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In the Presence of a Poet

By Claire Sykes on November 14, 2014 11:25 AM

Prof. Lisa Steinman cofounded the literary magazine Hubbub.

While growing up in rural New England, “the world I explored was in books,” says poet Lisa Steinman, Reed’s Kenan Professor of English & Humanities [1976–], who remembers as early as nursery school “looking at a page one day, and it just made sense.”

Now she writes poems “to make sense of myself and the world,” she says. “I also love playing with the sounds of words, and I’d like to think I give other people the pleasure I’ve gotten from poetry.”

Prof. Steinman will do just that when she reads from her latest poetry collection (her ninth book), Absence & Presence (University of Tampa Press, 2013) at 6 p.m. on November 14, 2014 at Portland’s Glyph Café & Art Space.

The café is “the crossroads where literary, visual and culinary creativity interact,” says owner Sandra Comstock, former visitng scholar in the Reed sociology department. She and her husband, Hugo Moreno, who previously taught Spanish and humanities at Reed, opened the café in 2013. Its glass-topped “box tables” will display ephemera related to Steinman’s poetry throughout November.

Unlike her earlier, longer, meditative poems, Steinman's poems in Absence & Presence are “smaller, single-gesture ones . . . that catch feelings we don’t have words for.” The poems live the quotidian, with themes of mortality, remembrance, and nature’s quiet moments. Arranged by season, they speak to “the ways in which things disappear from the world. There’s a blankness, a hole, that is also a kind of presence.”

Steinman fills her life with writing, teaching, readings, and publishing. She and her husband, poet Jim Shugrue, who was a visiting writer at Reed and the Reed bookstore's book buyer, are cofounders and editors of the 32-year-old literary magazine Hubbub. Steinman asserts that poetry is “not a bad way to feel you’re part of a larger, living community." Even those poets who are "long gone," she says, are "still alive."