124 E. Washington
We welcome poets Tracy Zeman and John McCarthy to read from their most recent collections, Empire and Scared Violent Like Horses.
Tracy Zeman’s first full-length collection of poems, Empire, examines the European settlement and ecological devastation of the North American prairie. Her ecology-based serial poems employ collage, borrowed text and fractured narrative to probe the connections of humans to the natural world through the lens of culture, history and personal experience. Zeman uses image, juxtaposition and fragment to tell the story of a savage and intricate landscape, once conquered and now imperiled by forces such as climate change, invasive species and contemporary agricultural and land practices. Empire is a journey through an endangered world where beauty is enshrined and the lost, human and animal, is elegized.
Tracy Zeman’s poems have appeared in Beloit Poetry Journal, Chicago Review, TYPO and other journals, and her book reviews have been published in Kenyon Review Online and Colorado Review. She has earned residencies from the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology, Ox-Bow, and The Wild. She lives outside Detroit, Michigan, with her husband and daughter. Empire is her first full-length collection.
“Scared Violent Like Horses is the story of a ‘lost boy with a quiet ache’–a story about a boy and a young man who grows up amid the landscape of a vast yet specific Midwest filled with switchgrass, scarecrows, dead leaves, dirt, factories, and family and childhood people. It’s the people the speaker is really writing about–the speaker’s connection and disconnection with those who populate the landscape and the feeling of being different or not fully belonging. John McCarthy’s impulse is narrative but this impulse is struck by the lightning of his linguistic powers, as in the poem, ‘Switchgrass’ ‘A mangled cat mats the crankshaft and fan belt, / fur-shredded and soaked.’ Unusual images and figurative language are in abundance: ‘The cornfield’s tassels are wicks burning toward the sky and the fields / are sutured by utility poles marching like a procession of crosses . . .’ Ultimately, what the reader is left with is a stunning overlap of lost boy and lost landscape glimpsed through the lens of a gifted poet’s magical linguistic and storytelling abilities.” –Victoria Chang
John McCarthy is the author of one previous collection, Ghost Country, which was named a Best Poetry Book of 2016 by the Chicago Review of Books. McCarthy is the 2016 winner of The Pinch Literary Award in Poetry, and his work has appeared in Best New Poets 2015, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Passages North, Sycamore Review, Zone 3, and in anthologies such as New Poetry from the Midwest 2017. He received an MFA in Creative Writing from Southern Illinois University Carbondale and serves as an editor of RHINO magazine and the Quiddity international literary journal and public radio program.