Stage: The White Horse
Time: 4:20 pm
Interview with Danniel Schoonebeek
1. Tell us a little bit about your organization.
PEN was founded in 1921, as a response to the ethnic, national, and aesthetic discriminations that writers were facing as a result of World War I. Our mission is to help propel literature forward and defend free expression at home and abroad. To that end we publish emerging and old guard writers alike, lead advocacy campaigns for imprisoned writers, give out annual awards for writers and translators, and throw a big festival called PEN World Voices in New York every year.
2. Who is reading in your slot at the Festival and why?
We’re hosting Ana Božičević and Mary Jo Bang this year. Ana is incredibly versatile when it comes to poetry: she edits Esque, she’s translating Serbian poet Zvonko Karanović, she spearheaded the chapbook festival at CUNY. On top of all that she writes terrific poems. Her first book was a really startling debut, and we love the new poems she’s been publishing recently. We thought Ana would be great with Mary Jo Bang, since Mary Jo’s brilliant new translations of Dante are coming out in a few weeks. And Mary Jo’s last book, Elegy, is one of those reading experiences where poetry really wrestles you to the floor and gets you dirty and makes you look at yourself. Which is to say the best poetry possible.
3. Who else are you looking forward to seeing at the Festival?
David Shapiro and Mark Bibbins is a pretty ingenious pairing. My hat’s off to that curator. The Fireside Follies lineup looks like a blast. I’ve never seen Maggie Nelson read and I feel like she’s pretty rare in New York . At 2:30 on Friday I’m reading for The Highwaymen with a lot of writers I look forward to hearing.
Now I’m imagining what happens if the ferry breaks down and we all get trapped on that island. We’d tear each other apart.
4. Did you attend the festival last year? If so, what was your favorite thing about it?
Tim Donnelly’s daughter sort of breached the no man’s land in front of the stage last year while Tim was reading. I think at one point a page of his poem blew off the stage and she picked it up and returned it to him while he was reading and he stopped to thank her.
5. Why is live poetry important?
Poetry itself is important, and hearing it occur in front of you is important too. I feel that way every time I see Frank Bidart read. The man is making a poem in front of me. Throw in some trees, a ferry, and a Governor’s Island breeze and that’s about as important as anything gets in life, I suppose.