Shoes That Fit My Feet: Poets Confront the Past

Since the days when humans chanted and recounted their histories in song over campfires, the role of the poet has been to weave both the vast histories of a society and the small joys and sorrows of a single human life into words. In his poem “The Past” Ha Jin wrote: “Like a shroud my past surrounds me/but I will cut it and stitch it,/to make good shoes with it,/shoes that fit my feet.” Surely one of the roles of poetry is to examine our own individual histories and the histories of our nations and cultures and transform them into workable objects that can teach us how to live. Join poets Hafizah Geter, Ricardo Alberto Maldonado, Jenny Xie, and Javier Zamora, as they discuss how their writing grapples with the past, both personal and political. Moderated by Mary Gannon.
Born in Zaria, Nigeria, Hafizah Geter serves on the board of VIDA: Women in the Literary Arts, and co-curates the reading series EMPIRE with Ricardo Maldonado. Her poems have appeared in The New Yorker, Tin House, Narrative Magazine, Gulf Coast, Boston Review, Los Angeles Review of Books, and Linebreak, among others.  She is on the poetry committee and book ends committee for the Brooklyn Book Festival and is currently an editor for Little A and Day One from Amazon Publishing.
Ricardo Alberto Maldonado was born and raised in Puerto Rico. He is the translator of Dinapiera Di Donato’s Collateral (National Poetry Series/Akashic Books) and the recipient of poetry fellowships from Queer/Arts/Mentorship and the New York Foundation for the Arts. His poems and translations have appeared or are forthcoming in Poetry, Boston Review, Guernica, Denver Quarterly, and elsewhere. He is managing director at the 92Y Unterberg Poetry Center and co-hosts the EMPIRE reading series with Hafizah Geter.
Jenny Xie is the author of Eye Level (Graywolf Press, 2018), recipient of the Walt Whitman Award of the Academy of American Poets, and Nowhere to Arrive (Northwestern University Press, 2017), recipient of the Drinking Gourd Prize. She has received fellowships and support from Kundiman, the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, the Elizabeth George Foundation, and Poets & Writers. She teaches at New York University and lives in Brooklyn.
Javier Zamora was born in El Salvador and migrated to the US when he was nine. He is a 2016-2018 Wallace Stegner Fellow and holds fellowships from CantoMundo, Colgate University, MacDowell, the National Endowment for the Arts, and Yaddo. The recipient of a 2016 Ruth Lilly/Dorothy Sargent Fellowship and the 2016 Barnes and Noble Writer for Writer’s Award, his first poetry collection Unaccompanied is forthcoming from Copper Canyon Press September 2017.
Mary Gannon has worked in the literary nonprofit field for over fifteen years. She joined the Academy of American Poets in 2013 as Associate Director/Director of Content, overseeing and American Poets magazine, among other programs. From 2010 to 2013 she was Editorial Director of Poets & Writers, Inc., publisher of Poets & Writers Magazine. A founding member of the Brooklyn Literary Council, which launched the Brooklyn Book Festival, Mary continues to serve on the festival’s poetry programming committee. Her poems have appeared in numerous literary magazines, including the Antioch Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, the Paris Review, Washington Square, and SHADE.