Carl Phillips Opens Silverchest

Last Thursday evening, as light darkened beyond the windows of Eliot Chapel, Carl Phillips, described in the New Yorker as, “a candidate for the most interesting contemporary English sentences,” presented an audience with a selection of his compelling poems. Over the past twenty-one years, Phillips has authored twelve books of poetry, including most recently Silverchest and Double Shadow. His works have garnered him copious awards, including fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Library of Congress, and the Academy of American Poets, to which he was also appointed Chancellor in 2006. Despite his renown as a poet, Phillips is not content with riding his past successes. “I don’t quite think,” joked Creative Writing Professor Samiya Bashir, “Carl just sits in his garden and collects awards.” On top of writing poetry, Phillips also translates Classical works by the likes of Sophocles, sits as a judge for the Yale Series of Younger Poets competition, and teaches at Washington University in St. Louis.

Biological Perspective on Gender Identity in Babies

At one and a half, a child has a clear notion of what is stereotypically gender normal. At three years old, a child knows its gender. At four, a child’s toy preference is based off gender symbolism: pink for girls and blue for boys. Surprisingly, sex and gender are more prominent in the early stages of a child’s life than previously assumed. On Thursday, in Vollum Lecture Hall, Anne Fausto-Sterling, the Biology and Gender Studies Professor at Brown University, led Reed’s very first gender and sexuality symposium on this topic.

Reed Alumna Brings Stairs to Life

Gray light filters into the Performing Arts Building as Heidi Duckler ’74 brings the stairs in the atrium to life with her inventive choreography. Duckler, a Reed alumna of the Dance Department, was so inspired by the wooden stairs that she choreographed a site-specific piece to be performed on them for the opening festivities. Through eerie melodies of a lone violin to the pulsing beats of Nicolas Jaar, each of the eight dancers proceeded up and down the stairs with grace and individuality. One dancer slithered slowly to the bottom of the stairs on her back. They slid down railings, fell across stairs, jumped around, and even used each other as steps and supports while remaining poised and assured in the beauty of their movements.

Reed Envisions Face-Blindness

Imagine not being able to recognize your own mother. For the majority of the population, this simple task is second nature. However, for those like Dr. Holly Hinson, who presented a lecture on face blindness this past Thursday, such associations are not so simple. “I won’t go with her. I just start sobbing,” recounted Hinson, relating a difficult childhood story of her experience with face blindness, “I refuse to accompany this strange woman.

Amelia Jones Waxes on Male Artistic Expression

As part of last weekend’s grand opening of the new Performing Arts Building, Professor and Grierson Chair in Visual Culture at McGill University Amelia Jones gave a lecture on “Performance and Relationality.” Jones is seen as a revolutionary figure in the world of art history as well as an ardent feminist who has focused primarily on performance art. Jane Chin Davidson ’01 introduced Jones as someone who has continually redefined opinions of artists and how art history itself is studied. “I’ve been in Portland once,” Jones began, “I thought it was just a few years ago, but when I dated it, it was 1983.” Her lecture topic spanned an even larger time period, as she began by talking about artist Chris Burden. His newer work is focused on bridges, but the early stage of his career was defined by daring performance art. The man once known as the “Evel Knieval of the art world,” Jones explained, has taken to building bridges in the spirit of erector sets—building kits marketed towards boys.

Fall Canyon Day Approaches – Saturday, Oct. 5

Red alders bow over the water and the sun glints through the crown of a tall Douglas fir. A great blue heron descends in silence on a half submerged log, where it stands erect, unmoving on its spindly legs. Nearby, an otter’s oily coat gleams as it emerges from the water, hastily dipping back beneath the surface in search of salmon. The scene could have taken place hundreds of years ago in the unsettled Willamette river valley, but these days, it continues to occur, even in the midst of urban Portland, Oregon, at a part of the Johnson Creek Watershed that we know as the Reed Canyon. It is striking at dusk and glorious at the height of a sunny day, but my favorite time there is undoubtedly dawn, when it is still, and the angle of the light hits the motionless water in that way that makes it look like liquid metal.

Poet Speaks Using Mae West Voice

“It must be dangerous, this material, or why else would we watch?” read Paisley Rekdal from her final poem of the evening, “Murano.” Last Thursday’s poetry reading in Eliot Chapel marked the beginning of this year’s Visiting Writer’s Series, and those who filled the pews got a taste of Rekdal’s unique, dynamic, and often intense poetry. Creative Writing Professor Samiya Bashir began the evening with an account of her first exposure to Rekdal’s poetry at a salon in Denver, an experience which, “melted the skin from my frame, and wrapped it back on a bit too tightly for my comfort.”

Attesting to Rekdal’s renown, she went on to list Rekdal’s many literary awards, which include a Village Voice Writers on the Verge Award, an NEA Fellowship, and a Fulbright Fellowship. Rekdal, a Seattle native and currently an associate professor at the University of Utah, is the author of a book of essays, The Night My Mother Met Bruce Lee; a hybrid-genre photo-text memoir, Intimate; and four books of poetry: A Crash of Rhinos, Six Girls Without Pants, The Invention of the Kaleidoscope, and Animal Eye. Rekdal lead with two poems from her 2012 collection Animal Eye (winner of the UNT Rilke Prize) before shifting to a series of new poems.

The poet showcased both her ability to work with complex poetic structures and her penchant for viewing subjects in interesting ways with a series of poems about her childhood idol, actress and playwright Mae West. “When I was a kid I was obsessed with Mae West…I used to dress up like her all the time,” explained Rekdal.

Writer Shares His Love Letters

On Wednesday Oct. 13th, in the latest installment of the Creative Writing department’s Visiting Writers program, Stanford Creative Writing Professor and Louisiana native Skip Horack gave a thoroughly captivating reading. In adulation, one audience member said that “he had the perfect reading voice. I closed my eyes and thought, ‘uh, where am I?’ And then I opened them and saw: ‘whoa, I’m in Elliot.’”

Horack admits that the lush southern landscape of his childhood has seeped irrevocably into his writing. Before reading excerpts from his two published books, Horack treated the audience to a bit of his own literary philosophy.

Claude Steele, Stereotype Threat, and Reed

Everyone is exposed to negative stereotypes. If you’ve ever felt like someone  made up their mind about you instantaneously , you’ve experienced “stereotype threat.”  Stereotype threat happens when a person realizes that they might be judged according to a negative stereotype, or that they may even confirm that stereotype with their actions. Dr. Claude Steele has found that this experience can actually hinder one’s performance enough to create a self-fulfilling prophecy that might fuel the fire of stereotypes. The title of Steele’s book, Whistling Vivaldi, comes from a story that his friend told him. His friend, Brent Staples (a writer for the New York Times), at the time a young African American man living in Chicago, found that whistling Vivaldi as he walked past white people on the street lessened their fear of him.

MusicfestNW Caters to All Tastes

MusicfestNW, billed as “Portland’s largest and most successful music festival,” ran from last Wednesday to Sunday. With more than 170 bands in 18 venues that are sprinkled across the city, the festival offered something for everyone. There were popular acts and bands that even the most seasoned music veteran would likely be unable to identify. Variety, in this case, was a wonderful thing, providing innumerous possibilities for a festival-goer throughout the five-day duration of the festival. In a single day, a festival-goer could start the day at Portland Courthouse Square with The Antlers and wind down with Big Freedia at the Heineken Stage in the late hours of the night.