Poetry Night – JC Mehta, Gwendolyn Morgan, Armin Tolentino

Join us for our monthly poetry night! This month we’ll hear from JC Mehta, Gwendolyn Morgan, and Armin Tolentino.

SAVAGERY joins JC Mehta’s oeuvre as a reflection of what it means to be indigenous in today’s increasingly hostile, post-colonial America. Reflecting on self, place, and space and with strong confessional leanings, SAVAGERY joins the ranks of other much-needed indigenous poetry of the era to provide a lens (and mirror) into indigenous issues and disparities while also providing a constant offering of hope. These poems are raw and very, very necessary.

Gwendolyn Morgan’s Before the Sun Rises offers richly textured poetic renderings of and emotional responses to natural landscapes. Her poems hold a deep sense of care for and rootedness in the natural world. She weaves concerns for global warming, social inequities, and health care together with images of birds, plants, animals, evoking our interconnectedness with all sentient beings and the spiritual universe.

In Armin Tolentino’s We Meant to Bring it Home Alive: From astronauts drifting lost through space to whalers hauling dragon weight through dark waters to fossil hunters of the 19th-century Bone Wars, the voices within this poetry collection all seek one uniting thing: connection. The epic sweep of Moby Dick meets Space Age exploration inside the lyrics of Bowie songs on the cusp of an apocalypse, all within the forgotten dreams of a fisherman or a whaler or a devil-dodger or a lizard man. Exploring distance, forgiveness, disconnection, and regret, the speakers—regardless of their fantastical or absurd situations—are simply people severed from their loved ones, their gods, their faith, or what they once believed was true about the world. They confront their doubts by flinging letters out into the darkness, relying on answers that never come. Feeble efforts. Messages in bottles. Prayers and apologies. But still each is hoping someone, something is listening across the expanse.

Jessica Mehta is a multi-award-winning poet and author of over one dozen books. She’s currently a poetry editor at Bending Genres Literary Review, Airlie Press, and the peer-reviewed Exclamat!on journal. During 2018-19, she was a fellow at Halcyon Arts Lab in Washington DC where she curated an anthology of poetry by incarcerated indigenous women and created “Red/Act,” a pop-up virtual reality poetry experience using proprietary software. As a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and native Oregonian, place and personal ancestry inform much of Jessica’s creative work.

Jessica’s novel The Wrong Kind of Indian won gold at the 2019 Independent Publisher Book Awards (IPPYs). Jessica has also received numerous visiting fellowships in recent years, including the Everett Helm Visiting Fellowship at the Lilly Library at Indiana University at Bloomington and the Eccles Centre Visiting Fellowship at The British Library. Visual representations of her work have been featured at galleries and exhibitions around the world including IA&A Hillyer in Washington DC and The Emergency Gallery in Sweden. Jessica is a popular speaker and panelist, featured recently at events like the US State Department’s National Poetry Month event, “Poets as Cultural Emissaries: A Conversation with Women Writers,” as well as the “Women’s Transatlantic Prison Activism Since 1960” symposium at Oxford University.

Gwendolyn Morgan is a Northwest poet and artist. She learned the names of birds and wildflowers and inherited paintbrushes and boxes from her grandmothers. She earned an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Goddard College, and an M.Div. from San Francisco Theological Seminary and the Graduate Theological Union. She is currently the Clark County Poet Laureate 2018-2020. she has been a recipient of artist and writing residencies at Artsmith, Caldera, Into the Depths of Winter, and Soapstone. Crow Feathers, Red Ochre, Green Tea, her first book of poems, was a winner of the Wild Earth Poetry Prize, Hiraeth Press. Snowy Owls, Egrets and Unexpected Graces, is a Nautilus Gold Winner in Poetry and a Foreward Indies Book of the Year Finalist in the Nature Category. Before the Sun Rises, her third book of poetry, is available from Homebound Publications. She serves as the 2018-2020 Clark County Poet Laureate, Washington State.

Armin Tolentino is the author of the poetry collection We Meant to Bring It Home Alive (Alternating Current Press 2019). He earned an MFA at Rutgers University-Newark and his poetry has appeared in numerous journals including Common Knowledge, Arsenic Lobster, Hyphen Magazine, and The Raven Chronicles. He is a phenomenal clapper, a passable ukulele player, and a bumbling, but enthusiastic, fisherman.