Hammer Museum

eduardo(post by Dylan Karlsson)

On Thursday, April 28th Eduardo Corral was invited to read as part of the Hammer’s Poetry Reading Series put on by Stephen Yenser. Capping off the yearly celebration of National Poetry Month this April, Eduardo Corral took the stage to share poems from his first collection Slow Lightning, as well as a few newer poems.

slow lightening
Corral opened by dedicating his reading to Chicano/Chicana poets who paved a literary pathway for him to follow, including Lorna Dee Cervantes, José Montoya, Martín Espada, Sandra Cisneros, Pat Mora, etc. He expressed his desire to wear those influences on his sleeve,

His book, Slow Lightning, which won the Yale Younger Poets Prize in 2012 is a florid and darkly imaginative work, ripe with images of an erotic and vulnerable nature. Corral displayed the breadth of his form, reading ekphrastic, persona, and portrait poems. It is no mistake these forms focus on the contents of a frame, be it in art or the self; Corral’s poetry is as obsessed with interiority as it is with the borders enclosing such secluded/exclusive places.

Exclusion and intrusion became central themes for the night, as he read several new poems taking on the perspective of a border patrol agent, finding unclaimed bodies on the Devil’s Highway. His work addressed both the danger and stigma of crossing the border, to risk one’s life in crossing the desert. Similarly a case of countering stigma, Corral read two poems with the same title, “Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome,” entering into natural, yet surreal scenes accented with fauna and string instruments. In the poem, the body exists within these bordering images, at once mystical and exposed.

Coming from the Arizona city Casa Grande (pronounced “grand”), Corral exhibits his code-switching between English and Spanish as a method of displacement. As he said of his varied use of language and dialect, it is just a “different form of music” employed in the poem. Central to his generous reading style was an awareness of the social boundaries which exist for the disenfranchised, the undocumented and the stigmatized. Corral’s work opens an entry-way for those voices existing between borders, as he welcomes – with care and caution – all language, to play and intermingle.

(Post by Zach Conner)

Last Thursday, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Sharon Olds visited Los Angeles. She shared some of her recent poetry with a packed audience as part of the Hammer Museum’s autumn reading series.

After an eloquent and venerating introduction from distinguished Prof. Stephen Yenser, curator of Hammer poetry readings, Olds took the stage with immediate grace.

She read excerpts from her latest published collection Stag’s Leap (awarded the 2012 T.S. Eliot Prize), from manuscripts recently accepted by her publisher, and from a series of odes inspired by Pablo Neruda’s Odes to Common Things.

Unfamiliar with Old’s work before the reading, I was at once convinced of Prof. Yenser’s praise: she writes with anatomical acuity, with authority on passions and carnalities, and with unfettered attention to the soul. Her first selection punctuated the night’s repertoire as a prime embodiment of this style, an “Ode to the Clitoris” sanctifying female sexuality as individually holy.

From following poems I learned that Olds reflects on body parts and thoughts equally with intimate carefulness– she is unabashedly erotic and candid. As the nude humiliates the prude, Olds strips the façade from propriety by freely speaking on taboos. One poem celebrated the death of her mother, because with her mother died a lifetime of maternal selfishness and filial disappointment. She scattered the ashes with triumph. Looking up from the page as the poem ended, Olds apologized for its apparent callousness– and then redacted the apology, because the poem is truth. Her poems on death became tender as the reading progressed. In one she depicted death as a return to our elemental bits in abstract, dignified entropy, warmer than any scientific account. The poems from Stag’s Leap, a collection entirely concerned with divorce, confronted the harrowing subjects of love’s impermanence and the vain human desire to mold partners to our own needs.
While doing some casual research on Sharon Olds, I noticed in a few articles that several critics had found fault in her “self-indulgence.” I thought that this rather reflected the critics’ discomfort in reading immensely personal accounts, which in their clear elucidation of feelings open pathways to empathy, and thereby unravel from the ego. Olds’ poetry may indulge the self, but it does so only to plumb its depths for balance and awareness. Her words do not pompously demand gravity and impact, as alleged– they earn it.

To wind things up with a twist, Olds closed with “Ode to the Penis.” In this poem she now spoke of the other gender, addressing with collected words the pertinent issue of patriarchal oppression. As with her earlier reading of “Ode to my Whiteness,” a poem digesting the difficult facts of white privilege, “Ode to the Penis” felt to me artful and nuanced. As she professed, the poem is “feminist to the core,” but avoids the fervent antagonism rampant in today’s social justice movements. It is a discourse from a single speaker that at once condemns, pities, and loves its subject (the penis, synecdoche for men). My favorite part: it celebrates the extraordinary pairing of phalli in homosexual relationships as the bulldozer razing patriarchal masculinity, and in this celebration gives them as much symbolic weight in the 21st century as the Twin Towers.

You can catch the next Hammer poetry reading with guest Joseph Harrison on November 5th at 7:30 PM.

Searching for a chance to break out of the campus bubble and find some cultural stimulation? Look no farther than UCLA’s own backyard. The Hammer Museum offers frequent public engagement programs, focusing on the arts and cultural issues, and often supplementing the museum’s current exhibits. Admission and public programs are all 100% free!

ART programs include weekly Lunchtime Art Talks and biweekly guided Exhibition Tours. Tours are led by Hammer student educators and include Art in Conversation tours, using conversation to compare two works of art.

LITERATURE & POETRY programs include Libros Schmibros Book Club meetings and a series of readings from prestigious authors around the country. Recent readings have featured JD McClatchy, Michael Waters, V. Penelope Pelizzon and a celebratory reading of Alice Munro. Coming up in June, the series will host a group of award winning UCLA student poets for a group reading, including Westwind’s very own Tina Lawson.

FILM programs include series of screenings related to current exhibit topics and, a personal favorite, the quarterly Open Projector Night. On Open Projector Night, short film submissions (of all genres) are accepted until the start of the event. Subsequently, each film is screened for two minutes, at which point the audience votes on whether or not to finish watching the film by cheering or booing. The event is emceed by a pair of brother comedians, and always holds the promise of a riotous evening.

Other frequent programs include concerts, performances, lectures, and family activities. Additionally, The Hammer Student Association puts on a series of mixers and parties to encourage student engagement with the arts, and the museum hosts a popular drop-in guided meditation every Thursday afternoon.

The programs are always memorable and definitely worth stopping by. Check out the full calendar of events here.


Hand coded by CRUXimaging