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Sound & Silence: Victoria Adukwei Bulley & Roger Reeves

November 4 @ 1:45 pm - 2:45 pm

Portland’5 Brunish Theatre

Quiet by Victoria Adukwei Bulley is a black British poet making her thrilling American debut explores the importance of “quiet” in producing forms of community, resistance, and love. Braiding memoir, theory, and criticism in his debut work of nonfiction, Dark Days, award-winning poet Roger Reeves finds new meaning in silence, protest, fugitivity, freedom, and ecstasy. Moderated by John Freeman (The Park; editor of Freeman’s).

How does one encounter meaning amid so many kinds of noise? What is quiet when it isn’t silence? Where does quiet exist—and what liberating potential might it hold? These poems dwell on ideas of black interiority, intimacy, and selfhood, and they celebrate as fiercely as they mourn. With a metaphysical edge and a formal restlessness attuned to both the sonics and the inadequacies of language, Quiet navigates the tension between the impulse to guard one’s inner life and the knowledge that, as Audre Lorde writes, “your silence will not protect you.”

“This debut poetry collection is abundant with thoughtful storytelling. Each poem is ruminative and distills the intimacies of Black girl/womanhood with fascinating images, compelling observations and a nomadic sense of questioning, while honouring the concept of silence and the ways it plays out in one’s interior life. These delicate poems unpick encounters with loved ones, friends and animals (there’s a beautiful poem about snails) and also focus firmly on the wider world, with poems such as ‘Pandemic vs Black Folk’ written with the sharpest of tongues.”—Kadish Morris, The Guardian

“Bulley’s stunning poems draw you in with their melodious versatility, intellect and dexterity; [they] perfectly embody the political through the personal.”—Bernardine Evaristo, Booker Prize-winning author of Girl, Woman, Other

In Dark Days, Reeves juxtaposes the images of an opera singer breaking the state-mandated silence curfew by singing out into the streets of Santiago, Chile, and a father teaching his daughter to laugh out loud at the planes dropping bombs on them in Aleppo, Syria. He describes the history of the hush harbor—places where enslaved people could steal away to find silence and court ecstasy, to the side of their impossible conditions. In other essays, Reeves highlights a chapter in Toni Morrison’s Beloved to locate common purpose between Black and Indigenous peoples; he visits the realities of enslaved people on McLeod Plantation, where some of the descendants of those formerly enslaved lived into the 1990s; and he explores his own family history, his learning to read closely through the Pentecostal church tradition, and his passing on of reading as a pleasure, freedom, and solace to his daughter, who is frightened the police will gun them down. Together, these groundbreaking essays build a profound vision for how to see and experience the world in our present moment, and how to strive toward an alternative existence in intentional community underground. “The peace we fight and search for,” Reeves writes, “begins and ends with being still.”

“Stunning. . . . In a variety of pieces exploring race and legacy and community, Reeves captures the sorrows inherent in the way we live today even while keeping a keen eye toward opportunity for joy.”—Maris Kreizman, Vulture

Portland Book Festival General Admission Passes are required for entry into all events. Passes are $15 in advance and $25 day of Festival. Youth 17 & under get in FREE. All full-priced General Admission Passes include a $5 book fair voucher and entry into Portland Art Museum. Passes admit attendees to the Festival; individual events are first-come, first-served. More info here.


Victoria Adukwei Bulley

Victoria Adukwei Bulley is a poet, writer and artist. Her work has appeared widely in publications including The White Review, the London Review of Books, and The Atlantic. She is the winner of an Eric Gregory Award, and her critically acclaimed debut poetry collection, QUIET, won the Rathbones Folio Prize for Poetry, the John Pollard International Poetry Prize, and was shortlisted for the T. S. Eliot Prize. QUIET is published by Faber & Faber in the UK and in North America by Knopf, Penguin Random House.
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Roger Reeves

Roger Reeves is the author of the poetry collections King Me and Best Barbarian. He is a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, a Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation, a 2015 Whiting Award, and Radcliffe Fellowship from Harvard University. His essays and poems have appeared in Poetry, the New Yorker, Granta, the Yale Review, and elsewhere. He lives in Austin, Texas. His latest book is Dark Days: Fugitive Essays.
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John Freeman

John Freeman is the founder of the literary annual Freeman’s, and an executive editor at Alfred A. Knopf. He is also the author and editor of eleven books, including Dictionary of the Undoing; There’s a Revolution Outside, My Love (co-edited with Tracy K Smith), and Wind, Trees, a new collection of poems. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and been translated into more than twenty languages. Once a month he co-hosts the California Book Club for Alta, an online discussion of a classic of golden state literature. He lives in New York City.
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November 4
1:45 pm - 2:45 pm
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Portland’5 Brunish Theatre
111 SW Broadway Ave
Portland, OR 97205
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