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21st-Apr-2009 04:18 pm - W.S. Merwin wins 2009 Pulitzer Prize
Applause

The Shadow of Sirius
W.S. Merwin - Copper Canyon Press

The Laughing Thrush

O nameless joy of the morning

tumbling upward note by note out of the night
and the hush of the dark valley
and out of whatever has not been there


Read rest of poem @ Verse Daily.

W. S. Merwin: The 'Sirius' Side Of Poetry NPR

Fresh Air from WHYY, April 21, 2009 · W.S. Merwin won his second Pulitzer Prize for poetry on April 20 for The Shadow Of Sirius.

In a 2008 interview, Merwin read a few of his poems and talked about memory, mortality and acceptance in his poetry.
21st-Apr-2009 04:16 pm - Posting
snidely whiplash

Posting here will only be occasional for the next couple of months--I'm in the middle of moving. I'll begin posting regularly again once my life gets settled.

-Tanya

27th-Mar-2009 06:16 pm - a poem should float
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Kay Ryan Reflects on Role as Nation's Poet Laureate Online NewHour 3/25/09

Jeffrey Brown asks Kay Ryan whether she makes "a conscious effort to get [her poetry] down to an essence," or whether that's just the way she thinks:
KAY RYAN: It's apparently the way I think. I would like to say that, if a poem feels really dense, it isn't good. I mean, if you put it in your hand and it falls through your hand, that's no good. It's got to float.

If you have this idea of compressed language, it gives people a sense that it's going to be dense and kind of oppressive, whereas I would like to think that it can be highly selected, but not make you feel that you've just had a vitamin pill.
26th-Mar-2009 02:33 pm - We Have No Minor Poets
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"Curiously, it is almost impossible to find...modest assessments when one turns to contemporary poetry. Indeed, the problem of neglect or insignificance evaporates in a situation in which, in spite of the vast numbers writing (800 to 1,000 books of poetry are published in the United States per year; thousands of other poets publish in journals and quarterlies), we have no minor poets. Everyone today, like those above-average children of Lake Wobegon, is brilliant and sui generis."


Poet's Puffery JEFFREY H. GRAY Chronicle of Higher Education February 27, 2009

26th-Mar-2009 02:23 pm - Bob Dylan is one of our best poets
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Tangled Up In School: Teaching Dylan In Boston NPR March 21, 2009
"I think that [Bob Dylan is] one of the best contemporary American poets, even if you just look at the lyrics stripped of the music. He's been an important link between some of the great poets behind him, like Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot, and in turn he's been an inspiration and subject for poets like Paul Muldoon and [Allen] Ginsberg."
-Kevin Barents
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Show Your Work!
A poet calls for a new kind of poetry criticism, and a new kind of critic.
by Matthew Zapruder, Poetry Foundation

"Of course there are good reviewers who write interesting, thoughtful, and provocative pieces about American poetry. But look for yourself at the vast majority of reviews in journals, in print and online, and ask yourself whether for the most part the writers are doing a good job of actually describing what the poems are trying to do, how they are doing it, and why anyone would be driven to write (not to mention read) these poems. Are these reviews in any way truly helpful for understanding poetry?"
25th-Mar-2009 02:42 pm - A-Z Hyperguide to British Poets
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We Brits: An A-Z hyperguide to the multicultural poets, publishers, and performers changing the face of UK poetry.
by Karen McCarthy, Poetry Foundation
25th-Mar-2009 02:40 pm - An Overview of Past Poet Laureates
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'Oh God, the Royal poem!!' Adam Newey Guardian 3.21.09

The historical list of laureates provides an odd mix of proper poets and political placemen who, regardless of talent, have almost always proved an irresistible target for the barbs of their peers.


25th-Mar-2009 02:35 pm - Why the Plath Legacy Lives
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Why the Plath Legacy Lives
March 24, 2009 - New York Times
Joyce Carol Oates, Peter D. Kramer, Erica Jong, Andrew Solomon, Elaine Showalter
24th-Mar-2009 05:40 pm - New Books by Natal, Lemmon
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Memory and Rain
by Jim Natal - Red Hen Press (February 15, 2009)

BLUR

Out east on the desert freeway,
after the rain blowing in from the coast
had been blocked by the mountains doing their work,
the sky was fearless and the sun, half arisen now,


Read rest of poem @ Conflux Press.
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Saint Nobody
by Amy Lemmon - Red Hen Press; 1 edition (February 15, 2009)

Disclaimer

If you are reading this
it is due to an error,
an oversight, or some otherwise
unprecedented act on the part
of the Management.


Read rest of poem @ Ars Poetica. (Previously published in Prairie Schooner)
24th-Mar-2009 05:12 pm - Andrew Motion's one regret
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"I wish ... that someone had flown me to Iraq and Afghanistan and encouraged me to write about the wars in those places."

'No writing is as hard as this' - poet laureate's parting shot Stephen Bates
The Guardian, Saturday 21 March 2009
24th-Mar-2009 05:07 pm - Son of Sylvia Plath Commits Suicide
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Son of Sylvia Plath Commits Suicide
By ANAHAD O’CONNOR
New York Times March 23, 2009

"Nicholas Hughes, the son of the poet and novelist Sylvia Plath and the British Poet Laureate Ted Hughes, killed himself at his home in Alaska, nearly a half-century after his mother and stepmother took their own lives, according to a statement from his sister."
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Good interview w/Andrew Hudgins:

From worse to verse: Quirks of behavior provoke rhymes from professor BILL EICHENBERGER - THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH - 3/15/08

Q: How strained can a rhyme be before it's too strained?

A: Ogden Nash made a career and a lot of funny poems out of pushing rhymes just a hair too far. ("Parsley/Is gharsley"!) For Nash, going too far is the point - and it's what makes us laugh. But rhymes are a bit like puns. Some please us with their exactness or their surprise or their stretches, while others leave us cold, or actually make us turn up our noses. Me, I love all sorts of puns, the worse the better.

Q: You actually found a rhyme for the word "scrotum." Is that the poet's equivalent of scaling Mt. Everest?

A: It's more like a kid's finding the perfect snowball to throw at a top hat. Then happening, in this day and age, to find an old gentleman walking down your street wearing a top hat. Then hoping that your aim is good enough to hit the hat. "Factotum" is worth thinking about. "Totem"? "Float 'em"?


Also see: Poets on Process: An Interview with Andrew Hudgins 11/20/2008 by Frank Giampietro The Southeast Review
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Knopf, February 10, 2009

"The poet's task is both to dramatize our most intimate and intense feelings, and at the same time give us a perspective on them. Stonington's great poet James Merrill once compared the process to sitting in your Honda while it goes through the car wash. Calmly inside, you watch a virtual storm of lashing torrents and winds. That's it exactly!"

Five Questions With J.D. McClatchy: J.D. McClatchy on poets, poetry and his newest collection, 'Mercury Dressing'
By Kenton Robinson The Day 3/15/2009

Mercury Dressing
J.D. McClatchy

To steal a glance and, anxious, see
Him slipping into transparency—
The feathered helmet already in place,
Its shadow fallen across his face

Read rest of poem @ The New Yorker, 4.23.07
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"'The war, people said, had revived their interest in poetry,' said Virginia Woolf after the First World War. This phenomenon has repeated itself. Following September 11 and, subsequently, following the most recent invasion of Iraq, people who weren't ordinarily interested in poetry suddenly read poems. Poets who didn't ordinarily pay attention to public events suddenly wrote poems responding to them. And while it's easy to welcome anything that increases the audience of an ancient art, that welcome may disguise perennially intractable questions. What is a desire to read poetry in a time of social crisis really a desire for? Should a poet feel that by writing a poem he has truly fulfilled a social responsibility? Should a reader feel that a poem responding to calamitous events is a better poem than a poem about shop windows?"

An Examination of the Poet in Time of War
by James Longenbach
from The Antioch Review, Winter 2009
Reprinted at Poetry Daily
8th-Mar-2009 04:18 pm - New books by White, Douglas, Gray
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  Bone Light Orlando White - Red Hen Press - February 15, 2009

UNWRITTEN

Enough to reveal part of what covers a skull, to scrape out its ink with a trowel: a loop of an unfinished alphabet, a C bent to an incomplete circle. Language is not vacant only quiet and nameless, unwritten in the depths of the page, an unclothed sound.

Read rest of poem + two others by White @ Reading Between A & B

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cooling board: a long playing poem Mitchell L.H. Douglas - Red Hen Press - February 15, 2009

The Battle of New Orleans

The body is no stranger to water,
but all that is inside, undercover.
When water swallows

Read rest of poem @ Affrilachian Poets

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Photographing Eden by Jason Gray - Ohio University Press - February 3, 2009

THE SNOW LEOPARD

                In the Metro Toronto Zoo

He pads on grassy banks behind a fence,
          with measured paces slow and tense.

Read rest of poem @ the Poetry Foundation
 

 

 




8th-Mar-2009 04:16 pm - Be Negative
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 Going Negative: A “necessary skeptic” says what he really thinks about new books by Jane Mead, D.A. Powell, and John Poch.

Poetry March 2009 BY JASON GURIEL

"But negativity, I’m starting to think, needs to be the poetry reviewer’s natural posture, the default position she assumes before scanning a single line. Because really, approaching every new book with an open mind is as well-meaning but ultimately exhausting as approaching every stranger on the street with open arms; you’ll meet some nice people, sure, but your charming generosity won’t be reciprocated most of the time. What’s worse, a tack-sharp taste, dinged by so much sheer dullness, will in time become blunted (into blurb-writing, no doubt). When braving any new book of poems—particularly by an author you’re not too familiar with—it’s best to brace yourself and expect the worst. This needn’t involve cynicism. Indeed, you probably shouldn’t be opening the book in the first place if you aren’t, on some deep level, already hoping for the best—that is, the discovery of a great poem. But hope should remain on that deep level, well-protected, until the shell that shields it is genuinely jarred."

8th-Mar-2009 04:14 pm - "Poet's Choice" goes web-only
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"EVOLUTION" AT POET'S CHOICE

"With its change to a Web-only feature, Poet's Choice is evolving. We'll be asking a different poet each week to share with us a poem he or she has written. Mary Karr, who has been our eloquent columnist since March 2008, starts us off on this new format."

Washington Post March 8, 2009
 

spondee
"T. S. Eliot, Wallace Stevens, William Carlos Williams. Auden, Yeats, Pound, Frost and others...were amateurs—in the best sense of the word. They wrote poetry for love whether or not they were paid. They had day jobs: banker (Eliot), doctor (Williams), insurance executive (Wallace Stevens), librarian (Philip Larkin). As they say: subsidize something and you get more of it. And boy, we have whole anthills of poets today. As Epstein summarized the field, poetry 'flourishes in a vacuum.' More than 250 universities had creative writing programs when he wrote, all with a poetry component. Dana Gioia, in an excellent Atlantic Monthly article in 1991, put the figure at 200. With 10 students in each section, he wrote, unreassuringly, 'these programs alone will produce about 20,000 accredited professional poets over the next decade.'"

"...Cut off all the subsidies. Let poetry be restored to the marketplace. Maybe 150 poets would survive, as in 1941. No such cuts will happen, of course, if only because there are so many generous-hearted and wealthy people around who cannot imagine that more money for something good in itself (poetry) will not produce more of the good; and may actually stifle it."

Poets Galore and Subsidized Poets By Tom Bethell American Spectator 3.3.09
2nd-Mar-2009 03:36 pm - Pros + Cons of Online Lit Mags
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"...Writers who choose to publish their work online face a host of potential pitfalls. The benefits far outweigh the risks, but the risks are there and writers should be aware of them."

Now You Read It, Now You Don’t: A Cautionary Look at Online Literary Magazines
By Jessica Powers, New Pages
2nd-Mar-2009 03:23 pm - Ransacking Other Literatures
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All Around the World the Same Song:
How globe-trotting poetries may not beat scrawls in a cave.
BY C. K. WILLIAMS, Poetry Foundation

"This is what happened to me and to many other poets during the the late fifties and early sixties, when much of the poetry being written in America seemed to have become overly formalized, self-referential, stale, and, if I dare use the word, spiritually lifeless. Artists are always ranging over their own traditions, searching for viable models of inspiration, but I believe that our mostly unconscious realization during those years that we were at a dead end drove many of us to ransack literatures other than our own, no matter how grand our own surely is. We needed—desperately, it felt then—other cultures, other histories, other poetries, in order to discover aesthetics that would disrupt those we’d inherited. We wanted new models that would make unfamiliar demands, and offer new freedom, new inspiration."
2nd-Mar-2009 02:56 pm - New books by Green, Batykefer, Seed
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American Fractal by Timothy Green - Feb 15, 2009 - Red Hen Press

The Memory of Water

It can be demonstrated with thermo-
    luminescence: the salt solution
retains knowledge of what it once held, 
    though nature, though logic 
would tell it otherwise. Dumb as a bedpan,
    the hydrogen bond remembers

Read this poem + others from American Fractal @ Good Times. 03 OCTOBER 2008

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Allegheny, Monongahela by Erinn Batykefer - Red Hen Press - Feb 15, 2009

In O’Keeffe’s From the Lake, No. 3,

I see a lace of algae as a map—here, a waterway,
gritty houses dotting Troy Hill as it rises from the river,

ochre silt like sandstone sheared by highways.
It is summer. We pull the seashells from the garden

Read rest of poem @ Bucknell University's website

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 Anonymous Intruder by Ian Seed - Shearsman Books - Feb 15, 2009

Betrayal

Lost in the wet mist, I met a hermit who led me to his hut. The hut was bare, just two stone benches. He wanted me to lie down and sleep, though I hadn’t eaten all day.

Read this plus other prose poems by Ian Seed @ The Cafe Irreal

 

1st-Mar-2009 05:17 pm - New Books by Cortez, Powell, Sorby
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When possible, excerpts are taken from poems printed in the new books. Otherwise, excerpts are from work that is representative of the poet's work at large. Find more

On the Imperial Highway: New and Selected Poems by Jayne Cortez (Paperback - Feb 23, 2009) Hanging Loose Press

In The Morning

Disguised in my mouth as a swampland
nailed to my teeth like a rising sun
you come out in the middle of fish-scales
you bleed into gourds wrapped with red ants
you syncopate the air with lungs like screams from
yazoo
like X rated tongues

Read rest of poem @ AfroPoets.Net
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Chronic by D.A. Powell. Graywolf Press, 2.17.09

Chronic

were lifted over the valley, its steepling dustdevils
the redwinged blackbirds convened
vibrant arc their swift, their dive against the filmy, the finite air

Read rest of poem @ Poetry Daily
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BirdSkin Coat (Brittingham Prize in Poetry) by Angela Sorby - Feb 16, 2009 - University of Wisconsin Press

Dove and Dove

Cote d’Azure, 1981

Paloma Picasso stands on the high dive wearing a black maillot.
Below her, the photographer forgets the holy spirit’s ascension

as he plunges into concentration: Paloma is vital—her perfume flies
off shelves all over France. Above the photographer’s bent head

Read rest of poem @ The Sycamore Review
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Stepping Stones: Interviews with Seamus Heaney

‘The hazel stirred’: Death of a Naturalist (excerpt from Stepping Stones) Found at Poetry Daily
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"'Remote on the one hand from the banal, on the other from the eccentric, his genius was calculated to win at once the adhesion of the general public and the admiration, both sympathetic and stimulating, of the connoisseur.' So writes Thomas Mann about Gustav von Aschenbach, great writer and national institution, in Death in Venice; and the description applies unexpectedly well to Seamus Heaney. Heaney is in obvious ways unlike Mann's Apollonian aesthete, but he too has managed to win the love of the many and the esteem of the few, in a way that no American poet since Frost has managed. As Heaney observes in this important book-length interview, designed to serve in lieu of a memoir, 'In the United States, there's a great crop of ripe, waving poetry--but there's no monster hogweed sticking up out of it.' But he has always been that hogweed in the small but teeming field of Irish poetry, and for the past forty years Heaney has led the richly burdened existence of the responsible artist."

In the Word-Hoard
Adam Kirsch,
The New Republic March 04, 2009


28th-Feb-2009 04:28 pm - What's New: Foust, Ragan, Townsend
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Mom's Canoe by Rebecca Foust (Paperback - Feb 28, 2009) Texas Review Press


Mom’s Canoe


Do you remember your old canoe?

Wooden wide-bellied, tapered ends

made to slip through tight river bends

swiftly, like shadow.


Read rest of poem @ Foust's webpage


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Too Long a Solitude by James Ragan (Paperback - Feb 28, 2009)

University of Oklahoma Press

James Ragan



RICHMOND HILL


It is my habit to walk a hill until it levels out

or until it thinks it has seen enough of sloth

and the way I map one foot flat in front of the other,

each step shorter, wider than the first, a platypus of sorts,


Read rest of poem @ Rattle

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Persephone in America (Crab Orchard Series in Poetry) by Alison Townsend (Paperback - Feb 5, 2009)


SPIN


I don’t remember if the bottle was a Coke or a Fresca,

just that the glass was cool against our hands

in the warm, empty tool shed. Where we’d gathered

after swimming all afternoon at Debbie Worthman’s

eighth grade pool party, everyone’s skin damp


Read rest of poem @ Rattle



New Poetry Books 2009
27th-Feb-2009 02:57 pm - All-Night Lingo Tango
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Note: I'm working on a big project for which I'm trying to post information on and excerpts from most of the books published in 2009, month by month. It's a ton of work and I haven't been able to finish the Feb post as fast as I was able to finish the January post, so I'm going to put them up a few at a time on the larger blog, then create a separate webpage to list them all together. Here's one to start....


All-Night Lingo Tango
(Pitt Poetry Series) by Barbara Hamby (Paperback - Feb 28, 2009)


all-night lingo tango

All night I watch the worst movies—musicals of the Nazi blitz,
Zapruder films of my own assassination, the armada
battles between the hideous phiz of my Aunt Priscilla and my
young, beautiful mother, my bit part—sliding from the womb,

Read rest of poem

Find other poems from the book

anapest
The Great(ness) Game DAVID ORR 2.19.09 New York Times

"When we lose sight of greatness, we cease being hard on ourselves and on one another; we begin to think of real criticism as being 'mean' rather than as evidence of poetry’s health; we stop assuming that poems should be interesting to other people and begin thinking of them as being obliged only to interest our friends — and finally, not even that. Perhaps most disturbing, we stop making demands on the few artists capable of practicing the art at its highest levels. Instead, we cling to the ground in those artists’ shadows — John Ashbery’s is enormous at this point — and talk about how rich the darkness is and how lovely it is to be a mushroom. This doesn’t help anyone."
20th-Feb-2009 06:49 pm - American Life in Poetry: Column 204
lumberjack Kooser
American Life in Poetry: Column 204

Memories form around details the way a pearl forms around a grain of sand, and in this commemoration of an anniversary, Cecilia Woloch reaches back to grasp a few details that promise to bring a cherished memory forward, and succeeds in doing so. The poet lives and teaches in southern California. 

Anniversary

Didn't I stand there once, 
white-knuckled, gripping the just-lit taper, 
swearing I'd never go back? 
And hadn't you kissed the rain from my mouth? 
And weren't we gentle and awed and afraid, 
knowing we'd stepped from the room of desire 
into the further room of love? 
And wasn't it sacred, the sweetness 
we licked from each other's hands? 
And were we not lovely, then, were we not 
as lovely as thunder, and damp grass, and flame? 

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright © 2008 by Cecilia Woloch. Reprinted from "Narcissus," by Cecilia Woloch, Tupelo Press, Dorset, VT, 2008, by permission of Cecilia Woloch. Introduction copyright © 2009 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.
old press
Remember the inaugural poem? Few apparently do
By HILLEL ITALIE, A.P. 2.20.09

"Millions watched Elizabeth Alexander read a poem last month at President Barack Obama's inauguration. But few, so far, have wanted to buy it."
bunny ears
 "A significant change in recent American poetry is the greater acceptance of comedy and humour as intrinsically valuable – not only as literary ends but as means to ends that are not necessarily comic. Poets are increasingly using comic elements, wit, jokes and humour to enhance and complicate a poem's 'statement.' The prejudice against funny poems – institutionalized in the very category of 'light verse' – is less pronounced than it used to be, maybe because poetry readings are so popular and a mirth-provoking poem is always in favour on such occasions."

Milan Dezinsky, David Lehman
There's always someone who says that poetry is dead: Interview with David Lehman Eurozine

anapest
Image from Anasi

A New Head
Helen Vendler, The New Republic February 18, 2009

Review of Tyrannosaurus Rex Versus the Corduroy Kid
By Simon Armitage

"Armitage is a narrative poet in lyric dress, or a lyric poet in narrative dress. His poems are generally too long to be quoted entire, and a critical description of them, lacking the presence of their evolving narrative arc, loses the fullness of their pungent effect. They record pratfalls and failures, but they are equally given to sardonic resurrections."


Sympathy
Simon Armitage

After the verdict, the murdered man's twin
was suddenly there on the courthouse steps.
He said nothing, just calmly unbuttoned
his jacket and shirt, revealing a vest.
In red, it read Matthew, 5:38.
Then he re-buttoned his suit and he went.

*

Well, I 'unted 'im down to a council estate
on t'side on an 'ill. Burnt out Vauxall Nova
for a garden shed, one dead cooker on t'lawn,
that kinda thing. It's dark. So I gets t'car jack
out of t'boot and jemmies t'window casin'—
wood were rotten, putty gone to shot—and slides in.



Read rest of poem @ Poetry Daily

19th-Feb-2009 02:54 pm - Craig Arnold poem breaks up couples
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"A funny thing happened when Craig Arnold read his poem 'Couple From Hell' aloud at various literary events.

"After listening to all 16 pages of his poem, which chronicles a disintegrating relationship through copious metaphors of bodily harm and imagery taken from nature, Arnold heard of people in the audience who felt compelled to break up with their partners soon after.

"'It might have been back luck, but it became a running joke,' Arnold said during a phone interview from Boston. 'I can't read it aloud anymore.'"

Writing it like it is 2.14.09 Ben Fulton Salt Lake Tribune

Read an excerpt from "Couple From Hell" @ the Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize webpage.
19th-Feb-2009 02:40 pm - Silence is as important as words
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"Silence is as important as words in the practice and study of translation. This may sound like a cliché. (I think it is a cliché. Perhaps we can come back to cliché.) There are two kinds of silence that trouble a translator: physical silence and metaphysical silence."

Variations on the Right to Remain Silent by Anne Carson
from A Public Space, Issue 7 / 2008 Poetry Daily
18th-Feb-2009 09:45 pm - Stumbling on the poems of Peter Cole
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Peter Cole, a senior lecturer in Judaic Studies at Yale and one of the publishers of the press Ibis Editions, is a MacArthur-holding translator and publisher of Hebrew and Arabic poetry and fiction. He is also a decent poet in his own right, whose work is notable especially for the way it often combines his own lines with those of translated poets. His latest collection  is called Things On Which I've Stumbled (New Directions, 2008).

Sometimes the translations in the book appear by themselves, as does the small excerpt of al-Ma'arri's "The Necessity of What Isn't Necessary." At other times they're combined with Cole's own lines, as in book's title poem, which can also be found on-line at Narrative Magazine. (Log in for free to read the 23 page piece.) It incorporates translated pieces of poetry, grocery lists, personal letters, legal contracts, and other documents found in a "geniza" of discarded Hebrew texts. Cole narrates his own struggles to grasp the texts, putting the translated poems in italics, as in this excerpt:

…I feel driest watching the rain

a man responding
in despair, calling
softly, thirsty—

with brandy in a glass beside me;

as he chooses
between the walls at noon

……………………..
but not now, as my mind ranges
back over silence’s changes—

mercy

and leaves me wondering just how we see

It’s fascinating to read the translated fragments on their own, but Cole offers a format for reading them and seeing how other people’s minds might make sense out of the collection. The title of this poem and book comes from an idea in Isaiah that there are certain mysteries one can only grasp by stumbling through them, as Cole does while translating and writing.

On a whole, Things On Which I've Stumbled is an intriguing, though at times hermetic, collection. Though Cole provides ten pages of copious explanatory notes at the back of the book, many of the longer poems, both original and collage, appear to be written mainly for the enjoyment of academic audiences. At a recent reading at Yale, for instance, Cole referred to one called "Notes on Bewilderment" as "a kind of giant sea worm," written in a five-line structure he developed to digest different bits of material he picked up from conversing with other Yale professors about topics like Spinoza and Rothko and "the quiet ecstasies of kabblablah."

Cole's academic poetry, like much academic poetry, is both frustrating and seductive. It's frustrating in that one often has to take notes and do research to understand some of the longer poems, without always trusting that the work will pay off in a general meaning, a new understanding of an idea, a quiet religious ecstasy, or an aesthetic high. Since Cole is sparse with his images, it's not as aesthetically rewarding to read his work as it is other difficult poets like Eliot or even Zukofsky, whose poetry Cole's is often compared to.

On the other hand, if one does the work necessary to understand Cole's poems, one might, (one hopes) feel part of the elite club that grasps what Cole is trying to do. And his formal poems about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict are especially fine pieces of political poetry. In these, the restraint that makes some of his academic and personal poems hard to sympathize with tones down the emotionally charged topics, portraying them in a moving and thoughtful manner.

Ten out of the twenty poems in Things On Which I've Stumbled can be found on-line. This might be a problematic marketing strategy for the book itself, but it's nice for readers who want to easily check out Cole's work. In addition to the title poem at Narrative, here's the rest of the best:

Coexistence: A Lost and Almost Found Poem Poetry Foundation

Possibly the best poem in the book. Made up of Cole's couplets and quotations from Deuteronomy.

*

Four Poems by Peter Cole, Jewcy (Actually, there are five poems in the group: "(Valent)Lines For A," "Homage To Agnes," "The Rain," "Something More," "The Ghazal of What Hurt")

*

And here's an interview by Bob Lerner with Peter Cole at Bomb, in which Cole talks about what he’s doing in the book. It contains a paragraph on one of his poems about the Palestinian/Israeli conflict:

“…One of the more confrontational short poems in the book—‘Palestine: A Sestina’—uses what is at this point a cliché of a form to take on an acute problem that has come to seem hackneyed to much of the world. My goal there was, first of all, to find a form that would force me to repeatedly employ a word that, let's face it, makes many people uncomfortable. It's not a word one can use neutrally. But there it is, stanza after stanza, defying, as it were, the imposition of a ‘formal’ solution and churning up complicated feelings and connections as it does. It's an experimental poem in a reactionary mode."

 

PALESTINE: A SESTINA

 Hackles are raised at the mere mention of Palestine,

let alone The Question of—who owns the pain?

Often it seems the real victims here are the hills—

those pulsing ridges, whose folds and tender fuzz of green

kill with softness. On earth, it’s true, we’re only guests,

but people live in places, and stake out claims to land. 

 


Read rest of poem, plus two others, "Improvisation on Lines by Isaac the Blind" and "The Meaning of This," at Jewcy.


15th-Feb-2009 08:25 pm - What we need is more eccentrism
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"Is it the nature of beings to coalesce? I think sometimes that artists, like other lower forms of intelligence, want to 'belong.' Or rather, that they want to not belong in some similar ways. They want to belong to the outside, and yet to be recognized by the inside. It’s a conundrum. Because, really, in order to belong to a school or a movement or a gang or a pod, you have to—whether you’re willing to think about it this way or not—move towards a 'center.'

"Maybe it’s peculiar to our time, in which actual schools (academies) proliferate and spawn, that we’re seeing so much centrism. What we need is more eccentrism. Who isn’t tired of the contemporary qua contemporary? Who isn’t bored by innovation for innovation’s sake? It has, sadly, become the mode du jour. Not even a school. A monocultural fish farm. An orchestra in which everyone is trying to solo at the same time. A tin of silvery bodies falling into place."

Annie Get Your Gun: Fifth in a series of eight manifestos. BY D.A. POWELL Poetry Foundation

-Other Poetry Manifestos:

Poetry Can Be Any Damn Thing It Wants: Introduction to a collection of eight manifestos commemorating the centennial of Italian futurists. by MARY ANN CAWS

The Final Manifesto by JOSHUA MEHIGAN

Manifesto of the Flying Mallet by MICHAEL HOFMANN

Manifest Aversions, Conceptual Conundrums, & Implausibly Deniable Links by CHARLES BERNSTEIN

The Eighties, Glory Of by ANGE MLINKO

Perform-A-Form: A Page Vs. Stage Alliance by THOMAS SAYERS ELLIS

Presto Manifesto! by A.E. STALLINGS

Leave the Manifesto Alone: A Manifesto by HATE SOCIALIST COLLECTIVE
14th-Feb-2009 11:43 am - The Great Sonnet Fad
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Robert Pinsky talks about "the great sonnet fad of the 1590s" and creates a name-that-author quiz.

Lovers' Laments:
Renaissance sonnets and the art of passionate excess. By Robert Pinsky
Feb. 12, 2009 Slate
14th-Feb-2009 11:35 am - Six-Word Memoirs
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Neat exercise for a poet, even if it's prose:

Distill your love story into six words

Six-Word Memoirs: The Valentine's Day Edition NPR 2.11.09
12th-Feb-2009 09:02 pm - FREE POETRY VALENTINES
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Free Poetry Valentines from the Academy of American Poets!


Here's one! Go to the link above for others! Send them to everyone you love!EVERYONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


12th-Feb-2009 08:59 pm - ROBERT LOWELL WAS A UNICORN
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"...One likes a poet to have some hinterland (ugly Tory word!)—some hinterland basically of prose: to have experiences, to hold opinions, to store memories, to lead a rich and varied life of the senses. (The other type of poet is a unicorn who lives in an ivory tower: he's frightening and different and real, and we don't get him. When Lowell spends an evening reading poems aloud with I.A. Richards, that feels like unicorn behavior to me.) It's the famous Louis MacNeice prescription: 'I would have a poet . . .' and so forth. This Elizabeth Bishop embodies triumphantly, to the extent that over the course of her life her poems—four short books—have a hard time emerging. She gets involved in the turbulent Brazilian politics of the fifties and sixties (and the characteristically ham-fisted American responses to them); Lowell writes: 'Let's not argue politics. I feel a fraud on the subject,' but that sort of retrenchment applies everywhere, and to some extent the feeling of fraudulence too. Bishop is so prodigal with sympathy, attention, interest; Lowell, by contrast, seems to endow even people quite close to him (even Elizabeth Bishop, as we will see) with very little reality. It comes down to something like focal length—his is about a foot."

The Linebacker and the Dervish
Lowell stormed the literary world; while Bishop orbited its periphery. On closely reading their collected letters, a poet and critic uncovers a new way to read their mythologized friendship. Poetry Foundation by Michael Hofmann
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