Summer Series: Poetry

Poetry read by Charles Bernstein, Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, Safia Elhillo, Yusef Komunyakaa, Mary Norbert Körte, Drew Pham, Claudia Rankine, Emilio Rojas, and Anne Waldman


1 p.m. Eastern / 10 a.m. Pacific

Join us for a week of conversations, performances, and readings curated by the Rail’s section editors.

In this talk

This summer, we are celebrating the sections of the Brooklyn Rail with conversations, performances, and readings curated by our editors. This 2-week YouTube video series offers a view behind the scenes with the editors, artists, and writers that make the publication.

On Thursday, July 29, Poetry Editor Anselm Berrigan makes an introduction to selections from our Radical Poetry Reading series, featuring Charles Bernstein, Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, Safia Elhillo, Yusef Komunyakaa, Mary Norbert Körte, Drew Pham, Claudia Rankine, Emilio Rojas, and Anne Waldman.

Check out the other events this week devoted to our sections DanceFilmTheater, and Fiction. Register below to one, some, or all of these events to receive selected materials for each episode.

Charles Bernstein

Charles Bernstein
Portrait drawing by Phong H. Bui
Poet and a scholar, Charles Bernstein is a foundational member and leading practitioner of Language poetry. From 1978 to 1981, alongside fellow poet Bruce Andrews, he published L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E magazine, which became a forum for writing that blurred, confused, and denied the boundary between poetry and critical writing about poetry. Since the 1970s Bernstein has published dozens of books, including poetry as well as essay collections, pamphlets, translations, collaborations, and libretti. His poetry has been widely anthologized and translated, and it has appeared in over 500 magazines and periodicals. His most recent book Topsy-Turvy was published by the University of Chicago Press.

Mei-mei Berssenbrugge

Mei-mei Berssenbrugge
Poet Mei-mei Berssenbrugge is the author of 15 books of poetry. A Treatise on Stars and a new edition of her 1989 book, Empathy came out this year from New Directions. She is the 2021 recipient of the Yale Bollinger Prize for Poetry. Mei-mei lives in northern New Mexico and New York City.

Safia Elhillo

A photo of poet Safia Elhillo standing among bookshelves.
Aris Theotokatos
Writer Safia Elhillo is the author of The January Children (University of Nebraska Press, 2017), Girls That Never Die (forthcoming from One World/Random House), and the novel in verse Home Is Not a Country (Make Me a World/Random House, 2021). She is a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University and lives in Oakland.

Yusef Komunyakaa

Yusef Komunyakaa
Poet Yusef Komunyakaa is the author of Pleasure Dome: New & Collected Poems, 1975-1999; Talking Dirty to the Gods, Thieves of Paradise, I Apologize for the Eyes in My Head, among others. His prose is collected in Blue Notes: Essays, Interviews & Commentaries. He co-edited The Jazz Poetry Anthology and co-translated The Insomnia of Fire by Nguyen Quang Thieu. His honors include the William Faulkner Prize from the Université Rennes, the Thomas Forcade Award, the Hanes Poetry Prize, fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Bronze Star for his service in Vietnam, where he served as a correspondent and managing editor of the Southern Cross. In 1999, he was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

Mary Norbert Körte

A photo of Mary Norbert Korte reading a piece of paper.
Courtesy Mary Norbert Körte
Poet, environmental activist, and teacher Mary Norbert Kortë joined the Dominican Catholic Sisterhood in San Rafael, California at the age of 17. She earned BA and MA degrees in Latin, translating Virgil’s Georgics into iambic pentameter and studying classical texts. She left the Dominican order in 1968, and continued to publish poetry, participate in anti-war activism, and spearhead environmental protection projects—including the preservation of over 200 acres of old growth redwoods in Irmulco, where she moved in the 1970s. There, she served as Northern California Coordinator for Poets in the Schools, and taught in Coyote Valley’s reservation for the Pomo people and at Mendocino Community College. She still lives in a cabin she built herself, and writes nearly every day.

Drew Pham

Drew Pham
Courtesy of Drew Pham
Writer Drew Pham is a queer, transgender writer of Vietnamese heritage, a child of war refugees, and an adjunct English lecturer at CUNY Brooklyn College. Previously, she served in the US Army and deployed to Afghanistan with the 10th Mountain Division. She has published in Blunderbuss Magazine, McSweeny’s, Slice Magazine, Foreign Policy, Time magazine, The Daily Beast, and Columbia Journal, among others. She serves as an editor at The Wrath-Bearing Tree, an online literary journal focused on themes of societal violence. She lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.

Claudia Rankine

Claudia Rankine, photo courtesy of Tanya Marcuse
Photo courtesy of Tanya Marcuse
Poet, essayist, and playwright, Claudia Rankine is the author of six collections of poetry and plays, including Just Us: An American Conversation, Citizen: An American Lyric, Don’t Let Me Be Lonely, HELP, The White Card, Provenance of Beauty: A South Bronx Travelogue, as well as numerous video collaborations. She is the co-editor of several anthologies including The Racial Imaginary: Writers on Race in the Life of the Mind. In 2016, she co-founded The Racial Imaginary Institute. She is the recipient of the Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry, the Poets & Writers’ Jackson Poetry Prize, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Lannan Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, United States Artists, and the National Endowment of the Arts. Rankine teaches at Yale.

Emilio Rojas

Emilio Rojas
Multidisciplinary artist Emilio Rojas works primarily with the body in performance, using video, photography, installation, public interventions and sculpture. As a queer latinx immigrant with indigenous heritage, he engages in the postcolonial ethical imperative to uncover, investigate, and make known undervalued or disparaged sites of knowledge, narratives, and individuals. He utilizes his body as an instrument to unearth removed traumas, embodied forms of decolonization, migration and poetics of space. His research based practice is influenced by queer and feminist archives, border politics, botanical colonialism, and defaced monuments. He is also a translator, community activist, yoga teacher, and anti-oppression facilitator with queer, migrant, and refugee youth.

Anne Waldman

This is a pencil drawn portrait of Poet Anne Waldman with an off-white background, drawn by the Rail’s publisher Phong Bui.
Drawing by Phong Bui
Internationally recognized and acclaimed poet Anne Waldman has been an active member of the “Outrider” experimental poetry community, a culture she has helped create and nurture for over four decades as writer, editor, teacher, performer, magpie scholar, infra-structure curator, and cultural/political activist. Her poetry is recognized in the lineage of Whitman and Ginsberg, and in the Beat, New York School, and Black Mountain trajectories of the New American Poetry, but has raised the bar as a feminist, activist, and powerful performer. She remains a highly original “open field investigator” of consciousness, committed to the possibilities of radical shifts of language and states of mind to create new modal structures and montages of attention.

🎟 Register

Summer Series: Poetry

Poetry read by Charles Bernstein, Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, Safia Elhillo, Yusef Komunyakaa, Mary Norbert Körte, Drew Pham, Claudia Rankine, Emilio Rojas, and Anne Waldman

   at  1 p.m. ET / 10 a.m. PT

How to join

💻 This event will be held over ZOOM. We’ll send you a link to join this event after you register. Download and install ZOOM for desktop or mobile devices

🕰 Please arrive 5-10mins in advance to ensure you’re connected and ready to go.

🎧 We recommend viewing with headphones. It is easier to hear people and will be easier for you to ask a question, should you decide.

🗝 Accessibility: Closed-captioning in English will be available during the event. Our Q&A will be conducted using Zoom’s chat function, with the option to voice your question or have our staff read it.

📺 Videos of past events can be viewed on events page at

👾 Technical difficulties

We work hard to make sure this is easy and enjoyable for everyone, but technology is not always kind. If you are not happy with the experience, we’ll happily refund any donation you made. We just ask that you let us know how we could have made the experience better for you.

💌 Questions/feedback? Let us know how we can make this experience better [email protected]