The Hermitage Artist Retreat, in partnership with the Historic Asolo Theater of the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art are bringing you the chance to meet an extraordinary American poet and writer. Tom Sleigh will read from his work and talk about his incredible life as a writer at the Historic Asolo on Thursday, November 11 at 7:30 pm. Call the Historic Asolo Theater at 941.360.7399 for reservations.
Tom wrote us this note about his life:
You could say that my life has resembled a double feature, plus the newsreel.
When I was a kid, the first feature was of me going to the movies every night because my parents owned a drive-in movie theater out in east Texas, red clay and piney woods country. My mother worked the snackbar, my father the projector. That was my first experience of poetry: enormous shadows on a screen, voices coming from the grille of the metal speaker like voices from other worlds.
The second feature was about a man who travelled to some of those worldsâ€”like San Cristobal de Las Casas in southern Mexico, where I worked with the anthropologist and photographer, Gertrude Blom. At Na Balomâ€”which means in Mayan the House of the Jaguarâ€”I worked with the Lacandon Indians, the tribe most like the ancient Maya. And letâ€™s not forget the newsreel: in the last few years, Iâ€™ve been to Lebanon and Syria, as well as to Kenya, where Iâ€™ve seen the lives of Palestinian and Somali refugees up close.
Throughout both features and â€œthe newsyâ€ as we used to call it, Iâ€™ve tried to write as closely to the bone as I could: Marilyn Monroe getting a massage, the greenish haze of teargas, cats lounging on tanks, a Somali poet singing a song for me. And more ordinary moments: the experience of finding my fatherâ€™s Army records when he went to flight school, the way my motherâ€™s dog looks at her sometimes, the sound of kids yelling their heads off as they splash naked in a pond.
Tom is the author of more than half a dozen volumes of poetry. Space Walk (2007) won the 2008 Kingsley Tufts Award, a prize worth $100,000, and earned Sleigh considerable critical acclaim. Referring to this collection, poet Philip Levine noted, â€œSleighâ€™s reviewers use words such as â€˜adept,â€™ â€˜elegant,â€™ and â€˜classical.â€™ Reading his new book, I find all those terms beside the point, even though not one is inaccurate. I am struck by the human dramas that are enacted in these poems, the deep encounters that often shatter the participants and occasionally restore them. What delights me most is seeing a poet of his accomplishments and his large and well-earned reputation suddenly veer into a new arena of both our daily and our mythical lives. For the writer, such daring may be its own reward; for the reader, it is thrilling to overhear a writer pushing into greatness.â€ Sleigh has also received the Shelley Award from the Poetry Society of America, an Individual Writerâ€™s Award from the Lila Wallace-Readerâ€™s Digest Fund, a Guggenheim grant, two National Endowment for the Arts grants, and an Academy Award from the Academy of American Poets.