Studium Generale | Alice Derry
Studium Generale is very pleased to welcome Peninsula College English Professor Emeritus Alice Derry to the stage of the Little Theater. Derry was a faculty member at Peninsula College for 29 years and taught English and German and also codirected the Foothills Writers' Series.
Today, she will read from her newest collection of poems, Tremolo, which was released in September by Red Hen Press. In just the few short weeks Tremolo has been out, it has drawn generous praise from critics and readers alike and has resonated with listeners wherever Derry has read.
Lucia Perillo, a 2010 Pulitzer Prize Finalist and author of Inseminating the Elephant, writes: "Alice Derry's poems exert their force in two directions. One is outward?they show us how the personal drama of family is connected to the larger drama of history. But they also dig inward, through the surface cordialities to reveal the layers of our lives that are like music, fluttering between the sharp and flat and true."”
Canadian poet Lorna Crozier, who is the Head Chair in the Writing Department at the University of Victoria, notes: "Alice Derry's poems are small, daring miracles of knowing. She looks at the natural world and the human family so unflinchingly that she discovers, with sad precision, the beauty and frailty of our connections to what we love. She tackles the most difficult of subjects with a breathtaking honesty and fearlessness. I have come to depend upon her poems to shake up what I think I know, to move me from an accepted, comfortable opinion into an intellectual field of dazzling complexity. This is a book you won't want to lend to anyone-you won't get it back."
Internationally recognized local poet, essayist, author and playwright Tess Gallagher says: "Tremolo is a tour de force of vibratory power that marks Alice Derry as having come into her own as one of our very best poets. I am greatly moved by these narratives with their rushing crescendos, the way they sweep us into our own inner chambers. Derry possesses an exquisite emotional and moral register. She is unstintingly frank about our failures with each other while witnessing the tenderness, the give and take that let us cleave to each other."
Other reviews of Tremolo have appeared in Booklist and Shelf Awareness, and another is upcoming in The Georgia Review.
A statement about Tremolo on Derry's website states: "Tremolo can be contained in the line from Theodore Roethke's villanelle, 'The Waking': 'This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.' In music, tremolo describes notes which are repeated in time, as opposed to trill, notes which stand outside the composition's basic beat. In the same way, our lives often cannot 'claim their own space,' but are forced to fit circumstance. The effect is tremulous: we are full of trembling, easily shaken. Tremolo journeys through terrain where the speaker must accept what she's given: a mother's death, a daughter's leaving home, a father's dementia, a life compromised by war, prejudice and violence, the myriad fearful situations of each day. The poems search for safety, ultimately understanding that the steadiness the speaker knows comes from taking the path in front of her, fully embracing her trembling. The wisdom of these poems is garnered from journeys the speaker fears but must undertake. As Roethke writes, 'I learn by going where I have to go.'"
Tremolo is Derry's fourth volume of poetry. Last year she was awarded a 2011 GAP grant from Artist Trust Washington to assist with the book's publication.
Derry's third volume, Strangers to Their Courage, was a finalist for the 2002 Washington Book Award and was published by Louisiana State University Press. In addition to poems, the manuscript also contains a lengthy introductory essay.
Her second collection, Clearwater, was published in 1997, and her first manuscript, Stages 0f Twilight, was chosen by Raymond Carver as the l986 King County (Seattle) Arts Publication Award winner.
Derry's poems have appeared in many periodicals, including Southern Poetry Review, Poetry, Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, Portland Review, The Seattle Review, Hubbub, Crab Creek Review and Raven Chronicles.
In l988 Derry was awarded an Individual Artist Fellowship from the Washington State Arts Commission. A chapbook, Getting Used to the Body, was released in l989. A second chapbook, Not as You Once Imagined, was published in 1993 It was followed in 2002 by Translations of Rainer Rilke's New Poems, which contains eleven of Derry's translations from the German poet, Rainer Rilke.
Derry's poems have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize six times. In 1996, she was awarded the Washington Community and Technical College Humanities Association Exemplary Status Award for her work in poetry-both for her own and for the promotion of others'. In February 2005, she was named Poet-in-Residence at the biennial conference of the National Association for Humanities Education, and she has been chosen four times to present at the Skagit River Poetry Festival in La Conner, Washington.
In 2011, Derry received the Exemplary Status Award from the Washington Community College Humanities Association for her work for Peninsula College's Foothills Writers Series. Carmen Germain, who is also a Peninsula College English Professor Emeritus, was also recognized.