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Poets to share perspectives on relationships, politics during reading

When Rob Stanton writes poetry about current events, he often uses the writing process to better understand his own reactions and feelings.

“When it comes to poetry, I like to think it can be useful for the writer and the reader,” said Stanton, a poet and professor of composition at South University in Austin. “I write a lot, but I also go back and do a lot of editing, and that helps me work through the topic and substance of my poems and better understand myself.”

James Sherry

Stanton and James Sherry will offer a poetry reading as part of the UHV Downtown Arts Series at 4 p.m. Dec. 3 in the UHV Center for the Arts, 204 N. Main St. The event is free and open to the public.

“In the conjunction of James Sherry and Rob Stanton, we see two poets who are also activists in poetry communities, at very different points in their trajectory,” said Charles Alexander, UHV poet and designer in residence, and co-curator of the series. “Both poets come out of a nexus that is inspired by Gertrude Stein and Louis Zukofsky and others who believe that poems are works of words, works of language, and that poets, as architects of language, are also architects of our future, in terms that resonate both culturally and politically.”

Charles Alexander

Sherry’s current work uses poetry to focus on how humanity and nature are interconnected and can operate as a single, complex entity. During his visit to Victoria, the Roof Books publisher plans to read from his book, “Entangled Bank,” which was inspired by Charles Darwin’s “Origin of Species.”

The desire to write “Entangled Bank” had been with Sherry for a long time. When he read Darwin’s book, he saw that it borrowed from another scientist, Alexander von Humboldt. That emphasized how scientists constantly are seeking inspiration from each other’s work, just like other parts of society, Sherry said.

“Individuals protect themselves, but people don’t thrive alone,” he said. “Our relationships vary from our personal friendships to our gut bacteria to the roots of trees. Our relationships take us out of ourselves, which is good for poets who sometimes get entangled in their own constructions. I tried to shape this book around the different relationships between people and their surroundings.”

Sherry’s own journey toward becoming a poet sprang from his personal relationships. From the start, he was part of an art-oriented family. One of his brothers is a painter, and the other is a musician. In addition, when he was a boy, Sherry used to read poetry by Dylan Thomas to his parents at dinner.

Rob Stanton

Stanton describes himself as a late starter when it comes to writing poetry. He had an inkling that he wanted to write poetry, but for a long time, he assumed that it was something he wouldn’t do well. Then, when he was about 19, he started to write poetry and discovered that he could write it well.

He usually works on multiple projects at the same time, he said. In the past, he’s written works that focused on famous people from history, such as Austrian composer Anton Webern or Belgian painter Luc Tuymans.

“I like to be interested in as many things as I can,” Stanton said. “When I write, I usually have a general idea of my topic, but I like to leave room for inspiration to strike.”

Lately, his inspiration has focused on the 2016 presidential election and follow-up events during the past year. As he keeps tabs on the national news, Stanton writes his reactions to what transpires.

“I write for myself to understand my own reactions,” he said. “It’s become a rather political and social commentary paired with the everyday reactions of a typical person. I hope these poems can be useful for other people to ponder in the same way that I have.”

For more information about the Downtown Arts Series, contact Alexander at 361-703-5147 or alexanderch@uhv.edu.