Celebrated poet Ange Mlinko will be in town for a reading this Thursday evening, Nov. 1. The University of Florida poetry professor is promoting her fifth book , published by Farrar, Strauss and Giroux in July 2017.
Born in Philadelphia in 1969, Mlinko earned her BA from St. Johns College, followed by an MFA at Brown University before embarking on a noteworthy writing career. Her debut poetry collection, , was published in 1999. The follow-up, (2005), won the National Poetry Series. Her third volume was , a finalist for the William Carlos Williams Award in 2010, and made best-book lists for The New Yorker and The Boston Globe in 2013.
Mlinko comes to Jacksonville at the invitation of University of North Florida English professor Clark Lunberry.
"In many of her poems, Mlinko is a kind of eccentric formalist," says Lunberry, "exploring often disguised rhyme schemes and asymmetrical stanza structures. There was a time not so long ago when such formalism might have seemed awfully conventional but, today, with time, with the passage of history, it can almost feel avant-garde, as if redefining what it is to be 'experimental'."
Mlinko's work has turned up in all sorts of well-known publications, including The New York Review of Books, The London Review of Books, Poetry Magazine, Granta and The Paris Review. She was Poetry Editor at The Nation, and was last year featured in The New Yorker, whose Dan Chiasson wrote: "Mlinko's poems aren't simple: they face the complexities of love and loss with a pragmatic erudition. She is a difficult, allusive, dense poet, haunted by myth and by language. But she is also, in almost every line, funny, poignant, and self-impugning, measuring her pinprick dramas against the cosmos."
Her famed facility with language results directly from a complicated upbringing and a precocious childhood. Mlinko's family has linguistic roots in Hungarian, Portuguese and Belorussian. She had read Chekhov by 11 and by 15.
"Mlinko's work, in part, emerges out of an intense and often beautiful awareness of history and its uncanny contingencies," says Lunberry. "Her poems frequently reveal a braiding or layering of historical and classical references, that are richly intermingled with the immediate, the personal, the life-now-lived (but lived through all that's come before)."
Mlinko won a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2014, which is about as prestigious as it gets in that world. She also won the Frederick Bock Prize and the Randall Jarrell Award for criticism in 2009.
Mlinko currently lives in Gainesville. In addition to her professorial duties, she serves as poetry editor of UF's biannual literary magazine Subtropics.
The UNF reading is a joint production of UNF and the Chengzhong Foundation, which gave Lunberry a grant to pursue cultural ventures (like the Oct. 24 Creep City/Kevin Drumm show at Sun-Ray Cinema).
"This semester," Lunberry says, "I'm teaching a course at UNF that focuses uniquely on American women poets: "No Man's Land," the course is called. I had been hearing about and reading Mlinko's work in various sources. ... I then realized, to my surprise, that Mlinko was living in Gainesville and teaching at UF, and so I reached out to see if she would come to my poetry class and offer an evening reading. She was eager to come over and share her work."
People take the poetry business seriously, and for good reason. Mlinko's work is a reminder of a writer's need to revel in the existential joy of the moment and to trust the process.