Poets of the American West, a poetry reading

Poets Carol Davis and Carol Muske-Dukes appeared this past Tuesday at Poets of the American West, a poetry reading which took place at Santa Monica College, celebrating the poets' works anthologized in New Poets of the American West. David St. John, another poet scheduled to read at the event, was unable to attend the reading. Davis' poems have been in several books, most notably Nimrod, North American Review, Prairie Schooner, and the anthology Nice Jewish Girls. She spent 1996-1997 as a Fulbright Scholar in St. Petersburg, Russia. While there, a full length collection of her poetry, entitled It's Time to Talk About... was translated in both English and Russian. Davis has had her work read on Radio Russia and NPR. She currently teaches English and Creative Writing at Santa Monica College.

Davis read from her books New Poets of the American West, Eating Crow, and Into the Arms of Pushkin: Poems of St. Petersburg, the book for which she was awarded the prestigious T.S. Elliot Prize. Her inspiration is varied, she said, "it comes from all different sources; sometimes an image. I'll see something that will stick in my mind and it kind of festers until I can't stand it anymore and it comes out in a poem."

Davis' poetry stood out for taking a darker view of the world. However, she hoped the reader could find more in her work than its morbidity. "The man who read the book to evaluate if it should be published talked about a sly sense of humor, so hopefully that shows too," she said.

Her poems drew much from nature as well. The reason for this, explained, is because she enjoys spending time in natural settings and writing about it. She plans on a future trip to a National park in Nebraska this summer. "Nature is very important to me," said Davis.

Carol Muske-Dukes is a published author of seven books of poetry. She is also a novelist, and a regular critic for the New York Times Book Review and the LA Times Book Review. She has been anthologized widely, in publications such as Best American Poems, and 100 Great Poems by Women.

Muske-Dukes is a professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Southern California. She is also the founding director of the new PhD Program in Literature and Creative Writing. She has received awards such as the Guggenheim fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, and the Witter Bynner Poetry Award from the Library of Congress. She is currently holding the appointment of California Poet Laureate.

At the reading, Muske-Dukes read from her works Twin Cities, and New Poets of the American West, both of which held very personal themes. In one poem, titled "Ovation," she speaks of spreading the ashes of her late husband at a Broadway theater where he once performed.

Muske-Dukes also devoted time to speaking about the revision process of poetry. "I think that you have to key in to the voice of the poem on the page. I believe that poetry is about performing on the page. I believe that's the whole beauty of the poem," she said.

"I believe in editing, self editing, revision. That's when you've got the marble, and that's when you make your Michelangelo sculpture."