Ugly Duckling Presse, a nonprofit publishing company. His translations have been published in The New Yorker, Harper’s Magazine and New American Writing. He is currently on the writing faculty at Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts at Bard College.
The New Writing Series is sponsored by The National Poetry Foundation and the UMaine English Department, with additional support from the Lloyd H. Elliott Fund, the Milton Ellis Memorial Fund, the Cultural Affairs and Distinguished Lecture Series committee, and the Honors College.
The New Writing Series has hosted over one hundred authors at UMaine since its founding in 1999. The purpose of the series is to bring attention to innovative and experimental work by contemporary writers.