Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Poet Lore's 124th Birthday Reading

Cover of A Night in Brooklyn
We undid a button,
turned out the light,
and in that narrow bed
we built the great city—

—D. Nurkse,
from “A Night in Brooklyn”

This Sunday at The Writer’s Center, former poet laureate of Brooklyn D. Nurkse and local poet Teri Ellen Cross will read in celebration of the 124th birthday of Poet Lore, the semi-annual poetry journal published by The Writer’s Center.
Widely recognized as a distinctive voice in contemporary poetry, D. Nurkse will read from his newest collection, A Night in Brooklyn (Knopf, 2012), which will be available for purchase and signing at the event. D. Nurkse’s previously published books have moved through such diverse terrains as the fragility of a second-generation son’s exchange with his immigrant father, the biblical past and the complexities of its legacy, and the mysterious systems of ocean life.

The poems of his newest collection, separated into three parts, read—in its publisher’s words—as a “haunted love letter to the far corners of his hometown.” Tina Chang, current poet laureate of Brooklyn, understands the book to be “as much a celebration of the borough as it is a meditation on history, time, and the furious love of the places the poet inhabits.” These poems roam freely in time and the borough’s landscape, and yet, as Margot Farrington noted in a 2002 interview with Nurkse for The Brooklyn Rail, his poems have a reliable signature: always, a “touch of strangeness draws us inward to a deeper truth.”

D. Nurkse; photo credit: Jeremiah Kuhfeld
The gravity of Nurkse’s poetry may relate in part to his human rights work and familial history. His work has taken him, as an educator, into prisons such as Rikers Island Correctional Facility; as Brooklyn’s poet laureate, into inner city schools; and, now, as an elected member of Amnesty International’s board of directors, into a position of governance over the organization’s wide-reaching humanitarian activity. Refugees from Nazi Europe, Nurkse’s parents moved to New York during World War II.  His family moved back to live in Europe and then returned again to the United States at the time of the Vietnam War. In the same interview with Farrington, he speaks of his experience of war “like a radio playing in another room.” Likewise, in some poems, troubling realities impinge on the intimate dynamics of its subjects from afar. They remain out of sight and elude finality.

Teri Ellen Cross

D. Nurkse’s powerful work has found a happy home in Poet Lore. The same is true of the work of his co-reader Teri Ellen Cross, whose poems have been widely published. A Ford Foundation and Cave Canem fellow, Teri Ellen Cross serves as the Poetry and Lectures Coordinator at the Folger Shakespeare Library and was formerly a producer with WAMU’s The Kojo Nnamdi Show.

This event also marks the release of Poet Lore’s newest issue, our Spring/Summer 2013 volume. Both Poet Lore’s editors—Jody Bolz and Ethelbert Miller—will be present, and a cake-and-champagne reception and D. Nurkse’s book signing will follow the readings. Please join us there! We look forward to sharing poetry, cake, and champagne at this free and public occasion in honor of Poet Lore’s longevity.
Poet Lore’s 124th Birthday Reading, Sunday, April 7, 2:00 PM, will be held in the Jane Fox Reading Room of The Writer’s Center. Visit this link for directions to The Writer's Center. Or phone in at (301) 654-8664 for more information.

References and more information on D. Nurkse can be found at the following links:
Random House’s webpage for A Night in Brooklyn:
Random House’s interview with D. Nurkse for Bold Type Magazine:
Poetry Foundation’s profile of D. Nurkse:
Title poem of A Night in Brooklyn published online: (
The Brooklyn Rail Interview with D. Nurkse by Margot Farrington, 2002: (

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