The Keene Toadstool Hosts
Liza Katz Duncan & Sebastian Merrill
presenting & signing their poetry collections:
Given & Ghost: Seeds
Friday, November 10th at 6 pm
A tender poetry collection considering home, family, and personal and ecological loss.
Liza Katz Duncan's debut collection is a poignant exploration of the unpredictable shifts that shape our lives. Given considers the notions of home and family and how to survive the changes and losses associated with both. Duncan conjures her home, the New Jersey Shore, in clear and unsentimental lines: "Call of the grackle, / whine of the turkey vulture. Blighted clams, // raw and red in their half-shells." Duncan's poems also explore the devastation brought to this place and its community by Superstorm Sandy and the continued impacts of climate change.
Interwoven into this thread is the narrator's miscarriage; the parallels between the desecrated landscape and the personal catastrophe further contribute to the layers of tenderness in this collection, as Duncan urges us to remember and to witness. Despite tragedy and loss, Given is imbued with persistent, dogged hope, showing how survival persists amongst the wreckage, and from this debris is a path towards healing our grief.
Given was the winner of 2022 Autumn House Rising Writer Prize in Poetry.
Liza Katz Duncan's poems have appeared in AGNI, About Place, Poetry Northwest, National Poetry Review, and elsewhere. She has received support for her work from Poets & Writers, the Bread Loaf Environmental Writers Conference, and the Tucson Festival of Books, and she teaches English as a second language in New Jersey public schools.
Set on a remote island on the Maine coast, GHOST:: SEEDS incorporates elements of magical realism and myth to explore and trouble conceptions of gender and identity. The central tension of this book-length poem is a dialogue between a trans speaker and his "ghost," the "girl-ghost" of the self that he left behind to become the man he is today. Putting a queer spin on the myth of Persephone, the girl-ghost speaks from underworld lit by glowworms, cut through by dark rivers, and connected to the world above through a sea cave. Alternating between prose-like elements and lyric meditations, the book's expansive form makes full use of the page from margin to margin, creating space and breathing room for complicated investigations of memory, gender, and grief.
Sebastian Merrill's debut collection GHOST:: SEEDS was selected by Kimiko Hahn as the winner of The 2022 X. J. Kennedy Poetry Prize. The winner of the 2022 Levis Prize for Poetry from Friends of Writers, Sebastian was selected as a member of the 2023 Get the Word Out inaugural poetry cohort for debut writers from Poets & Writers. A staff-scholar for the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference in 2022 and 2023 and the Summer 2023 Warren Wilson MFA Alumni Residency Fellow, Sebastian has also received support from Tin House Workshop and the Juniper Summer Writing Institute. The recipient of the Rodney Jack Scholarship from Friends of Writers, he holds an MFA in Poetry from Warren Wilson College and a BA from Wellesley College.