A Centennial Celebration of The Phillips Collection: Michael Collier and Monica Sok (2021)

The O.B. Hardison Poetry Series, in collaboration with The Phillips Collection, presented A Centennial Celebration of The Phillips Collection: Michael Collier and Monica Sok on April 13, 2021 at 6:30pm as a virtual reading.

The poetry of Monica Sok and Michael Collier paints personal histories, creating intimate gems that shine in a public setting. In this reading, both poets read from their work in response to The Phillips Collection exhibition Seeing Differently: The Phillips Collects for a New Century. The reading, which was pre-recorded, highlighted the art from the Exhibition.

A live moderated discussion with the poets and Elsa Smithgall, Senior Curator of The Phillips Collection, followed. Questions were taken from those in attendance.

Michael Collier

Michael Collier. Katherine Branch.

Michael Collier is the author of seven poetry collections, including My Bishop and Other Poems; An Individual History; Dark Wild Realm; and The Ledge, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and The Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Collier served as the director of the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conferences for more than 20 years and as poetry editor at Houghton Mifflin and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for ten years. The state poet laureate of Maryland from 2001 to 2004, he is the director of the Creative Writing program at the University of Maryland.

Collier has read for the O.B. Hardison Poetry series previously, on November 13, 1989.

Monica Sok

Monica Sok. Sy Abudu.

Monica Sok is a Khmer poet and the daughter of refugees. She is the author of A Nail the Evening Hangs On (Copper Canyon Press, 2020). Her work has been recognized with a "Discovery" Prize from 92Y. She has received fellowships from the Elizabeth George Foundation, Hedgebrook, Jerome Foundation, Kundiman, MacDowell, National Endowment for the Arts, Poetry Society of America, Saltonstall Foundation, and others. Sok is a Jones Lecturer at Stanford University and teaches poetry to Southeast Asian youths at the Center for Empowering Refugees and Immigrants in Oakland, California. She is from Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Reviews and excerpts

From "Cyclops"

My grandfather’s right eye was a frozen slab

of milk-white ice that light never thawed

and when he slept, the lid didn’t drown

the curse of its constant stare.

Look at it long and you’d be salt, stone—

fear’s hardened form. And look. We did,

though we blinked against its spell, the worm

or ray or evil thread of its insistence.

From An Individual History by Michael Collier. Reprinted with permission from W.W. Norton.

From "Tuol Sleng"

A boy runs through the halls of Tuol Sleng,

His narrow footsteps turn it back into a school.

He checks every classroom for the kids.

He sits on a chair and waits. When I walk in,

He whispers, ghost. The bell rings and off he goes.

From A Nail the Evening Hangs On by Monica Sok. Reprinted with permission of Copper Canyon Press.