Dr. Cynthia Hogue

Contemporary Writer Series and Philosophy Intersections guest poet.

Zoe Henderson / Staff Writer

Cynthia Hogue at her poetry reading. Photo by Zoe Henderson
Cynthia Hogue at her poetry reading. Photo by Zoe Henderson

On Apr. 11, Dr. Cynthia Hogue came to Western as part of the Contemporary Writers Series and Philosophy Intersections.

Dr. Hogue is the author of eight books of poetry including Revenance (2014), Or Consequence (2010), The Incognito Body (2006), and Flux (2002). Dr. Hogue has also written four books of criticism, and a book of poetry written in the style of witness poetry called When the Water Came: Evacuees of Hurricane Katrina, in partnership with photographer Rebecca Ross.

Dr. Hogue is also well-known for her 2012 co-translation of Fortino Sámano (The Overflowing of the Poem) by Virginie Lalucq and Jean-Luc Nancy. In 2013, that translation won Dr. Hogue the prestigious Harold Morton Landon Translation Award from the Academy of American Poets.

On Apr. 11, Dr. Hogue held a craft talk at noon, and at 7p.m., there was a public reading in which she read from Revenance, her translation of Fortino Sámano, When the Water Came: Evacuees of Hurricane Katrina, and an unpublished piece of her recent writing.

In When the Water Came: Evacuees of Hurricane Katrina, Dr. Hogue interviewed 12 Hurricane Katrina survivors from New Orleans who had evacuated to Phoenix, Ariz. Dr. Hogue prefaced the reading by saying that her poems aren’t meant to speak for the survivors, but instead “create a space for experience” where the survivors can share their stories and heartaches about the events during and after Katrina.

Next, Dr. Hogue read from her translation of Fortino Sámano, which is a collaborative book by poet Virginie Lalucq and philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy in response to the only existing photo of the Mexican revolutionist Fortino Sámano, taken only seconds before his death by firing squad. Virginie Lalucq was fascinated by how casually Sámano looked facing death; her poetry in the book reflects that fascination. Jean-Luc Nancy collaborated with Lalucq to write an explication of her poem.

Dr. Hogue also read from her poetry book, Revenance. The title of the book is wordplay with the French term revenant, which means ghost. To preface this book, Dr. Hogue told a story about how, in the four years before her parent’s death, strangers would come up and tell her ghost stories. She was interested in these stories and wrote them as poetry.

Two of the poems Hogue read from Revenance had typos that had worked their way into the published book. When Dr. Hogue noticed these mistakes, she decided to keep them because she said, in accordance with Freud, that “the unconsciousness wells up and will speak the truth.” She recommended that writers “listen to your misspellings” because “errors can lead to something truer.”

Dr. Hogue also read two other pieces from Revenance on the importance of art and imagination to education and life.

To finish off her reading, Dr. Hogue read an unpublished poem that she wrote after her husband had a heart attack last year. Hogue said that when her husband died and was shocked back to life, the shock also jolted her out of a year of not writing. The poem was about her husband who had been born into occupied France. The poem speaks about the pain and harsh realities of a war-torn country.

After the reading there was a quick Q & A during which Hogue imparted that writers “allow your errors, never throw away your drafts, and never censor yourself.”