Writing the Rockies, An Invitation from David Rothman

As you know, the West Chester University Poetry Conference is going on a one-year hiatus in 2015.

We are writing to let you know that Western State Colorado University has generously enabled us to fill this gap year by inviting you to our conference, Writing the Rockies, which will take place from Wednesday, July 22 to Sunday, July 26, at our campus in Gunnison, Colorado.… continue reading...

James Merrill’s “The Friend of the Fourth Decade”

David Kalstone, a longtime professor of English at Rutgers University and, prior to that, at Harvard, was one of James Merrill’s closest friends. An expert on Sir Philip Sidney, Kalstone extensively studied 20th-century Americans as well; his second book Five Temperaments (1977) included a chapter on Merrill along with Elizabeth Bishop, Robert Lowell, Adrienne Rich and John Ashbery.… continue reading...

The Unstiflement of the Story: James Merrill’s “The Broken Home”

James Merrill3

“The Broken Home” is a sequence of seven sonnets that appeared in Merrill’s 1966 volume Nights and Days. The sonnets are connected by imagery, themes and autobiography, concerning, as they do, two central issues: the trauma of Merrill’s parents’ divorce and the poet’s own incomplete or “broken” childless home.continue reading...

“A Window Fiery-Mild”: The Role of Venice in The Book of Ephraim

The Book of Ephraim is a very “literary” work and perhaps never more so than in its Venetian sections (V and W). It is my contention that Section V (the letter V, not the Roman numeral) constitutes not only a major turning-point in the work, but also a significant declaration of Merrill’s literary aims.… continue reading...

The Richard Blanco Debate

Richard Blanco’s inaugural poem, “One Today,” sucked. Take the first stanza, which manages to be at once portentous, vaguely imperialistic, and dull:

One sun rose on us today, kindled over our shores,
peeking over the Smokies, greeting the faces
of the Great Lakes, spreading a simple truth
across the Great Plains, then charging across the Rockies.

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“Effulgent” by David M. Katz (A parody)

 

“Effulgent” by David M. Katz

          Part seemed she of the effulgent thought“Her Initials,” Thomas Hardy

 
Glitter, brilliance, candor, dazzle;
Luster, splendor, lambent lightness;
She evokes a lucid ghazal
All shot through with flashing brightness:
Of those words, he chose “effulgent.”

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“Is That Really the Best You Can Do?” Quincy Lehr on Poetry and Personal Style

When Solon declared that he learned something new every day (or was it Pericles?—some dead Greek guy, at any rate), he perhaps was not thinking of the utility of the Pratt-Shelby Knot when trying to keep a leather tie proportional enough that the thin end does not emerge at an inconvenient and insistent angle.… continue reading...

A Neglected Master in Our Midst: Bill Coyle on Daryl Hine

Reviewed:

Recollected Poems by Daryl Hine. Fitzhenry and Whiteside, 2009. 246 pages.

& by Daryl Hine. Fitzhenry and Whiteside, 2010. 112 pages.

 

When Daryl Hine’s Recollected Poems was published in 2009 it marked something of a comeback for a poet who in the mid 1990s had turned his back on the publishing industry and begun posting his new poems on a website, through which he also accepted donations.… continue reading...

Sources of Delight: What We Respond to When We Respond to Poetry by Jan Schreiber

When I was seventeen years old and barely aware of poetry, with no idea what good poetry might be, or even what if anything might please me, a friend, just back from his English class, rushed breathlessly into my room at boarding school, book in hand, and cried, “Listen to this!”… continue reading...

Masterful Variations: Luke Hankins on Ashley Anna McHugh

Reviewed: Into These Knots by Ashley Anna McHugh. Ivan R. Dee, 2010. 68 pp. Hardcover. $22.50. Winner of the 2010 New Criterion Poetry Prize.

In Ashley Anna McHugh’s “All Other Ground Is Sinking Sand” (“On Christ the solid rock I stand” goes the previous line of the hymn this title is taken from), a villanelle addressed to the speaker’s father, we find ourselves at the ailing father’s bedside and learn that he has a bedsore that has turned gangrenous:

Doctors say that he could die: They have to hurry,

might amputate.… continue reading...

The Poem as Devotional Practice: Luke Hankins on the Metaphysical Poets

Scholarship noted: Love’s Architecture: Devotional Modes in Seventeenth-Century English Poetry by Anthony Low. New York University Press, 1978.

I. A Lasting Model?

Certain religious poets of 17th-century England, often called the “Metaphysical” poets, have gained as firm a place in the Western canon as any group of poets enjoys today.… continue reading...

The Well-Wrought Void: Joan Houlihan on Christian Wiman

Reviewed: every riven thing by Christian Wiman. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010. 93 pages.

From its hardcover heft and granite-engraved dust jacket (remove the jacket and a black, bible-like, hardback cover is revealed), to its ivory paper stock and black section divider pages (complete with roman numerals blazoned in white), every riven thing announces the solemnity it aims to deliver and does: verses crafted as if with a chisel on stone, the weight of each line falling into the congregation of a hushed readership, organ sounding in the background—

There is no consolation in the thought of God,

he said, slamming another nail

in another house another havoc had half-taken.

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Meaningful Disorientations: Joanie Mackowski Reviews Books by Mary Jo Bang and Peter Campion

Reviewed:

The Bride of E by Mary Jo Bang, Graywolf, 2009

The Lions by Peter Campion, University of Chicago Press, 2009

One common dictum about poetry, often heard in creative writing classrooms, goes like this: “You can’t write about senseless experience with senseless poems,” or substitute any undesirable adjective for “senseless”—say “meaningless” or “disorderly” or “boring”: a boring poem doesn’t productively make the reader feel an interesting kind of boredom.… continue reading...

A Polish Poet You Should Know

Reviewed: Peregrinary by Eugeniusz Tkaczszyn-Dycki, translated from the Polish by Bill Johnston, Zephyr Press, 2008, $14.95

Translator Bill Johnston observes that Eugeniusz Tkaczszyn-Dycki’s hyphenated last name is a bit much even for Poles, and I follow their (and Johnston’s) custom in referring to the poet henceforth as Dycki—pronounced Dits-kee.… continue reading...

Poetry and the Problem of Standards

“Building my work, I build myself.”

–  Paul Valéry

“Thought tends to collect in pools.”

– Wallace Stevens

Ordinary readers, literary editors, and some English professors confront an inescapable question of judgment: In principle, is it possible, faced with an overwhelming body of work in print, to cull out excellent poems in the way one can cull out fine diamonds or superb soufflés?… continue reading...

A Formal Party

Reviewed:

After the Revival by Carrie Jerrell. Waywiser Press, 2009.

Domestic Fugues by Richard Newman. Steel Toe Books, 2010.

There are a number of striking similarities between these books: for starters, there’s the preference both poets display for traditional meters and forms, as well as the variety of those forms—sestinas, sonnets (Petrarchan, Shakespearean, terza rima and otherwise ) blank verse, rondeaux, villanelles.… continue reading...

CPR Classic Readings: Philip Larkin’s “Here”

Philip Larkin’s 1964 volume, The Whitsun Weddings, contains two poems describing train-journeys. One of them is the volume’s title-poem and is one of the most famous (and best-loved) poems in English since the Second World War; it has been said that with this work he brought a whole new English landscape into poetry.… continue reading...

An Ellipsis Experiencing Phantom Excitement In a Sentence Limb

Ghost Girl by Amy Gerstler. Penguin Books, 2004. 67pp, $16.

First, a problem of definition. This latest catch-all of Amy Gerstler’s, Ghost Girl, is really less a “book of poems” as such than it is a bringing together, a propulsive gleaning of all the notions of a poetic nature that happened to pass her way since Medicine, her last such collection and the eleventh to appear before the one under review.… continue reading...

A Glint of Bullion Hefted

Where Shall I Wander by John Ashbery, Ecco Press, 2005. $22.95

When even a very fine poet is able to lob twenty-five volumes of verse into circulation in no more than twice that number of years, there are bound to be, as age withers and custom stales, trace-amounts of dross visible amid the threads of gold and silver.… continue reading...

Speak, Ranjit

Reasons for Belonging: Fourteen Contemporary Indian Poets, edited by Ranjit Hoskote. Viking (New Delhi) 2002. 148 pages. 195 Rupees.

As Reviewed By: Rabindra K. Swain

“For a time,” warns Michael Roberts in his introduction to the first edition of the influential anthology The Faber Book of Modern Verse, “the false poem may be more popular than the true one could have been.”… continue reading...

Reformulating Forms 

A Close Reading of Two Contemporary Indian Poets

As Reviewed By: Ravi Shankar

The world’s largest secular democracy has been exporting its letters in English for a few literary generations, but in the wake of a few luminaries—Rabindranath Tagore or more recently, Arundhati Roy—many strident, lyrical voices have gone unrecognized (after all, this wave of Indian poets and novelists, for all the hype, is still but a ripple in publishing in terms of sheer numbers).… continue reading...

In the Details

Chinese Apples: New and Selected Poems by W. S. Di Piero. Knopf, 2007. 247 pp.

As Reviewed By: Jan Schreiber

A hardy strain of poets in America feels that the craft of poetry is often too crafty, that the verse line need be nothing more than a space in which to say something striking, and that elevated diction will cut the poet off from his readers, who are in fact his peers.… continue reading...

Byrd or Cage?

An Exaltation of Forms: Contemporary Poets Celebrate the Diversity of Their Art. Edited by Annie Finch and Kathrine Varnes. University of Michigan Press, 2002. 442 pages

As Reviewed By: Jan Schreiber

Seeking still newer ways of challenging themselves with physical barriers to be overcome, young urbanites are flocking to a new sport, called “parkour” by its French inventors.… continue reading...

All My Pretty Selves

After Confession: Poetry as Autobiography edited by Kate Sontag and David Graham. Graywolf Press, 2001.

As Reviewed By: Kathleen Rooney

If you have any interest in confessionalism as a mode of artistic expression, and you haven’t visited the blog Post Secret, “an ongoing community art project where people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a homemade postcard,” then it’s high time you did.… continue reading...

Risen Out of Necessity

North Street by Jonathan Galassi. New York: HarperCollins, 2000.

As Reviewed By: J. S. Renau

Jonathan Galassi has been on the scene for some time now, as a top-notch literary editor, a gifted translator (most notably for his rendering of Eugenio Montale), and lately, as the editor-in-chief of Farrar Straus Giroux.… continue reading...

“I Form the Light and Create Darkness”

The Book of Lamentations: A Meditation and Translation by David R. Slavitt, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001.

As Reviewed By: J. S. Renau

As a child in a Protestant church, I was required by my elders to commit passages of the Bible to memory, and so it is in many Protestant churches that children become acquainted with transliterated Hebrew prosody before they know what prosody, as such, is (assuming they ever learn).… continue reading...

Full Moon Fever

Reflexes from Anathapuri by K. Chandrasekharan. Writers Workshop (Calcutta, India) 2001.

As Reviewed By: J. S. Renau

I first came upon the poetry of K. Chandrasekharan last year while picking through an issue of Verse magazine dedicated to Indian poets writing in English.… continue reading...

The Poetry We Deserve

Brit Lit: New Writing from the UK and Ireland (October 17, 2002) with Simon Armitage, Mimi Khalvati, Glyn Maxwell, Paul Muldoon & Pascale Petit. 
A panel moderated by Todd Swift, and presented by the Council for Literary Magazines and Presses (CLMP), the Baruch Center for the Performing Arts, Rattapallax Press, and Poets House.
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Rich in the Loss

Selected Translations by W. D. Snodgrass. BOA Editions, 1998.

As Reviewed By: J. S. Renau

W. D. Snodgrass occupies an odd niche in American poetry. One would think a living poet of his generation (he was born in 1926), with a Pulitzer Prize in tow and a legitimate claim to have been one of the first “Confessional” poets, would have risen to the stature of, say, Robert Lowell or Sylvia Plath, but Snodgrass resides largely in the margins of American poetry (this assumes, perhaps naively, that there is a center).… continue reading...

Assimilation

Blessing the Boats: New and Selected Poems 1988-2000 by Lucille Clifton. Boa Editions. 132pp. $15.00 

As Reviewed By: Justin Quinn

Lucille Clifton came to prominence in the Black Arts movement in the late 1960s, but this selected poems covers a less dramatic period as the poet moves into middle- and then old-age.… continue reading...

Glossing the Ordinary

Poetry at One Remove: Essays by John Koethe. University of Michigan Press, 2000.

The Constructor by John Koethe. HarperFlamingo, 2000.

As Reviewed By: Justin Quinn

John Koethe is one of the small number of prominent American poets who does not make a living by teaching creative writing.… continue reading...

The Multicultural Melt

By: Justin Quinn

The main transformations in American literature over the last thirty years have had a strong effect on poetry as well: the consolidation of African-American writers, the emergence of Native-American, Asian-American and Chicano writers, as well as gay writers, to name but a few.… continue reading...

Studying Sylvia

Sylvia Plath: A Critical Study by Tim Kendall. Faber & Faber/FSG. $15.00 (paper).

As Reviewed By: Justin Quinn

It has always been difficult to disentangle critical appreciations of the poetry of Sylvia Plath from the lurid anecdotage that surrounds her life and premature death.… continue reading...

James Merrill’s Friends and Critics

James Merrill’s Apocalypse by Timothy Materer. Cornell UP.

Familiar Spirits: A Memoir of James Merrill and David Jackson by Alison Lurie. Viking. 

As Reviewed By: Justin Quinn

The publication of James Merrill’s Collected Poems this year has made his long poem, The Changing Light at Sandover, appear somewhat eccentric to the course of his career.… continue reading...

E+V+O+L+U+T+I+O+N

Pen Chants or 12 Spirit-like Impermanences by Lissa Wolsak. New York: Roof Books, 2000. $9.95 (paperback), 74 pp.

As Reviewed By: Ethan Paquin

New from Roof Books (the New York house that brought us L+A+N+G+U+A+G+E magazine, and books by its prominent practitioners including Charles Bernstein, Ray DiPalma, Hank Lazer, Jackson MacLow and Ron Silliman), Lissa Wolsak’s Pen Chants feels like it’s ushering in a new day of sorts for the Language school.… continue reading...

“Relativistic Ejecta”

Signs and Abominations by Bruce Beasley. Wesleyan University Press, 2000. 136 pp. $12.95 (paper)

As Reviewed By: Ethan Paquin

Despite the freedom in his fourth book–plentiful sectioning of poems; spatial liberalism (experimentation with enjambment, spacing, indentation); lofty language; the use of up-to-the-second names and places–Bruce Beasley has written a piece of supreme symmetry, has crafted an architecture so streamlined as to be the subject of a Charles Sheeler gelatin print.… continue reading...

From the [correct] Chinese

Crossing the Yellow River: Three Hundred Poems from the Chinese by Sam Hamill. BOA Editions, 2000. 280 pp. $19.95 (paper)

As Reviewed By: Ethan Paquin

Thomas Merton, whose The Way of Chuang Tzu is perhaps one of America’s better-known translations from the Chinese, begins that book by explaining his “translation” process was essentially “’imitations’ of Chuang Tzu, or rather, free interpretative readings” culled from “four of the best translations of Chuang Tzu into western languages.”… continue reading...

Mixed Economy

Economy of the Unlost (Reading Simonides of Keos with Paul Celan) by Anne Carson,. Princeton University Press, 1999 (hardcover, $29.95) and 2002 (paperback, $14.95).

As Reviewed By: Ethan Paquin

Just because one can write something, one doesn’t necessarily have to write it.… continue reading...

Tiring the Sun with Poetry 

Ledbury Poetry Festival, July 2004

By: Anthony Moore

I wish Edward Thomas (that poet) were here to ponder gulfs in general with me as in the days when he and I tired the sun with talking on the footpaths and stiles of Ledington and Ryton (Robert Frost, “A Romantic Chasm”)

Those days, at the start of World War I, were among the eleven convivial months when Frost lived near Dymock, in England’s rural Gloucestershire.… continue reading...

The Year of Turning Seventy

Littlefoot by Charles Wright. FSG, 2007. 91 pages. $23 cloth.

As Reviewed By: Lorne Mook

Those who know Charles Wright’s career know the story. While in the Army, in Italy, in the spring of 1959, Wright went to the shore of Lake Garda and read “Blandula, Tenulla, Vagula” near the spot where Ezra Pound had composed it, discovering—for the first time, at age 23—poetry propelled not by narrative but by association, the kind of poetry he was meant to create.… continue reading...

At So Many Removes

Trappings by Richard Howard. Turtle Point Press, 1999. 81 pp. $14.95 paper.

As Reviewed By: Preston Merchant

Richard Howard is the high priest of the most secretive sect of the cult of art, one that, sheltered from the rude gaze of public scrutiny, seeks to reward only the initiate.… continue reading...

Art & Leisure

Life on Earth by Frederick Seidel. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2001. 68 pp. $22 hardback.

As Reviewed By: Preston Merchant

After the World Trade Center towers were destroyed, the New York Times, New York magazine, and other media devoted significant space to the state of the arts, wondering if the usual banalities that pass for American cultural life had now, finally, been rendered null and void.… continue reading...

Poetry in the Mother Tongue

By: Paul Lake

Despite nearly a century’s advances in science, technology, linguistics, and our understanding of human development and cognition, Freud’s Oedipal myth provides the intellectual cornerstone for postmodern literary analysis as well as the chief impetus for avant-garde experimentation in the arts.… continue reading...

The Shape of Poetry

by Paul Lake

In one of his most memorable pronouncements, written in 1917 at a time when he was championing free verse, Ezra Pound made a classic statement about the shape of poetry:

I think there is a ‘fluid’ as well as a ‘solid’ content, that some poems may have form as a tree has form, some as water poured into a vase.… continue reading...

Philip Larkin and His Adjectives

His Plain Far-Reaching Singleness

I have two of Philip Larkin’s poems by heart—“Sad Steps” and “Aubade”—though I admire many more, and it was while reciting the former poem silently to myself during a particularly boring meeting that I noticed a number of things for the first time, most of them related in one way or another to the poet’s use of adjectives:

Groping back to bed after a piss
I part thick curtains and am startled by
The rapid clouds, the moon’s cleanliness.

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Philip Larkin and Happiness

On “Born Yesterday”

For those familiar with Philip Larkin’s work, the title of this short essay will seem to offer a juxtaposition so improbable as to be laugh-out-loud funny-rather like that old joke staple, the tiny book titled German Humor, or the admittedly unlikely prospect of a panel at a New Formalist conference on “The Achievement of the L-A-N-G-U-A-G-E Poets.”… continue reading...

Aristocracies of One

On British and American Poetry

What is the difference between British and American poetry—especially contemporary poetry—and why are they different? Because the two poetries are written in the same language, it seems to make more sense to ask this question of them than to ask, for example, what the differences between Italian and Spanish poetry are, or to what degree Polish poetry differs from Russian poetry.… continue reading...

Cats and Bulldogs

A review of “Critical Contexts,” a roundtable on contemporary poetry criticism hosted by the Woodberry Poetry Room at Harvard University on Monday, March 30th, 2009.

The Woodbury Poetry Room’s recent roundtable discussion on contemporary poetry with Adam Kirsch, Stephen Burt, and Maureen McLane was a lively beginner’s discussion of what a poetry critic ought to be—thoughtful reader?… continue reading...

Writing to their Higher Selves: Anthony Moore on Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell

Words in Air: The Complete Correspondence Between Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell. Edited by Thomas Travisano with Saskia Hamilton. Farrar Straus Giroux, $45.

 “Please never stop writing me letters—they always manage to make me feel like my higher self (I’ve been re-reading Emerson) for several days.”

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In Memoriam: Tom Disch (1940 – 2008)

As Reviewed By: Ben Downing

It was his sonnet “A Bookmark” that first caught my attention. “Four years ago I started reading Proust,” the poem begins, and goes on to skewer Remembrance of Things Past and its mincing narrator-“Oh, what a slimy sort he must have been- / So weak, so sweetly poisonous, so fey!”-with… continue reading...

Tom Disch: Work Ethicist of American Poetry

As Reviewed By: Sunil Iyengar

“A spiritual life doesn’t require taking Holy Orders, only a decision to submit to a lifelong discipline.”
— Thomas M. Disch, 1940-2008

Few American poet-critics since Edgar Allan Poe have brought a practitioner’s knowledge of writing genre fiction to the service of poetry reviewing.… continue reading...

With My Little Eye

Nigh-No-Place by Jen Hadfield. Bloodaxe Books, 2008
As Reviewed By: Hannah Brooks-Motl

How problematic is poetic description? Certain schools of poetic thought—perhaps inflected with post-modernism’s uneasiness about “claim-making”—regard description as dangerously akin to definition: a bundle of similes can harden into a claim about the way the world actually is, as opposed to remaining a tentative hypothesis about how it appears to be.… continue reading...

Echoes and Ashes: Adam Dressler on Davis McCombs

Reviewed: Dismal Rock by Davis McCombs. Tupelo Press, 2007. 62 pages.

Like the phantom farmers, sorters, and curers who haunt “Tobacco Mosaic,” the eighteen-poem sequence that opens his second collection, Davis McCombs, the deserving recipient of both a Yale Younger Poet award and the Dorset Prize, works with a quiet, practiced confidence.… continue reading...

William Jay Smith and the Role of the Poet-Critic

William Jay Smith is the author of more than sixty books of poetry, children’s verse, literary criticism, memoirs, translations, and editor of several influential anthologies. From 1968 to 1970 he served as Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress (a post now called the Poet Laureate) and two of his twelve collections of poetry were finalists for the National Book Award. … continue reading...

The Poet of Play: Sonny Williams on X. J. Kennedy

Read: X. J. Kennedy and KidLit

I first heard X. J. Kennedy read in West Chester, Pennsylvania. I was in a lecture hall at the local university, weary and dispirited from an overdose of “serious” poetry readings, and I glanced at the doorway, deliberating on whether or not I should make my escape to the local bar.… continue reading...

Carmine’s CanLit

A Lover’s Quarrel by Carmine Starnino. Porcupine’s Quill, 2004.

The New Canon: An Anthology of Canadian Poetry. Edited by Carmine Starnino. Vehicule Press, 2006.

As Reviewed By: Bill Coyle

Halfway though the title essay of A Lover’s Quarrel, his collection of reviews and essays on Canadian poetry, Carmine Starnino writes, “If Joseph Brodsky can declare poetry to be humanity’s anthropological destiny, then Canadian poetry is possibly its evolutionary dead-end.”… continue reading...

Our Steps amid a Ruined Colonnade II: James Matthew Wilson on Expansive Poetry and its Discontents

II


         Marble staircases climb the hills where derelict estates
              glimmer in the river-brightened dusk . . .
              And some are merely left to rot where now
              broken stone lions guard a roofless colonnade .

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Re-Collecting MacNeice

Collected Poems of Louis MacNeice edited by Peter McDonald. Faber and Faber, 2007. 836 pages.

As Reviewed By: Maria Johnston

In a note on Louis MacNeice’s poetry penned in 1964, Louise Bogan observed that, “the Collected Poems 1925-1948 should, although not so arranged, be read in chronological order, for it is an added pleasure to watch the opening out of a true lyric gift, and of one so clearly illustrative of the subtle shifts and adjustments that have occurred within English poetic tradition during this century.”… continue reading...

The Tawdry Halo of the Idle Martyr: MacNeice’s Autumn Journal

As Reviewed By: Katy Evans-Bush

In 1963, after Louis MacNeice’s premature death of pneumonia, Philip Larkin wrote that “his poetry was the poetry of our everyday life, of shop-windows, traffic policemen, ice-cream soda, lawn-mowers, and an uneasy awareness of what the news-boys were shouting .… continue reading...

The Verse Hard-wired

Harbour Lights by Derek Mahon. The Gallery Press, 2005.

As Reviewed By: Alfred Corn

Myths about poetry and its production resist rational criticism, and we may be wasting our time trying to deconstruct the fable that English-language poetry has unfolded under what might be called a presiding genius, a directive energy moving from place to place at different points in history.… continue reading...

Wakka-Wakka Sing-Song: D.H. Tracy on Vijay Seshadri

Reviewed: The Long Meadow by Vijay Seshadri. Graywolf Press, 2005.

“Moving on to the next slide,” says Seshadri, in a put-on lecture about a genius painter done in by his own powers of self-abnegation:

we can see, twisted and deliberately coarsened as it is,

the exact same theme,

revisited now with an

ambition and gigantism made all the more monstrous

by the still soaring line,

instinct with delicacy and intelligence,

by the palette still fresh and strange,

the siennas and umbers

and crimsons and yellows seasoned

with the crushed carapaces of iridescent damselflies.

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This is the Life of the Mind

As Reviewed By: Maria Johnston

The Sea Cabinet by Caitríona O’ Reilly. Bloodaxe, £7.95, 61 pp.

I am rereading Moby Dick in preparation for the exam deluge tomorrow-am whelmed and wondrous at the swimming Biblical & craggy Shakespearean cadences, the rich & lustrous & fragrant recreation of spermaceti, ambergris-miracle, marvel, the ton-thunderous leviathan.

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Terra Incognita, or British Poetry in America

As Reviewed By: John Drexel

New British Poetry. Edited by Don Paterson and Charles Simic. Graywolf Press, 2004. Paper: $16.00.

“Anthologies provide the easiest access for American readers into contemporary British poetry, and the lack of reliable contemporary anthologies on both sides of the Atlantic may account for a large part of the apathy and misunderstanding between the two literatures,” wrote Dana Gioia some twenty years ago (in the title piece of Barrier of a Common Language, his recent collection of essays and reviews).

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Poetry’s Embedded Soldier

Here, Bullet by Brian Turner. Alice James Books, 2005.

As Reviewed By: Aaron Baker

Civil unrest, wars, and insurgencies rage around the globe, but for most of us, comfortably ensconced in some version of a Western lifestyle (a “lifestyle” itself being one of our consumer choices), this news, like that of distant weather, almost always takes place on the level of heady abstraction.… continue reading...

On and Off of Parnassus

As Reviewed By: Ernest Hilbert

Men in the Off Hours by Anne Carson. Alfred A. Knopf, 2000. USA $24.00, Canada $37.00

Anne Carson’s most recent collection, Men in the Off Hours, is a conspicuous departure from the uniform tone and patient psychological exploration of her previous book, Autobiography of Red, which, for all its intellectual elegance, was essentially a bildungsroman, a formational novel in verse.… continue reading...

The Voice of the Poet

As Reviewed By: Ernest Hilbert

A Series on Recorded Poetry

Thoughtful readers of poetry are attuned to the musical subtleties of the human voice. These qualities shape the poetry, and most poetry—purely optical or purposely discordant linguistic experiments notwithstanding—should be heard, either as an acoustic mental image, when read silently, or spoken aloud.… continue reading...

The Innocent Ear: Some Thoughts on the Popular Disdain for Versification

A few years ago, for the brief span of a few classes, I attended a poetry workshop class at Boston University. Though I was not formally enrolled in the class, the teacher had generously invited me to attend-and since the teacher was one of the great living masters of the art I accepted, though it necessitated my commuting between California and Massachusetts for several months.… continue reading...

Letters to a Young Poet: Rilke’s Non-Correspondence School

“The letter that is sent is never the letter that is received.” —Lacan

As Reviewed By: Daniel Bosch

Rilke never held a teaching post. We have no cache of syllabi, no workshop guidelines, and though in his letters he expressed quite a lot of readerly enthusiasm, there is no definitive Rilkean reading list, no Rilkean curriculum.… continue reading...

In Memoriam: Hugh Kenner

Hugh Kenner (1923-2003)

As Reviewed By: James Rother

Just barely octogenarian (but grown wispy), Hugh Kenner, like the Romantic correspondent breeze he so adamantly eschewed in the prolonged swath through modernist studies he cut like a mighty wind, slipped away a year ago this past month, a legend diminished but certainly not obscured by the marginalizations heaped upon him in recent years.… continue reading...

The Lost Children of America

Here

in the dusty malarial lanes

of Cuttack where years have slowly lost their secrets

they wander

in these lanes nicked by intrigue and rain

and the unseen hands of gods

in front of a garish temple of the simian Hanuman

along river banks splattered with excreta and dung

in the crowded market square among rotting tomatoes

fish-scales and the moist warm odour of bananas and piss

passing by the big-breasted, hard-eyed young whores

who frequent the empty space behind the local cinema

by the Town Hall where corrupt politicians still

go on delivering their pre-election speeches

and on the high road above the town’s burning-ground

from which gluttonous tan smoke floats up

in the breeze, smacking of scorched marrow and doubt.… continue reading...

Three Things to Forget About Contemporary Poetry

As Reviewed By: Marc Pietrzykowski

I. Forget About Marketing

F. T. Marinetti’s publication of the Futurist Manifesto in Le Figaro on Feb. 20, 1909, managed to shock its readers by melding a traditional form-the individual or collaborative statement of disputation against an orthodoxy-with the language of Revolution, or, as it was later called, Marketing:

“Look at us!

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No Poet Left Behind

As Reviewed By: Joan Houlihan

In the dark age of poetry, the pre-MFA era, when poets were untethered to a clear identity, often unhinged, and wandering loose in a society inimical to their aims, they were forced to brood in out-of-the-way cafés and corners, bringing forth from their painful rubbings against society’s strictures their secret image-pearls without benefit of community or support of other pearl-producers.… continue reading...

Reformulating Forms

A Close Reading of Two Contemporary Indian Poets

As Reviewed By: Ravi Shankar

The world’s largest secular democracy has been exporting its letters in English for a few literary generations, but in the wake of a few luminaries-Rabindranath Tagore or more recently, Arundhati Roy-many strident, lyrical voices have gone unrecognized (after all, this wave of Indian poets and novelists, for all the hype, is still but a ripple in publishing in terms of sheer numbers).… continue reading...

Robert Lowell in Fourteen Lines

Collected Poems of Robert Lowell. Edited by Frank Bidart and David Gewanter. Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, 2003. 1181 pages. $45.

As Reviewed By: Christopher Bakken

In sundry moods, ‘twas pastime to be bound
Within the Sonnet’s scanty plot of ground…
-William Wordsworth

More than a decade ago, over lunch with a mentor, I was discussing a sonnet sequence I’d been torturing myself and my friends with for months.… continue reading...

Passing Facts: Reviewing Lowell’s Reviewers

Collected Poems of Robert Lowell. Edited by Frank Bidart and David Gewanter. Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, 2003. 1181 pages. $45.

As Reviewed By: Aaron Baker

“The Return of Robert Lowell,” James Fenton titled his recent essay in The New York Review of Books, which invites the question-but where ever did Lowell go?… continue reading...

Robert Lowell in Fourteen Lines

Collected Poems of Robert Lowell. Edited by Frank Bidart and David Gewanter. Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, 2003. 1181 pages. $45.

As Reviewed By: Christopher Bakken

In sundry moods, ‘twas pastime to be bound
Within the Sonnet’s scanty plot of ground…
-William Wordsworth

More than a decade ago, over lunch with a mentor, I was discussing a sonnet sequence I’d been torturing myself and my friends with for months.… continue reading...

Dana Gioia’s Defenders of the Modernist-Romantic Tradition

As Reviewed By: Sunil Iyengar

Can Poetry Matter? by Dana Gioia. 10th anniversary edition. Graywolf Press, 2003.

I.

In an introductory note to his first poetry collection, The Rage for the Lost Penny (1940), Randall Jarrell declares: “‘Modern’ poetry is, essentially, an extension of romanticism; it is what romantic poetry wishes or finds it necessary to become.”… continue reading...

Oedipus Redivivus

As Reviewed By: Ernest Hilbert

The Throne of Labdacus by Gjertrud Schnackenberg. Farrar Straus & Giroux, 2001

I.

At the height of its rather muted publicity, the new formalism movement-proclaimed by Dana Gioia in the 1980s, and laid out in Linnaean proportions by Mark Jarman and David Mason in Rebel Angels: 25 Poets of the New Formalism-was met with derision by many American poets and with confusion by European poets, few of whom had strayed any great distance from the formal traditions of their forebears.… continue reading...

History Held Together with String

As Reviewed By: J. K. Halligan

The Invasion Handbook by Tom Paulin. Faber & Faber, 2002.

In the poem “Surveillances”, from his second collection, The Strange Museum (1980), Tom Paulin addressed the anonymous inhabitants of Northern Ireland who made their homes near a prison-

And if you would swop its functions
For a culture of bungalows
And light verse,
You know this is one
Of the places you belong in,
And that its public uniform
Has claimed your service.

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Berryman & Shakespeare

Reviewed: Berryman’s Shakespeare: Essays, Letters, and Other Writings by John Berryman. Edited by John Haffenden. Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1999. 416 pages.

In the introduction to Berryman’s Shakespeare, John Haffenden, the book’s editor and an early biographer of Berryman, admits: “No one who reads this volume will be looking for permanent scholarship: they will be looking for the poet’s reflections on another artist, and for the poet’s critical insights….”… continue reading...

Confusion As An Operating Principle: Cort Day, Geoffrey Nutter, and the Contemporary “Sonnet-esque” Sequence

As Reviewed By: John Erhardt

The Chime by Cort Day
Alice James Books ($11.95)

A Summer Evening by Geoffrey Nutter
Colorado/Center For Literary Publishing ($14.95)

At some point, poets stopped writing about what they knew and began writing about what they didn’t know (I can’t think of a single good reason to try and pinpoint an exact time period for this; it was a rather gradual change, and the ensuing debate if I got it wrong would be neither productive nor trustworthy).… continue reading...

Designed for a Lifetime of Becoming: The Poetic Debut of Adam Kirsch

As Reviewed By: Sunil Iyengar

The Thousand Wells by Adam Kirsch. Ivan R. Dee, 2002. $18.95.

“It is very likely that the really vital poetry of the next generation will be not about God at all–the poets who currently treat that theme often descend into banality or obscurity–but about other profound and secular themes: love, marriage, loneliness, aging, death.”

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Beatnik Bohemia

As Reviewed By: Ernest Hilbert

The Beat Hotel by Barry Miles. Grove Press. 294 pages. $24.95.

The byronic images and locales of La Boheme, Giacomo Puccini’s nineteenth-century depiction of classically starving artists in Paris’s Latin Quarter, have come to dominate, rather predictably, portrayals of young artists, writers, and singers: whiskered rogues in whose unwashed ears the muses Aoide, Erato, and very often Melpomene whisper.… continue reading...