August found me traveling to Ashland, Oregon, as Scholar in Residence for The People of the Book Series, sponsored by Temple Emek Shalom. My program touched on the integral relationship between politics and art, how poets stand as witness, and how this informs my own process. i shared poems of Denise Levertov, Carolyn Forché, Langston Hughes and Gil Scott Heron, finally reading a few of my own works available in a handmade, limited-edition book of selected poems produced for the event. Here are the comments of one attendee:
“As a member of the acting company of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon, I have spent many years performing the plays and sonnets of William Shakespeare. Thus I have fairly high expectations when attending literary events. When I attended Cheryl Latif’s reading of her recent work, I was not disappointed.
“Cheryl’s poetry was enlightening and moving. I enjoyed hearing about her sources of inspiration and how she sees the place of the poet in our social fabric. The idea of poet as witness resonated with me, as I believe that is an important aspect of the work of artists in our culture: to be witnesses for social issues and the emotions that accompany our passions.
“I was particularly moved by her poem, Makom, which speaks to the importance of ‘place.’ “…the beauty of this place is the beauty of our hearts……” is an example of the evocative imagery with which I connected. This poem made me feel at home. To have someone be so articulate while reading her inspiring work was very moving to me, and a lovely way to spend an afternoon.”
Catherine E. Coulson
Actor, Oregon Shakespeare Festival