Sean Hill reads Rafael Campo's "Canción de las Mujeres: Some Uses for the Moon"

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Sean Hill reads Rafael Campo's "Canción de las Mujeres: Some Uses for the Moon"

Rafael Campo’s poem “Canción de las Mujeres: Some Uses for the Moon,” performed by Sean Hill.

“Canción de las Mujeres: Some Uses for the Moon” is the third film in Above Strands of Earth: Adrian Brinkerhoff Poetry Foundation at Tippet Rise, a project created in partnership with Tippet Rise’s sister organization, the Adrian Brinkerhoff Poetry Foundation, and produced in collaboration with the Academy of American Poets.

Directed by Irish photographer and filmmaker Matthew Thompson, the films were captured in locations on the land at Tippet Rise and throughout the art center’s artistic spaces.

Canción de las Mujeres: Some Uses for the Moon

The moon provides comparison: behold,
A woman staring in her mirror. Light
Is how the moon accompanies the night,
And helps to ease the loneliness. (I’m told
The moon is why a woman menstruates.)
The moon could be, if only we could reach
So high, the perfect soup that cures our needs.
In Cuba, moonlight on the sea has weight—
One ounce—against which fortunes can be measured.
The moon’s an oddity, a dried-out bone;
The moon’s my palace, and a peasant’s home.
The moon, a satin pillow filled with feathers…
The moon provides this starting place for myth,
And as we’re wandering the beach, it’s sand
On which is made a princess from a man:
The moon is climbing slowly from the mist.

Rafael Campo
from “Canción de las Mujeres”
for Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick

Photo by Matthew Thompson

Sean Hill

Poet Sean Hill was born and raised in Milledgeville, a small city in Central Georgia. He was drawn to poetry in college, where he studied with Judith Ortiz Cofer and discovered the work of poetic influences including Rita Dove, Yusef Komunyakaa, Seamus Heaney, Marilyn Nelson, Sterling Brown, and C.P. Cavafy. Hill earned his MFA from the University of Houston in 2003 and was awarded a Jay C. and Ruth Halls Poetry Fellowship at the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing in 2006.

Hill is the author of two poetry collections: Dangerous Goods (Milkweed Editions, 2014), winner of the Minnesota Book Award in Poetry, and Blood Ties & Brown Liquor (UGA Press, 2008), named one of the “Ten Books All Georgians Should Read” by the Georgia Center for the Book in 2015. His poems and prose have appeared in journals such as Callaloo, Harvard Review, New England Review, Orion, Oxford American, Poetry, Tin House, Ploughshares,, and many others, and in over two dozen anthologies, including Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry and Villanelles. His poems have also been featured on Poem-a-Day and The Slowdown. Poems selected from his two books have been translated into a book published in South Korea. In 2015, Hill collaborated with musician Eric Des Marias on Distance Grows in the Bones, an album incorporating his series of postcard-themed poems from Dangerous Goods.

Hill’s work, informed by his own travels and by in-depth cultural research, threads together themes of Black and American history, migration, alienation, and belonging. Per CutBank, “Sean Hill’s poems on landscapes, Southern identity, and African American community…subvert expectations while adhering to timeless poetic forms.” His numerous awards include fellowships from Cave Canem, the Region 2 Arts Council, the Bush Foundation, Minnesota State Arts Board, the Jerome Foundation, the MacDowell Colony, and the University of Wisconsin–Madison, as well as a Stegner Fellowship from Stanford University and a Creative Writing Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Hill has served as the director of the Minnesota Northwoods Writers Conference at Bemidji State University since 2012. He is a consulting editor at monthly broadside published Broadsided Press. Hill has taught at several universities, including the University of Alaska–Fairbanks and Georgia Southern University. He currently lives in southwestern Montana with his family and is an Assistant Professor in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Montana.

Discover more on Sean Hill

Text: Read four poems by Hill at Academy of American Poets
Audio: Listen to Hill’s poem “Hello” at The Slowdown
Text: Hill discusses the villanelle, Bishop, Thomas, and his own “Insurance Man 1946” at Mentor and Muse

Photo courtesy of Duke University Press

Rafael Campo

Poet and physician Rafael Campo was born in Dover, New Jersey, to a Cuban father and an Italian mother. Upon entering college at Amherst, he planned to become a doctor; however, he had been drawn to poetry since adolescence, and as an undergraduate, this interest was encouraged by his studies under early queer theorist Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick. In her poetry workshop, he finally found a space to express himself as a gay Latinx man. He received his BA and MA from Amherst, then attended Harvard Medical School. In the third year of the program, Campo suddenly doubted his choice and switched his focus to poetry, leaving for a creative writing master’s program at Boston University. He studied with Derek Walcott and Robert Pinsky for a year before returning to Harvard to complete his MD. Campo performed his medical residency in San Francisco, where the HIV/AIDS epidemic was in full swing. There, he attended the 1993 Gay Pride Parade, whose message of solidarity and hope brought new energy to his work as both doctor and poet.

In 1993, Campo’s first poetry collection, The Other Man Was Me: A Voyage to the New World, won the National Poetry Series Open Competition. Since then, he has published numerous other collections, including Comfort Measures Only: New and Selected Poems, 1994-2016 (Duke University Press, 2018); The Enemy (2007), recipient of the Sheila Motton Book Prize from the New England Poetry Club; Diva (1999), a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; and What the Body Told (1996), winner of a Lambda Literary Award. Campo’s poetry has been selected for inclusion in the Best American Poetry and Pushcart Prize anthologies and has appeared in major journals and newspapers including the American Poetry Review, The New York Times Magazine, The Los Angeles Times, The Nation, The Boston Globe, The New Republic, Paris Review, Salon, Slate, and The Washington Post’s “Book World.” His poetry, which touches on topics of identity, family, health, and illness, has been translated into six languages. Campo is also the author of two prose books: The Poetry of Healing (1997), winner of a Lambda Literary Award in Memoir, and The Healing Art: A Doctor’s Black Bag of Poetry (2003).

A recipient of the Nicholas E. Davies Memorial Scholar Award from the American College of Physicians for outstanding humanism in medicine, Campo has served as a resident poet at Brandeis University and the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. His many honors include an honorary Doctor of Literature degree from Amherst College, the Hippocrates Open International Prize for Poetry and Medicine for original verse on a medical theme, the National Hispanic Academy of Arts and Sciences Annual Achievement Award, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the Echoing Green Foundation. He lectures widely, appearing at venues such as the Folger Shakespeare Library, the Library of Congress, and the 92nd Street Y, and leads workshops related to medicine, writing, and culture.

Campo serves as the Director of Literature and Writing Programs of the Arts and Humanities Initiative at Harvard Medical School. He also practices internal medicine at both Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and is the poetry editor for JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association. Campo often brings poetry into his work as a doctor, leading patients in poetry workshops and recommending poems as “prescriptions” to read.