Hartwick’s Bensen, Young Publish Poetry, Artwork in India Journal

March 23, 2010


Hartwick College professors Robert Bensen (English & Theatre Arts) and Phil Young (Art) have published collaborative work in the January 2010 issue of Journal of Commonwealth Literature, from the Icfai University Press, Hyderabad, India. A 30-page excerpt of Bensen’s book-length poem, Orenoque, appears along with four works on paper by Young, including a photograph, watercolors, and a mixed-media collage.

(At right, top to bottom, "Carib Rock art overlooking the Pitons," "Drawing of Castries from the overlook of the Governor General's Mansion, St. Lucia," and "Reflections of Home, Pigeon Point, St. Lucia," all by Young.)

Orenoque is the third publication on which Bensen and Young have collaborated. Day Labor, a chapbook of poems and drawings, appeared in 1984 (Serpent & Eagle Press). Their co-authored long poem “Wetumka” was published in Akwe:kon (Cornell U, 1993) and in the anthology Children of the Dragonfly (U. of Arizona Press, 2001). They have been friends and co-conspirators since coming to Hartwick College in 1978. With the late Prof. Richard Haan of the History Department, they produced the 1992 January thematic program on the Columbian Quincentenary.

Orenoque is set in the Orinoco River region of Venezuela in the 1500s during the explorations for El Dorado, the legendary third Golden Kingdom of the Americas. It explores the impact of that encounter, beginning with both Indigenous and European stories about the lands beyond the sea, and continuing to the present heritage of colonial relations among Native American, African- and Euro-American people. Phil Young's accompanying artworks--a photograph of ancient Carib rock art, watercolors of the rainforest and of Castries, and mixed media collage, "Columbus is Alive and Living in St. Lucia"--parallel the geographic and cultural preoccupations of the poem. His work expresses the need to be "onsite for insight" into geo-physical, cultural, and personal connections.

Bensen began the poem during a January Term class in West Indian literature, and continued work on it during two residencies at the Newberry Library in Chicago, and during his tenure as Babcock Chair in the Department of English & Theatre Arts. Young's art works were also done during a January Term class to the Caribbean, largely in the St. Lucian rainforest.

Young and Bensen have won numerous fellowships and awards for their work. Young was awarded a Millay Colony Residency, a Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant in Painting and Sculpture, and a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in Sculpture. His paintings and drawings are in the permanent collection of many Native American and other museums. They have been exhibited widely throughout the U.S., recently on the ArtTrain and at the Munson Williams Proctor Art Institute in Utica, NY. He has mounted installations in museums and galleries and on canyon rims, and given satiric performances in some of the most disreputable trading posts of the Southwest.

Bensen received a National Endowment for the Arts Poetry Fellowship, the Robert Penn Warren Award, the Harvard Poetry Prize, two National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Fellowships, and others. His poetry has been shown in five gallery exhibitions with photographs by Charles Bremer, most recently in the National Museum of Dance, Saratoga Springs, NY. His poems have been published in the U.S., Asia, the United Kingdom, Caribbean, and Native America. He is an invited non-Native member of the WordCraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers.

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Hartwick College is a private liberal arts and sciences college of 1,480 students, located in Oneonta, NY, in the northern foothills of the Catskill Mountains. Hartwick's expansive curriculum emphasizes a uniquely experiential approach to the liberal arts. Through personalized teaching, collaborative research, a unique January Term, a wide range of internships, and vast study-abroad opportunities, Hartwick ensures that students are prepared for the world ahead. A Three Year Bachelor’s Degree Program and strong financial aid and scholarship offerings keep a Hartwick education affordable.

Contact: Christopher Lott
Phone: 607-431-4030