The Helen Zell Writers’ Program welcomes Richard Siken to campus this week. His collection, Crush, won the Yale Series of Young Poets Competition in 2004. Siken is the editor of the literary magazine spork, which he cofounded and has received multiple awards including the Literature Fellowship in Poetry from the National Endowment of the Arts, two Arizona Commission of the Arts grants and two Lannan Residency Fellowships.

Richard Siken

April 16, 2pm (Reading at 5pm)
Hopwood Room, 1176 Angell Hall (Reading at UMMA Helmut Stern Auditorium) br>Free


For years now, the Zell Visiting Writers Series has brought exciting and talented writers to the University to share their recent work and inspire young students to improve and develop their own writing. The weekly readings are held at the University of Michigan Museum of Art, with the books of visiting writers available to purchase following the reading. MFA students, as well as undergraduate English students, attend these weekly readings from visiting writers and are encouraged to apply the new ideas that they have learned toward their own work in creative writing.

“It’s more co-curricular,” said Megan Levad, assistant director of the Zell Program. “The series not only brings renowned authors to Ann Arbor, but introduces MFA and undergraduate students to the work of writers they may not otherwise have found on their own.”

Richard Siken, in titling his collection Crush, explores all meanings of the word.

“Both being crushed, and falling for someone, can feel transcendent. Like one is re-made, reborn from the destruction,” said Levad. “The kind of pain that Siken writes of also sharpens one’s observations — everything suddenly seems clearer, we feel wiser, like we have some esoteric knowledge, can see through the veil.”

In her foreword to the collection, Louise Glück writes, “If panic is his groundnote, Siken’s obsessive focus is a tyrant, the body.”

Siken never wavers from communicating these obsessive feelings through his work, weaving panic through his words.

“The poems in Crush are vulnerable, but also precise, rigorous,” Levad said. “Siken invites us in to his emotional and intellectual world, and we respond.”

Siken explains the thoughts of panic through conflict with, as Glück describes, “an impeccable sense of timing,” and writes through the voice of an honest speaker, who explores consciousness in depth, allowing readers a certain intimacy with the speaker.

“The blond boy in the red trunks is holding your head underwater / because he is trying to kill you / and you deserve it, you do, and you know this/and you are ready to die in this swimming pool / because you wanted to touch his hands and lips and this means/your life is over anyway / You’re in the eighth grade. You know these things.” – Siken in A Primer for the Small Weird Loves

Described by Glück as “lines that predict and summarize a life,” Siken uses inconsistency and interconnectedness to demonstrate the daring, but beautiful elements of his collection.

“I think the realization that writing is something that real, live people who come to campus and eat lunch and visit classes and sign books do can make a world of difference in young writers’s beliefs in the possibilities for their own work,” Levad said.

Students are encouraged to attend this event by the UM English Department and enjoy Siken’s reading of his extraordinary collection filled with power and driven by an obsession and panic that critics have claimed “makes this one of the best books of contemporary poetry.”

Siken’s question and answer session will be held at 2:00 PM, 4/16 in the Hopwood Room, his reading following at 5:00 PM in the UMMA Helmut Stern Auditorium.

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