Duhamel is in da house!
Denise Duhamel, who selected the poems for this year's volume of The Best American Poetry, has flown in from Florida, where she is a professor of English at Florida International University in Miami, to take part in tonight's launch reading (7:00 pm, the New School, 66 W.12th Street, NYC. Free.). Here is an excerpt from her introduction:
These poems bring so much subtlety, nuance, and resourcefulness to their work that readers never feel as though we are being held hostage to an agenda. As Robert Frost wrote, "Like a piece of ice on a hot stove, the poem must ride on its own melting." There are many ways to enter and connect to these poems in which we, as readers, can sense poets making decisions on the page, rather than having mapped out a strategy beforehand. Sharon Olds has referred to the poem that "may assemble itself into a being with its own centrifugal force." Each poem's purposefulness is its unique reasoning and the sounds it makes, the spirit in which it reaches into the world.
Poets mustn't try to compete with the sound bites of politics or the breezy vapidity of pop culture. Rather it should serve as an antidote for them. (An exception might be made for Elinor Lipman, who tweeted an entertaining, quirky political poem each day from June 27, 2011, until the election in November 2012, for a total of more than five hundred poems.) Poetry brings with it freshness and delight, a sweeping-out of the mind. In the nineteenth century, long before television and Facebook and our many other distractions, Stéphane Mallarmé wrote, "It is the job of poetry to clean up our word-clogged reality by creating silences around things." In 1963, delivering a speech in honor of the late Robert Frost, President John Fitzgerald Kennedy noted, "When power narrows the areas of man's concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of his existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses." The poems collected here are personal and cultural expressions of thinking and being, full of images not selling anything tangible, language seducing only the reader's intellect and emotion, utterances free of commodity.
For more information about tonight's reading, go here.