Friday, March 30, 2012

Alicia Ostriker Poet, Teacher & Activist

Ocean County College will be hosting a poetry reading by the award winning poet and critic, Alicia Ostriker.  Her resume includes multiple awards for her diverse style of writing. She has given readings both here and abroad, and has been called a feminist revolutionary for her fight against the early discrimination against female poets.
As both a critic and poet, she has made a strong name for herself in the writing community.  Having written over ten books, on both poetry and of literary criticism, she brings a wealth of talent and insight to her discussions.

The Book of Seventy (2009
No Heaven (2005)
The Volcano Sequence (2002)
Little Space (1998)
The Crack in Everything (1996)
The Imaginary Lover (1986)
A Woman Under the Surface (1983)
Once More Out of Darkness (1974)
Songs (1969)
Professor Heidi Sheridan an instructor of English and Literature at OCC has organized this event to help celebrate National Poetry Month.  Her enthusiasm for this upcoming event is contagious as she hopes others will enjoy the readings of this dynamic woman.

“This is quite a coup to get a poet of this caliber at OCC,” said Sheridan.
I was fortunate to interview Mrs. Ostriker, who requested I read “The Book of Seventy,” which I did.  I found her writing to be real, insightful, moving, and very current for today.  When I asked how does the perspective of wanting to accomplish something or leave a mark affect her, she explained that writing and teaching for her are connected.
“The motivation is to create something of lasting value.  I had a very traditional education.  Art and Literature is built to last, what I have aimed for is a right to impact others personally.” said Ostriker. When asked about her poem Approaching Seventy, she explained, that she normally does not read it at readings because of its bleakness.  The poem deals with mortality, Alzheimer’s and growing old and is the first poem in The Book of Seventy.  The poem is very relatable for anyone wanting to understand some of the frustration older individuals may feel.
“We all have a bleak voice; I imagine everyone has got that although we try to hush it up.  For me it is a part of reality so I included it.” said Ostriker.

At seventy-five Ostriker still feels as though there is more to accomplish.  She is a forward thinking woman, always looking where she will be.  Rather than dwelling on the memories of her past. She believes that you should aim higher then you can reach.  She tries to impart this knowledge to her students as well.
“I’m mortal and I am going to die, but there are still things I am looking forward to doing,” said Ostriker philosophically.
Many of her poems touch on the people and life events in her own life.  She is able to pull the beauty out of tragedy, and create a picture with words that can move her audiences.
In her poem, titled “Laundry” she puts side by side the domestic normalcy of doing laundry with the abuse of prisoners at “Abu Ghraib” during the 2004 Iraq conflict.  Her use of the comfort or normality of the laundry was more for the irony of the situation.
“We recently learned about torture, some of the methods we were using in Iraq where used during the inquisition and before.  There is nothing new supposedly; it is against our laws and international laws.  They felt it was ok to break the laws that they had vowed to uphold.” said Ostriker.   You can feel her disgust and disappointment as she speaks about some of the images she saw.
“Everyone was so shocked, but the sad fact is Americans have gone and done the same thing or have surrogates do it for us.” said Ostriker.
She admitted to coining a phrase from Shakespeare for one of the titles of a poem, “Unwilling for School,” comes from Shakespeare, As You Like It.  Yet the feeling and energy of the poem is all hers.  The phrase puppy energy she uses to describe a small child is right on track you cannot help but smile as you read it.
What does she wishes she could accomplish yet?  “Oh well, I would like to accomplish peace on earth.  I would like to be a good enough poet to get a Nobel Prize, and for my children to be perfectly happy.  That is probably true for most people.  Set our sights higher then we can reach.  If we didn’t set our sights high we would have nowhere to reach.” Said Ostriker.
Her optimism and message is very clear, don’t be afraid to reach for what you want. Her work is lyrical and beautiful to read.  Getting to hear her read her works is a chance I know I will not miss.

Ocean County College will be hosting a poetry reading by the award winning poet and critic, Alicia Ostriker.  She will be at the OCC campus on April 10 at 11a.m. to give a discussion on her works.  Two of her recent books will be available for sale at this free event, The Book of Seventy, for which she received the Jewish National Book Award, No Heaven written in 2005. For further information on this free event please contact: Heidi Sheridan, OCC Department of English, at 732-255-0400 ext. 2197.

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As a recently married 46 year old I am in the process of finishing my degree. Working to take care of my family and live my life.Blogging, working, writing, and chugging along like most of us.  Who am I ? I am you, I am me, I am your mother, friend, the best and worst that we each have inside of us. I am a different perspective and find myself fascinated by the interesting moments in life.

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