Thursday, October 16, 7pm
Smith Center Room 294
Portland State University
Saturday, October 18, 5pm
In October, the poet Rae Armantrout will be in Portland to work on a publication with Yale Union. She will read on Thursday, October 16 at Portland State University. This will be followed by a talk at Yale Union on Saturday, October 18. Here, she will discuss how poems, hers and others, can take on an uncanniness, the not un-ambiguous term Sigmund Freud used to describe a particular shade of what is frightening.
“I would argue that much of what Freud writes in “The Uncanny” has an important relation to the construction of poetry.” Armantrout writes, “The question of whether an element in a poem is significant or insignificant, intended or unintended, can, in some cases, awaken the anxiety about whether a thing is alive or dead. To what extent are a poem’s movements and statements self-aware? To what extent do they appear to be aware of us, their readers? Is that thing looking at me? This is an age old (and fearful) question. A poem can sometimes awaken it. As readers, I don’t think we are supposed to simply identify with the speaker in the poems in question, but I am not wholly disidentified with these voices either. In my own poems finally, I find myself speaking both as myself (the poet) and as an aspect of authority or tradition with which I take exception. In each of them I am somehow beside myself. Voice in poetry is a tricky thing. Is this particular voice mine or not? To ask that is to ask who you are and what a self is.”
Rae Armantrout was born in Vallejo, California in 1947. She teaches at the University of California, San Diego, where she is Professor of Poetry and Poetics. She has published ten volumes of poetry. In 2010, her collection Versed won the Pulitzer Prize.
Thanks to John Beer, Lydia Davis, and Portland State University.