Photography by Kevin A. Roberts
Ted Mathys and Jessica Baran at The Pulizer Arts Foundation.
In December, Jessica Baran and Ted Mathys held the 41st—and last—reading of the fort gondo poetry series. This month, the renamed and relocated series, 100 Boots, commences at the Pulitzer Arts Foundation. The first reading features local writer Alison C. Rollins, who’s already been recognized with two of the most prestigious fellowships that a young poet can receive (from Cave Canem and the Poetry Foundation). She’ll read with legendary experimental poet Lyn Hejinian, who helped found the Language Poetry movement in the ’70s.
Baran and Mathys say the goal is to book poets at varying stages in their careers—some have yet to be published, whereas others are Pulitzer Prize winners. They represent a wide range of cultural backgrounds and aesthetics. “We’ve been very excited to bring poets from far-flung places to St. Louis to read in a gallery setting and to do collaborations with the community,” says Mathys.
Local arts collective WORK/PLAY, consisting of husband-and-wife duo Kevin and Danielle McCoy, is designing a broadside for each poem. The McCoys received formatted copies of the artists’ poems last summer and have been given free rein with the design, though they say their sensibilities dovetail with both the project and setting. “Our aesthetic fits that mold: really contemporary, very clean, very minimal,” Kevin says. (In addition to the broadsides—which are free—Left Bank Books will be on hand with the poets’ books.) For those curious about the name, 100 Boots is inspired by artist Eleanor Antin’s 1970s series of the same name, in which black rubber boots were photographed in multiple settings and contexts, effectively representing real people experiencing daily life. Mathys and Baran were interested in the idea of public assembly as a work of art, and the concept of Antin’s work translated well.
“This idea of being able to assemble in public anywhere was key in signifying this idea that our poetry series at gondo was very much about the community that is inspired around it,” Baran says, “not necessarily a physical place.”
This spring, more poets will visit the Pulitzer with radically contrasting subject matter, making the pairings even more interesting:
Rae Armantrout and Evie Shockley, March 3: A Pulitzer Prize winner and author of 13 books (the most recent is Partly), Armantrout is joined by Shockley, a Rutgers professor and recent winner of the Holmes National Poetry Prize.
Kaveh Akbar and Anselm Berrigan, April 21: Akbar is the founder of the site Divedapper and co-host of the poetry podcast All Up in Your Ears. Berrigan is the former director of the Poetry Project at St. Mark’s Church and the author of Come In Alone.