About Chapter 16 In response to the loss of book coverage in newspapers around the state, Humanities Tennessee founded Chapter 16 in 2009 to provide comprehensive coverage of literary news and events in Tennessee. Each weekday the site posts fresh content that focuses on author events across the state and new releases from Tennessee authors. In addition, Chapter 16 maintains partnerships with newspapers in each major media market statewide, and our content appears in print each week through the Memphis Commercial Appeal, the Nashville Scene, and the Knoxville News Sentinel. Through the site, social media, a weekly newsletter, and our newspaper partnerships, Chapter 16 reaches more than half a million readers on a good week.
When filmmaker Lynne Sachs turned fifty, she dedicated herself to writing a poem for every year of her life, so far. Each of the fifty poems investigates the relationship between a singular event in Sachs’ life and the swirl of events beyond her domestic universe.
In May 2020, Chapter 16 featured a “2010” from the collection of 50 poems.
In the eventuality that preparation for security advanced signatures obtained life jackets confirmed permanent medical records sealed pharmaceuticals delivered weather reported batteries checked tires filled expiration avoided warnings acknowledged wills signed if-and-only-ifs collected and still no one anticipated the return of my brother-in-law’s cancer.
A friend forgot to send her payment — a single check she never put in the envelope, hidden under a stack of receipts, appointment cards, and electricity bills. The check, never arrived. Her policy, cancelled.
She who had already given up her ovaries and come face-to-face in the ring with illness, won that round. Now no rope to hold onto, no pillows to fall back on. We two friends of more than twenty years sit at a table in a café talking of our homes, books we’ve read, people almost forgotten, purses with zippers, jump ropes, kitchen counters, projects abandoned.
I ask her about her health. She’s crossing her fingers That’s all she has until they pass that bill.
Lynne Sachsmakes films and writes poems that explore the intricate relationship between personal observations and broader historical experiences. Her work embraces hybrid form and combines memoir with experimental, documentary, and fictional modes. In recent years, she has expanded her practice to include live performance with moving image. Lynne was first exposed to poetry by her great aunt as a child in Memphis, Tennessee. Soon she was frequenting workshops at the local library and getting a chance to learn from poets like Gwendolyn Brooks and Ethridge Knight. As an active member of Brown University’s undergraduate poetry community, she shared her early poems with fellow poet Stacy Doris. Lynne later discovered her love of filmmaking while living in San Francisco where she worked with artists Craig Baldwin, Bruce Conner, Barbara Hammer, Carolee Schneeman, and Trinh T. Minh-ha. Lynne has made thirty-five films which have screened at the New York Film Festival, the Sundance Film Festival, the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Walker Art Center, and the Wexner Center for the Arts. Festivals in Buenos Aires, Beijing and Havana have presented retrospectives of her work. Lynne received a 2014 Guggenheim Fellowship. In early 2020, her newest movie, Film About a Father Who, will premiere on opening night at the Slamdance Film Festival and in NYC at the Museum of Modern Art. Lynne lives in Brooklyn. Year by Year Poemsis her first book of poetry.
1 – How did your first book change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?Writing YEAR BY YEAR POEMS did not just change my life, it was my life. When I turned 50, I decided to reconnect with every year of my life, so far, by writing a poem that explores the relationship I had had with something beyond my control, outside my domestic universe. The personal confronts the public, and vice-versa. Writing these poems forced me to carve out precise distillations of these moments in my time and our shared time.
2 – How did you come to filmmaking first, as opposed to, say, poetry, fiction or non-fiction? I have been writing poetry since I was a child and filmmaking is actually an extension of this desire to process my bewilderment and occasional understanding of the world that spins around me. The personal, experimental, essayistic, documentary approaches I bring to my filmmaking are extensions of the thinking involved in writing a poem.
3 – How long does it take to start any particular writing project? Does your writing initially come quickly, or is it a slow process? Do first drafts appear looking close to their final shape, or does your work come out of copious notes? I adore first drafts and for this reason I try to write my poems by hand, with a pen on paper. I return to them like an archeologist, relishing every gesture that I see on the page. With this in mind, I included many of my first drafts – as images almost – in YEAR BY YEAR POEMS. So far, readers have generally appreciated seeing these visualizations of the process of writing, moving back-and-forth between the inchoate first draft to the finished, edited, typed version. My mother was the only person who thought some of the poems were better and more fleshed-out in the original drafts. I thought this was apt, since her perspective on my life is probably the most complete.
4 – Where does a poem, work of prose or film-script usually begin for you? Are you an author of short pieces that end up combining into a larger project, or are you working on a “book” from the very beginning? Each poem in YEAR BY YEAR POEMS begins with a year. In fact, I gave myself the pleasure of inventing a new graphic font for each of these 50 years, and these designs/ doodles became the cover of the book. Limitations or constraints on the writing of a poem actually allow me to work in a more expansive way. I feel less overwhelmed by the daunting challenge of trying to say something. In terms of my filmmaking, I have made 35 films, the shortest being 3 minutes and the longest 83. I just completed FILM ABOUT A FATHER WHO which is 74 minutes and will premiere next month as the opening night film at Slamdance Film Festival in Park City and then at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City in February. Believe it or not, I started this film in 1984 and just finished it. The only way I could find its structure was to create many short films and then to find search for compelling transitions.
5 – Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings? I have finally discovered the joy of reading from my book in front of an audience. I have never ever been an actor so it did not really appeal to me before. Now, when I am reading from my own book, I feel deeply connected to the listeners in the room. It is so much fun to watch people responding. I have recently read or will read at Berl’s Poetry Bookshop, Topos Books, McNally Jackson Bookstore, KGB Lit Bar, Court Tree Gallery, Penn Book Center, and Museum of Modern Art Buenos Aires (with a translator). I will be reading from my book and showing my films at the main branch of the San Francisco Public Library for National Poetry Month in April, 2020.
6 – Do you have any theoretical concerns behind your writing? What kinds of questions are you trying to answer with your work? What do you even think the current questions are? I think my deepest concerns stem from my visceral devotion to feminism.
7 – What do you see the current role of the writer being in larger culture? Does s/he even have one? What do you think the role of the writer should be? A writer should stir of up thought and encourage a fascination with language. Writers who have found a place in the community should also encourage others with less experience through workshops that bring in people who have not yet named themselves as “writers.”
8 – Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)? I absolutely adore working with an editor, both people I know and trust to be honest and kind and people who care only about one thing – making the text better. In writing my first book of poems, I worked with my Tender Buttons Press editrix Lee Ann Brown who had some uncannily astute suggestions that included line breaks, word choices, finding clarity, carving way too much explication and everything in between. Working with her as well as my poet friends Michael Ruby and Michele Somerville was a gift. In addition, very early on, I actually hired a graduate student in creative writing to meet with me just a few times. She would read the poems with such distance and objectivity. It was refreshing, and I didn’t feel guilty asking her to explain what she thought since I was paying her.
9 – What is the best piece of advice you’ve heard (not necessarily given to you directly)? Read your poems out loud to yourself. Listen to the rhythm and feel it in your body.
10 – How easy has it been for you to move between genres (poetry to fiction to filmmaking to multimedia)? What do you see as the appeal? Oh, you really ask such insightful questions. What do I call myself? Am I filmmaker who writes poems? Can I be more than one thing? Can I just be an artist? Can I change according to my surroundings? I think our culture is actually becoming more open to these permutations. Patti Smith (musician and author) and Tony Kushner(playwright, screenwriter and children’s book writer) are two of my heroes in this respect. Finding visual or textual distillations is at the foundation of both my writing and my filmmaking. In neither situation do I ever call myself a storyteller.
11 – What kind of writing routine do you tend to keep, or do you even have one? How does a typical day (for you) begin? On a writing day, I do what so many other writers do. I am not particularly ingenious in any way. I go out to a café, buy a cup of tea (preferably in a teapot) and begin to write. As long as the music is good and people are not talking on their cell phones, I am happy.
12 – When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration? When my writing feels hampered by the clutter of my life, I set limits. I frame my ambition by a constraint, like only thinking about one particular conceit or finding my way to the bottom of the page. I try, though I am rarely successful, not to read what I have written as a reader but rather as co-conspirator with absolutely no taste. Taste is dangerous. So is the internet, so I try to reject that in any way possible.
13 – What fragrance reminds you of home? About twenty-five years ago, I was visiting the Glen Canyon Dam at Lake Powell in Utah. It’s a very strange and other-wordly lake, mostly because it is artificial and built by recreation lovers who didn’t mind filling in a canyon in a naturally arid landscape to create a place for water-skiers. My sister Dana Sachs and I were together in the elevator descending to its lowest level. When the elevator doors opened, we immediately turned to one another and remarked that this dark, intimidating, cement space smelled like our grandparents’ home in Memphis, Tennessee, a place we had not been inside since we were children. Recognizing that “fragrance” concretized our sensory bond as sisters who were carrying so many of the same memories.
15 – What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work? Last week, I finished reading James Joyce’s Ulysses. It took me six months and the experience was fantastic and awful, ultimately ending with ecstasy. The experience was convulsive and exasperating. I was transformed in a way that was truly extraordinary. I am a different person now that I have read Molly Bloom’s treatise on her body in the book’s last chapter; her one-sentence no-punctuation 25,000 word spin through the sensual made me reel and dream and sing. I would add to that a few other writers who come to mind today: filmmaker and poet Trinh T. Minh-ha, author and scholar Tera W. Hunter, author Claire Messud, poet Lee Ann Brown, and poet Katy Bohinc.
16 – What would you like to do that you haven’t yet done? Canadian film director François Gerard completed his highly successful film Thirty-TwoShort Films About Glenn Gould in 1993. In an interview, a reporter asked him what he planned to do next. His response was that he planned to donothing. Doing nothing for an artist can be transformative. I envy people who claim to be bored. I do not have ahorror vacui. I search for emptiness and find a sense of tranquility. Ultimately, it is very productive.
17 – If you could pick any other occupation to attempt, what would it be? Or, alternately, what do you think you would have ended up doing had you not been a writer? I did consider being a human rights attorney, a pediatrician or an anthropologist. I also wish I could cook well, though I don’t aim to be a chef.
18 – What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?Writing gives me so much oxygen. When you write, you feel like you added one minute to the 1440 minutes in a day.
19 – What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film? As written above, I recently completed Ulysses, but you know that is a great one. I also was very taken with Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts which showed me how to weave together intimate personal writing with more theoretical investigations. I return over and over and over again to filmmaker Ken Jacobs’ Star Spangled To Death, which is his opus film that he bravely refuses to complete.
20 – What are you currently working on? Oh Ida: The Fluid Time Travels of a Radical Spirit, an experimental, sci-fi essay film that will trace the erasure and recent emergence (in the form of monuments) of the story of activist and journalist Ida B. Wells-Barnett who spent her early years in my hometown of Memphis, Tennessee and committed her life to nurturing a spirit of liberation in the face of resounding racial violence. I am making this film with author Tera Hunter and a few weeks ago we started shooting. It’s a blissful, intense collaboration.
Double Trouble in the Roaring Twenties: Valery Oisteanu and Lynne Sachs (PRINCE)
New York poets Valery Oisteanu and Lynne Sachs make distillations, sometimes with words, sometimes with images. As a collagist, Valery imbibes the detritus of visual culture, using the materials he has consumed to construct surreal, oneiric designs. As an experimental filmmaker, Lynne collects images and sounds and reshapes them into cinema poems that warp and enliven our awareness of reality. In the mid 1980s, Lynne’s father Ira Sachs met Valery and his wife Ruth in Bali, Indonesia at the beginning of their shared multi-year engagement with the island and its rich culture. Soon, Ira introduced Valery to Lynne during his visits to New York City. It was during these regular familial interactions over thirty years that Lynne and Valery discovered their shared passions for making image-based work as well as writing poems. Tonight’s Double Trouble reading at McNally Jackson marks their first public poetry convergence, as they celebrate the beginning of the Roaring Twenties!
When Lynne turned fifty, she dedicated herself to writing a poem for every year of her life, so far. Each of the fifty poems investigates the relationship between a singular event in Sachs’ life and the swirl of events beyond her domestic universe. Published by Tender Buttons Press, Year by Year Poems juxtaposes Sachs’ finished poems, which move from her birth in 1961 to her half-century marker in 2011, with her original handwritten first drafts. In this way, she reveals her process of navigating within and alongside historical events such as the Moon Landing, the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., streaking, the Anita Hill hearings, the Columbine shootings, and controversies around universal health care. With intro by Paolo Javier and design by Abby Goldstein.
Fort Greene Store: Tuesday, February 4, 7:30 PM An Evening with Tender Buttons Press Featuring Lee Ann Brown, Katy Bohinc, and Lynne Sachs
Reception to follow
Lee Ann Brown founded Tender Buttons Press in 1989, naming it after Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons. The press aims to publish the best in experimental women’s writing, and the poetics of all Tender Buttons books gives rise to an extraordinary range of innovative forms and modes. To celebrate the press’s 30th birthday and the publication of the new Tender Omnibus collection, Greenlight hosts a night of reading and conversation featuring three Tender Buttons poets: Lee Ann Brown, Founder and Editrix of Tender Buttons and 2018 Judith E. Wilson Poetry Fellow; Katy Bohinc, author of the poetry collections Scorpio and Dear Alain, among other works; and Lynne Sachs, filmmaker and author of Year by Year Poems. Each will read from their own work as well as that of other Tender Buttons poets, followed by a panel discussion on “The Life and Times of an Indie Poetry Press.”
When Lynne Sachs turned fifty, she asked herself one simple question: How have the private, most intimate moments of her life been affected by the public world beyond? The poems she wrote in response turned into this book. One poem for each year.
Sachs is a well-known experimental filmmaker. Year by Year is her first book of poetry, and in many ways it can be appreciated as the logical extension of her career as a visual storyteller. She describes her films as combining “memoir with experimental, documentary, and fictional modes.” Such a description might also be applied to her poems. Year by Year dips into memoir when it recounts events in her personal life. The glimpses into current events have a documentary feel. When Sachs describes moments she was present for but cannot possibly remember, such as her own birth, the book takes us into fictional territory. The hybrid form (memoir/documentary/fiction) is one experimental element. But even more innovative is the way she often presents us with two versions of the same poem. The handwritten draft and the final typeset poem face each other, resembling a book of poems in translation where the original and translated versions run in parallel.
I first read Year by Year in two sittings, focusing only the final versions of the poems. It is unusual for me to consider a poetry collection a page turner, but this book was. It propelled me through time from the poet’s birth to the birth of her daughters and beyond, from the Civil Rights Movement to the Iraq War.
On my second read, I scrutinized the handwritten drafts alongside the final versions, one poem at a time, letting them resonate individually. The experience was fascinating not only because it showed what choices the poet made to tighten each poem, but also because reading the two versions side by side created a not- quite-synched stereo effect, or perhaps something close to a superimposed image in a film.
In “1962,” for example, the final version reads: “Two baby girls brown and blonde/at home with mom and a nurse.” The draft version is less distilled, but it has its own appeal: “A plan, an American plan, two eggs any style, not the Continental breakfast, baby girls blonde and brown at home with mom and a nurse, a black woman whose name no one remembers.” In particular, the fact that no one remembers the nurse’s name, in Memphis, Tennessee in the 1960s, sets the stage for the Civil Rights events that will happen in the later poems.
In “1966,” “fields of daddodils that never drooped” becomes “Droopless daddodils.” The conversational tone shifts to a pared-down diction that sounds more childlike and more artful at the same time.
The draft version of “1978” includes “Our Bodies, Ourselves,” which the final version simply calls, “a feminist book on the body/I wish I loved.” The line breaks allow us to read the sentence as a whole and as a fragment, at the same time. We infer that the narrator wished she loved the book, but also that she wished she loved the body, the female body, her own body, enough to be comfortable learning more about its sexual functions. Having the name of the book on the facing page adds to the emotional impact, because so many of us know that book well, a cultural touchpoint that reminds us of how uncomfortable it can be to attempt to claim our bodies as our own.
The first poem in the book sets the tone by introducing the concept of time—the time of day, the time of year, the time of life of the poet’s parents when they became her parents: “Born at dinner time on an August evening,/the child of a twenty-one and twenty-three-year-old” are the opening lines. The use of time adds to the cinematic quality of the poem, grounding us in an “opening shot,” instead of the abstract or fuzzy entrance to a poem that a reader might expect. .
The poem “1964” immerses us in a scene that shifts from close up to zoom, from a little girl’s room to the vast night sky. We see the magical thinking of a young child, who might believe she can reach the stars or that she can change her parents’ behavior. The poem suggests the lack of control children have in their lives and the way they cope by refocusing their attention outward. As Sachs puts it, “My mother and father are fighting on the other side of the door./I lick the window next to my bed and pretend to taste the stars.”
It is not surprising that a poetry book by a filmmaker is lush with images. Even something as visually static as a phone call becomes vivid and tangible in “1982,” when the narrator is making a transatlantic call to her brother: “His hello transforms this dirty glass box/into four dynamic movie screens.” The poem then offers us glimpses of what the narrator imagines she sees on those screens, the events she is missing by being far from home. The poems also sometimes convey abstract concepts as physical objects, such as in “1961” where the future is a crystal ball that the newborn drops from her hands. It shatters and scatters “down the hall/out the front door of the hospital/into the sweltering darkness.” The “camera” zooms in to the tiniest of hands and then pans out to the room, the building, the outdoors. We can imagine two different “cameras” filming at the same time at vastly different scales.
Natural beauty and headline-making violence appear in the same stanza, showing, with that juxtaposition, that we cannot escape from the world around us. In “1999,” for example, “In our front yard now, Columbine grows wild./With each bloom, I think of her, a mother too.” The narrator cannot even look at her Columbine flowers without thinking of the Columbine school shooter. Again, Sachs uses something visual and concrete to pan over to the homophones they might prompt in a reader and writer alike.
Similarly, in “2004,” the narrator’s daughter’s first solo ride on the subway is made to coexist with explosions in the Madrid metro by terrorists. The public and the private collide in its own kind of explosion on the page in a visual way.
The book ends with the fifty-year-old narrator looking back over her life—another visual reference. The scene is her birthday party, where she “perform[s]/split-second happiness for the camera.” The last stanza reads:
I catch my reflection in the bathroom mirror
take another look at my own silent film
and listen once again to the soundtrack
I’m playing over and over.
This scene can be interpreted literally as the narrator watching a film she made. But the “film” is also a metaphor for her life, her private and public memories, and, by extension, this book. The last line is “I’m playing over and over.” As an artist, Sachs keeps playing, again and again, with each of the thirty-three films she has made over the decades and now, with her first book of poems, which are just as inventive and fresh, just as delightfully playful with form. These poems are innovative but never intimidating or deliberately opaque. Instead, they invite us in, encouraging us to play along. They give us a structure to enter into our own retrospective lives, our own distillations of time, our own superimpositions of the newsworthy world onto our most intimate moments.
Join us for a reading and book signing with Lynne Sachs for her book of poetry, Year by Year ($19 paperback, Tender Buttons Press).
Lynne Sachs grew up in Memphis and now lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two daughters. Sachs makes films and writes poems that explore the intricate relationship between personal observations and broader historical experiences. This collection of poems, one for each year from 1961 to 2011, began as a half-century mark in Sachs’ life. Reflecting on history and memory, the poems themselves became the basis for her film, Tip of my Tongue.
“The whole arc of a life is sketched movingly in this singular collection. These poems have both delicacy and grit. With the sensitive eye for details that she has long brought to her films, Lynne Sachs shares, this time on the page, her uncanny observations of moments on the fly, filled with longings, misses, joys, and mysterious glimpses of a pattern of meaning underneath it all.”
John Beifuss, Memphis Commercial Appeal Published 5:00 a.m. CT Jan. 8, 2020
The impeachment proceedings involving President Donald Trump have revived interest in President Richard Nixon and the Watergate scandal.
They’ve also revived memories of that era, for those who were around at the time.
One such memory finds artistic expression in “Year by Year Poems,” a new collection by Memphis-born author/filmmaker Lynne Sachs, who makes an appearance Thursday at Burke’s Book Store in the Cooper-Young neighborhood.
In one poem, simply titled “1973,” Sachs remembers how the televised Watergate hearings disrupted her afternoon rerun routine.
“I say goodbye to Lucy, Ricky, Fred, Ethel, Hazel, and Gilligan,” Sachs writes. The stars of the new show on TV are “Dean, Haldeman, and Ehrlichman.”
Partly to impress her dad, “I wear an ‘Impeach Nixon Now’ button/ on my dress,” she concludes. “I feel brave.”
As its title suggests, “Year by Year Poems” ($19, Tender Buttons Press) consists of poems named for years, from “1961” (the year Sachs was born) until “2011” (the year Sachs reached a half-century). The poems are short and impressionistic yet precise, evoking milestones (the births of Sachs’ two daughters) and what might be called trivia.
For example, “1974” references streaking, the short-lived but much-publicized fad in which people stripped off their clothes and raced, naked, through public spaces.
“Streaking,” she said, “is the only word in the book that when I’m doing a reading, if there’s someone in the audience under 30, I feel like I have to explain it to them.”
The book isn’t the only new work from Sachs that sifts through decades of memory and family history, beginning with the cradle-through-Central High School years Sachs spent in Memphis with her similarly creative siblings, Dana Sachs, who is an author, and Ira Sachs, a noted film director (“Frankie,” “Love Is Strange”).
About two weeks after the 5:30 p.m. book signing and reading at Burke’s, Sachs will be in Park City, Utah, for the Jan. 24 premiere of her new feature, “Film About a Father Who,” which opens the 26th annual edition of the weeklong Slamdance Film Festival, a once-upstart rival to Park City’s overlapping and more renowned Sundance Film Festival.
Almost 30 years in the making and constructed from rediscovered Super 8 and 16mm home movies, VHS tape recordings and new digital video footage, “Film About a Father Who” — the title is a reference to Yvonne Rainer’s 1974 landmark “Film About a Woman Who…” — is, at base, a portrait of Ira Sachs Sr., the “Bohemian businessman” whose Memphis children were only three of what eventually was revealed to be nine children among six mothers. (Two of these women were Sachs’ wives, the first being retired Rhodes College sociology professor and Memphis resident Diane Sachs, the mother of Lynne, Dana and Ira Jr.)
According to the Slamdance catalog, the documentary is Sachs’ attempt “to understand the web that connects a child to her parent and a sister to eight siblings, some of whom she has known all of her life, others she only recently discovered … Her film offers sometimes contradictory views of one seemingly unknowable man who is always there, public, in the center of the frame, yet somehow ensconced in secrets.”
Said Sachs: “The film is my investigation of what a family is.” (In fact, that phrase also could be applied to her brother’s feature films, including the made-in-Memphis “Forty Shades of Blue,” in which Rip Torn plays a man somewhat inspired by Ira Sachs Sr.)
The film is bookended with footage of Lynne Sachs attempting to cut her aging father’s sandy hair, which — complemented by his signature walrus mustache — is as long and hippie-ish as it was during the man’s still locally infamous party-hearty heyday, when Ira Sachs Sr. restored, renovated and lived in the historic Adams Avenue property that is now home to the Mollie Fontaine Lounge.
“There’s just one part that’s very tangly,” Lynne comments, as the simple grooming activity becomes a metaphor for the daughter’s attempt to negotiate the thicket of her father’s romantic entanglements, the branches of her extended family tree and the thorny concepts of personal and social responsibility.
A graduate of Brown University and a resident of Brooklyn (where she lives with her husband, Mark Street), Lynne Sachs has been creating experimental short and feature-length films since the mid-1980s. Most are nonfiction films, although they may contain recreations of actual events or passages of abstract imagery.
Generally, Sachs’ films screen at museums and colleges, and at film festivals more devoted to movie aficionados than to movie marketers. In 2018, her film “The Washing Society,” about the women who work in New York City laundromats, won an award at the Indie Memphis Film Festival in the “Departures” category, which recognizes experimental work.
Opening up the hectic Slamdance festival will be a new experience for Sachs, whose movie is likely to find an appreciative audience among any attendees who live in Park City, where Ira Sachs Sr. — now 83 — earned a reputation as “the Hugh Hefner of Park City” after he relocated from Memphis to Utah.
“I know there is a lot of pain in it,” said Lynne Sachs, referencing the film’s presentation of the children’s fraught relationships with their loving but often inattentive and self-centered father. “But there’s also a lot of love and forgiveness.
“I’ve made so many films about other people’s lives, I felt like it was time for me to be as vulnerable in my own film as I expect other people to be when I’m in front of them with my camera.”
Lynne Sachs and ‘Year by Year Poems’
Book signing, reading and conversation at Burke’s Book Store, 936 Cooper.
These are recommended titles from the collections managed by staff in the General Collections & Humanities Center at the SFPL Main Library for Winter 2019-20.
Renowned experimental documentary filmmaker Lynne Sachs wrote one of 2019’s best books of poetry. In 2011, after deciding to write one poem for each of the fifty years of her life, Sachs asked herself, “How have the private, most intimate moments of my life been affected by the public world beyond?” The graceful, diaristic poems that she went on to produce successfully distill events and themes in the poet’s life and simultaneously, magically, reflect larger movements of history and culture. Intimate and imagistic, the poems unfold a series of miniature stories with sensuous rhythms, telling visual detail, and gentle humor. Thus in “1969” a young Sachs imagines Neil Armstrong calling on the telephone, then turning “to look at all of us (from the moon).” This beautifully designed book includes facsimiles of many of the poetry’s initial drafts, which subtly illumine this artist’s creative process.
An evening of round-robin readings with Brooklyn writers Michael Ruby, Michele Somerville, Erik Schurink, and Lynne Sachs
Tuesday, Dec. 10, 7 to 9 PM Court Tree Gallery 371 Court St 2nd Floor (at Carroll St.) Brooklyn Free and open to the public.
“I’ve been working hard to think about what the four of us have in common and the one thing that came to mind is that we all have children who are now young adults. I happen to know for a fact that our distinct experiences of having children, being with children, and thinking about our own childhoods have been a great resource for each of us in our work. With this in mind, I invited Michael, Michele and Erik to join me to read from their collections.” – Lynne Sachs
Michael Ruby is the author of many poetry books, including Compulsive Words (BlazeVOX, 2010), American Songbook (Ugly Duckling, 2013), ebook Close Your Eyes (Argotist Online, 2018), ebook Titles & First Lines (Mudlark, 2018) and The Mouth of the Bay (BlazeVOX, 2019), as well as a trilogy in prose and poetry, Memories, Dreams and Inner Voices (Station Hill, 2012). He also co-edited Bernadette Mayer’s collected early books, Eating the Colors of a Lineup of Words (Station Hill, 2015), and works as an editor of articles about U.S. politics at The Wall Street Journal.
“If ‘experiment’ means anything when we speak of experimental poetry, Michael Ruby’s gathering (in Memories, Dreams and Inner Voices) is a moving testament to the still real possibilities of such a venture/adventure. His project here—to explore “the varieties of unconscious experience” as they come to him—is an aspect of what Gary Snyder once described as “the real work of modern man: to uncover the inner structure and actual boundaries of the mind.” That Ruby’s workings with memory, dream, and the experience of language between sleep and waking issue in a new and powerful work of poesis is something to be celebrated and experienced by all of us in turn.” – Jerome Rothenberg
Michele Madigan Somerville is the author of two books of verse, Black Irish (2009) and WISEGAL (2001), and a third, Glamourous Life, which will be published by Rain Mountain early in 2020. She was born on the island of Manhattan and lives in Brooklyn.
“Somerville takes us on a grand cosmic ride on that fine line between the divine and the sacred. Along that ride, Madigan Somerville never loses her sense of humor and never stops having fun.” — Joanna Sit
Erik Schurink creates evocative art experiences and interactive exhibits to engage people and build community. He is Director of Exhibits at Long Island Children’s Museum.
Erik Schurink’s poetry is structurally driven by literary constraints and arrangements. His Cryptozoo (Proteotypes, 2012) is a journal in which he and eleven other writers respond to animalistic images he photographed. His work has been featured in AMP Always Electric, 13 Writhing Machines, Upstart: Journal of English Renaissance Studies, An Oulipolooza,and others. He is a contributing artist to Abecedarium NYC and Galerie de Difformité. He co-leads the monthly Writhing Society workshops at Brooklyn’s Central library.
Lynne Sachs often includes her poetry in her films (Tip of My Tongue, House of Science, Biography of Lilith), allowing her to draw in her reader through a play with language. She began Year by Year Poems (Tender Buttons Press, 2019) as a half-century marker in her life, one for each year from 1961 to 2011.
“The whole arc of a life is sketched movingly in this singular collection. These poems have both delicacy and grit. With the sensitive eye for details that she has long brought to her films, Lynne shares, this time on the page, her uncanny observations of moments on the fly, filled with longings, misses, joys and mysterious glimpses of a pattern of meaning underneath it all.” — Phillip Lopate