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Princeton University Press Poets
Princeton University Press Poets — Austin Smith with Flyover Country & Dora Malech with Stet, introduced by Susan Stewart
Thursday, November 15th, 2018 at 6PM — Labyrinth Books Princeton

Join us for our second annual presentation of Princeton University Press poets by the series editor, poet and critic Susan Stewart.

Austin Smith’s Flyover Country is a powerful collection of poems about violence: the violence we do to the land, to animals, to refugees, to the people of distant countries, and to one another. Drawing on memories of his childhood on a dairy farm in Illinois, Smith explores the beauty and cruelty of rural life, challenging the idea that the American Midwest is mere “flyover country,” a place that deserves passing over. At the same time, the collection suggests that America itself has become a flyover country, carrying out drone strikes and surveillance abroad, locked in a state of perpetual war that Americans seem helpless to stop.


“Stet,” from the Latin for “let it stand,” is a proofreading term meaning to retain or return to a previous phrasing. Poet Dora Malech takes constraint as her catalyst and subject, exploring what it means to make or break a vow, to create art out of a life in flux, to reckon with the body’s bounds, and to arrive at a place where one might bear and care for another life. Stet is a work of serious play that brings home the connections and intimacies of language. The uncertainty of changes made and then reconsidered haunts these poems as they explore what is left unsaid through erasures, redaction, and the limitations of spelling. How does one “go back” on one’s word or “stand by” one’s decisions? Can a life be remade or revised, or is the past forever present as in a palimpsest?

Austin Smith is the author of a previous poetry collection, Almanac, and his work has appeared in the New Yorker, Poetry, Ploughshares, and many other publications. He teaches at Stanford University. Dora Malech is the author of two previous books of poetry, Say So and Shore Ordered Ocean. Her poems have appeared in the New Yorker, Poetry, The Best American Poetry, among others. She is assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University. Susan Stewart is a poet, critic, and translator, as well as professor in the English Department at PU. She won the National Book Critics Circle Award for her volume of poems Columbarium. Her most recent book of poems is Cinder: New and Selected Poems. Stewart’s books of criticism include The Poet’s Freedom: A Notebook on Making; and Poetry and the Fate of the Sense

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