We welcome Lisa Russ Spaar as our 11th annual McDonald lecture guest for Poetry, Spirit, and the Practice of Paying Attention on Friday, March 23rd at 12 noon. This talk will take place in the dining room at the Wesley Foundation. It is part of the Virginia Festival of the Book and is free and open to the public. Parking is available (for a fee) across Emmet St, in the UVA parking garage.
A common image of the writer, not far off from Plato’s concerned perception of the frenzied, inspired and riling poets he thought best banished from his ideal ordered Republic, is of an anarchic or solipsistic oddball scuttling around in black, eavesdropping on others’ conversations, and drinking various brown beverages. The experience of writing, however, can be profoundly balancing, precisely because it involves paying close attention to the minutest particulars of the world, to interior responses, to the actions and feelings of others. “The locus of the human mystery,” writes novelist Marilynne Robinson, “is perception of this world.” For some writers, in fact, this “looking around” (as poet Charles Wright puts it) can lead from a knowing about something to a knowing something. As Robinson puts it, these minutely observed perceptions “constellate themselves into something a little like a spirit, a little like a human presence in tis mystery and distinctiveness . . . [leading to a self-awareness not unlike] what people used to call the soul.” This presentation will include a foray into the notion of paying attention as spiritual practice, drawing its meditations from personal experience and involving a reading of poems by Spaar and others.
LISA RUSS SPAAR is the author of Satin Cash: Poems, Blue Venus: Poems, and Glass Town: Poems, for which she received a Rona Jaffe Award for Emerging Women Writers in 2000. She is editor of Acquainted With the Night: Insomnia Poems (Columbia UP, 1999) and All That Mighty Heart: London Poems (University of Virginia Press, 2008). A new collection of poems, Vanitas, Rough, will appear from Persea Books in fall 2012, and a collection of her essays about contemporary poetry will be published by Drunken Boat Editions in 2013. Her work has appeared in many literary quarterlies and journals, including Denver Quarterly, Image, The Kenyon Review, The Paris Review, Ploughshares, Poetry, Slate, Shenandoah, Southwest Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, The Yale Review, and elsewhere. The recipient of awards from the Academy of American Poets and the Virginia Commission for the Arts, Spaar is the founder and Director of the Area Program in Poetry Writing at the University of Virginia, where she is Professor of English. She was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for 2009 / 2010, the 2009 Library of Virginia Award for Poetry, a 2010 Outstanding Faculty Award of the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, the 2011/2012 Edward Ayers Advising Fellowship, and the Carole Weinstein Poetry Award for 2011. She serves as poetry editor for the Chronicle of Higher Education Review.