At April 14 event, poet and publisher speaks on resignation and resistance in verse.
Wednesday, April 19, 2017
The content of the chapbooks – from issues of racial violence to politics and the social climate – aren't always easy to read, but, says the Lesley University alumnus, they are necessary.
"Poetry matters and it matters all of the time. It's always relevant," said Surin.
At an April 14 discussion held at the Sherrill Library, the poet, publisher and educator spoke about social-justice poetry and the need to give a voice to unknown authors.
Last year, Central Square Press published the first volume of "The Next Verse Poets Mixtape," a chapbook featuring the work of Melanie Henderson, Fred Joiner, Lisa Pegram and Surin, who all happen to be Lesley alumni.
The inspiration for the collection stemmed from Surin's youth in Queens, New York, when hip-hop artists used mixtapes to get the attention of music labels.
Enzo Silon Surin speaks at Sherrill Library.
"The hope is, much like a record company picking up a mixtape...mainstream publishers will pick up this book and say, 'Let me find out who these folks are,'" he said.
Surin, who completed his MFA in Creative Writing in 2012, recently printed his own poetry collection, "A Letter of Resignation." Similar to "Mixtape," the chapbook was influenced by music-particularly the cadence of jazz, hip-hop and the blues.
The poems reflect fear and uncertainty sparked by the birth of Surin's first son as well as police shootings and the recent presidential election.
"Publishing and writing about it, for me, became a way to deal with it," said Surin, an associate professor at Bunker Hill Community College. "Writing, for me, becomes a form of social action."
Surin said many people live in the "broken spaces," where they are haunted by trauma, injustices and fear. Failing to deal with those issues now means they resurface eventually, he said.
"One way to alleviate fear is to confront the source of that fear. I wanted to do that with this collection."
Reading the Declaration of Independence also helped Surin realize that he isn't powerless. "The government gets its power, its consent from is," he said. "We elect them."
Still, he acknowledged that the poems he writes and the poems he publishes aren't something that can or necessarily should be read in one gulp.
Participants contemplate the power of poetry.
During the discussion, Lesley librarian Jamie Glass admitted she can't always bring herself to read books that conquer challenging subjects.
"I want to read certain things but don't feel equipped to deal with the emotional tolls they take on me," she said.
Surin said he, too, has to create emotional space to process tough topics, but emphasized that it is important to be a part of the conversation. Verse is one way to enter into the dialog, and Surin advised: Take it "one poem at a time."
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