Poetry News

Bob Perelman Visits UCSD

By Harriet Staff


A writeup on poet Bob Perelman is up at UC San Diego's The Guardian. Perelman visited the campus last week as a featured speaker for The New Writing Series. Mozelle Armijo writes that "It would have been easy to miss Bob Perelman — a distinguished American poet — at the campuswide New Writing Series workshop last Wednesday. Looking subdued in his beige shirt and faded jeans, he sat patiently among the audience until it was his turn to speak." More:

While Perelman steered clear of his books of critique at the New Writing Series, he did share poetry from his popular works — mostly from “Primer” and “IFLIFE” — but also poems from the still-untitled book he is currently working on.

Although many of his poems are laced with political, Perelman said he didn’t have an agenda.

“I am not writing poetry for a single political purpose or anything like that,” Perelman said. “I have all sorts of political desires, but they don’t go directly into the poetry.”

When Perelman puts pen to paper, he hopes that his words achieve a greater purpose.

“I can’t boil out a single message about my poetry,” Perelman said. “I don’t have one unified cause. I am, I suppose, writing poetry to improve the quality of life in a very indirect way. Hopefully, it makes people’s minds a little bit livelier and happier.”

Perelman read for nearly an hour, shifting his feet from side to side and speaking intently into the microphone. At times, he managed to elicit laughter from his audience due to the occasional curse word in his poems.

The mood of the Visual Arts Space shifted when Perelman shared a solemn piece entitled “For Emma.”

The seven-stanza poem was written to honor and remember the life of the late Emma Bernstein, daughter of fellow poet and close friend Charles Bernstein.

“Maybe that’s why/ we invented the present/ as a place to live, to keep the things we do know/ know so exactly, keep them exactly, keep/ all of them, keep what we know/ near, at hand, alive in our minds:/ Emma.”

At the conclusion of his reading, Perelman took questions from the audience. One such question was, “What is your favorite poem?” Perelman leaned back and let out a loud “Hah!” The question had caught him by surprise.

“I don’t know,” Perelman said. “I can’t answer that. I usually like things about 90 percent of the way through. Sometimes poems I really like, I really don’t like at all. It’s a little bit like, ‘Oh, I can’t stand this. I can’t stand this … oh, I am in love. This is a great poem.’”

Originally Published: February 20th, 2013
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