According to the lauded Australian poet and editor, the vast bulk of the Journal of Poetics Research number FIVE is now available
Free on the internet at poeticsresearch.com
featuring: Dozens of articles and essays and book reviews, such as [partial list]
Robert Wood: an autobiography
I was not exposed to a wide range of poetry. §
Chris Stroffolino: Crisis? What Crisis?
Hollywood and TV gained in influence §
Susan M.Schultz: Poetry as Attention
he is seeing the world as it is §
Larissa Shmailo: Bob Holman and metre
an additional analytic tool is required §
Murray Edmond: The Backpacker Compromise (New Zealand Poetry’s Contribution to the
Tourist Industry (with apologies to John Dryden)
You have a poem too? §
David Lehman in New York on Walter Lehmann (a pseudonym of Gwen Harwood in Tasmania)
There was egg on the face of the venerable editor §
Brentley Frazer: Creative writing with English Prime (Writing/speaking in the English language without the copula, i.e. excluding tenses of the verb to be) This failed; the process felt restrictive and laborious §
A.J. Carruthers: The Long Poems of (US poet) Rochelle Owens (Rochelle Owens has a website at http://rochelleowens.org) broaden the scope for future criticism on long poems §
Art Beck (the pen-name of Dennis Dybeck): Doctor Fell (and Latin poetry)
Scowling in his office, Dr. Fell gave poor Tom one last chance §
Graham Foust: On Ashbery’s poem ‘Myrtle’
For Ruskin, the ‘source’ is ‘real’ §
Patrick Pritchett reviews Fugue Meadow, by Keith Jones (“Fugue Meadow”, his latest book, is similarly keyed around another path-breaking postmodern artist, jazz trumpeter Don Cherry who in 1969, with drummer Ed Blackwell, recorded Mu, a double-album that many consider to have sounded the first notes of world music.”)
And poems! more poems that you can believe, from all over the world:
Zhang Er: 3 poems (selected work from First Mountain (forthcoming from Zephyr Press)
English version by Joseph Donahue) Is there any pattern to this labyrinth? §
Roberto Echavarren (trans. Donald Wellman): Animalaccio (A native of Uruguay and professor of world literature, long associated with New York University, Echavarren is the co-editor, along with José Kozer and Jacobo Sefamí, of Medusario: muestra de poesía Latinoamericana (Medusario: A Survey of Latin-American Poetry), the leading anthology of poetry in the Neo-Baroque style.) They hunted in the sierra, / ate in canvas chairs. §
Donald Wellman: God is love (Donald Wellman is a North American poet and translator. As editor of O.ARS, he produced a series of annual anthologies of experimental work, including Coherence (1981) and Translations: Experiments in Reading (1984). His poetry works with sources from several languages.) God resides in the heat / generated by the sense organs §
Marc Vincenz: 5 poems (Marc Vincenz is Swiss-British, was born in Hong Kong, and has published eight collections of poetry.) roped together / by words in a thicket of senses. §
Chris Tysh: 3 poems (Chris Tish is a poet and playwright and the author of several collections of poetry and drama. Her latest publications are Our Lady of the Flowers, Echoic (Les Figues, 2013); Molloy: The Flip Side (BlazeVox, 2012) and Night Scales: A Fable for Klara K (United Artists, 2010). She is on the creative writing faculty at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, USA.) pulls the plug on the lyric §
Eli Spivakovsky: 2 pieces (Eli Spivakovsky is a poet, prose and short-story writer from Melbourne, Australia.) and thought he was an angel so I followed him §
Larry Sawyer: 3 poems (Look, mother freaker, you / better have my mutual funding money. / If you weren’t such a Shirley head I’d / stick this foolin’ gun up your / mother funkin’ lass.) as if the quarters… we spent… were / apostrophes signifying possessives §
Joe Safdie: on Charles Olson (Charles Olson and Finding One’s Place: A lecture given at the Gloucester Writers’ Center, June 1, 2016) [slightly modified for print] 1:‘I’m a cosmopolitan,’ said my friend Jerry Rothenberg, when I told him the title of this lecture: ‘I’m not sure I want to find my place.’ He wanted things to happen in them spiritually §
British poet Peter Robinson: poems: 14 Postcards (‘Traversant les années … Le mémoire de la mer.’ — Michel Houellebecq) Charles Trenet’s “La Mer” §
American poet Dana Prescott, who lives for part of the year in Italy: 2 poems (And as she speaks, I feel seasick, / Strange brine and bile rising in my mouth.) It’s the wrong hour for a chat. §
New York poet Ron Padgett: poem: Mosquito Ron (“If only Buffalo Bill had read Whitman’s poetry, he might not have fought with Yellow Hand.”) But if I take a step back, I do feel sorry for myself §
New York poet Geoffrey O’Brien: 3 poems (“and shadowing at noon / the bare stone path / to a house / where strangers dwell.”) pleasure / is the appetizer and suffering / the main course §
Australian Professor and poet Philip Mead: poem: Ithaca Road (“You’ll be lost in the headlong city, turning older / The house can stay open for another October“) You’re always setting out §
From Boston USA: Ben Mazer: 2 Poems (“Ben Mazer was born in New York City in 1964, and educated at Harvard University, where he studied with Seamus Heaney, and at Boston University, where he studied under Christopher Ricks and the English poet Geoffrey Hill.”) Do not consume, like the flowers, time and air §
From Auckland: Michele Leggott: 2 poems (Forty pages of prose poetry from New Zealand) so you will need to keep on moving §
From Canberra in Australia: S.K. Kelen: poems (“Mohammed Hatim a wayward son of the Mujahideen, / Doan Huan sporting a Da Nang pedigree, or Mario / Lanza living out a serious fetish for muscle cars, Jim Giakos / Many moons from the post office in Kiama”) Juan got a bicentennial medal §
In Brooklyn: Pierre Joris: On Literary Dedications (“The first of these is the dedication of T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land.”) Lucretius gently imbeds the dedication… to his friend Gaius Memmius §
From Illinois: Kent Johnson: 4 poems (four acerbic verses on the 2016 US election) I talked to the Language Poets and they said no. §
American poet and editor Paul Hoover: 5 poems (“What shirt to wear to eternity / and tomorrow to dinner? / And what size will it be?”) crucifixion or / a game of tennis §
London poet and dance master Anthony Howell: 3 poems (“I have worked with limited vocabularies for many years, sometimes in texts where each and every word in a paragraph has to be employed in another paragraph.”) Always the same back window climbed. §
US poet Fanny Howe: poems from Love and I (“My son the tailor / Likes his shop shut but must / Open it for business / On the dot of the satellite.”) I would do anything for this infant §
From Melbourne, Australia: John Hawke: sonnet: Sea Priestess (“A fillet of cloud / flares to vermilion in the kindling light, / before the cycle of monstrous excavators resume / a droning cantillation.“) Emily is throwing knives to the receding waves §
Barry Gifford: Ode to Jerry (“I think about him every time / I hear “Ruby My Dear” / It’s a gift, recognizing beauty / in any form — Monk and Trane / were lucky to have had Jerry / listening to them”) Trane learned about beauty / from Monk §
Michael Farrell: When Arse is Class (“Well no one can sum up Australia / or its poetry, so we’ll just keep riding along till one / of us conks out.”) Bending over in forever shorts, Australian poetry §
Elaine Equi: 3 poems (”The paranoid dictator / will not notice us replacing / all the books in his library / if we do it one at time.”) not the Big Bang / this morning, §
From Kent in the UK: Laurie (Laurence) Duggan: 6 poems (“across the aisle / Josephine Baker / dances, her shadow / lifeless on the wall”) so the testes become a leg / an elbow becomes a signature §
In Canberra: Jen Crawford: 3 poems (“we haven’t bought scissors for the water in their faces tipping away like a ball if we’re sore in a little circle around a credit card account…”) dale and nina stack up horizontally in the bed §
joanne burns: 3 poems (“i’m sorry / i can’t remember the / director’s name was it / fellini, bergman, or tarantino“) everyone seems to rush / out before the credits §
In Geneva: Emily Bilman: poem: Greenness (“like bridemaids in a wedding, / cows congregate on the wetlands”) the hues of the evening / that soothe my breathing. §
Charles Bernstein: poem: Concentration (”Polish death camps / Death camps in Poland / Polish extermination camps / Nazi death camps in Poland / German extermination camps in occupied Poland”) Tears in Nazi-occupied Poland §
Michael Basinski: 6 poems (“sure as shit he saw them / Buffalo ghosts in bathing suits / about July 10th, 1964 / ghosts most often appeared as sperm”) he came to life to lord it over me §
Rae Armantrout: 4 poems (“If any liquid / in a paper cup / were known as / ‘Love Your Beverage’ / a disturbing commandment / would be lifted / and we wouldn’t face / the hard problem / of deciding who / is addressing whom”) even as I see / … / that I am / not myself §
Elizabeth Allen: 2 poems (”I move frequently; I’m sort of on the run but I am not sure what from.“) to become angry §
New Zealander Raewyn Alexander: 2 poems (“predators live in sad places / draped with happy reputations.”) a bus stop relic breathing §
Rachel Blau DuPlessis: Tapa-02 (...Tapa-03, ...Tapa-04, etc) The 2008-2009 notebook of a US poet thinking of Auckland in New Zealand (some 70 pages)
And so it goes. Apologies for cross posting.
This week we welcome back Eleanor Goodman as our guest author. Eleanor is a Research Associate at the Harvard University Fairbank Center, and spent a year at Peking University on a Fulbright Fellowship. She has been an artist in residence at the American Academy in Rome and was awarded a Henry Luce Translation Fellowship from the Vermont Studio Center. Her first book of translations,Something Crosses My Mind: Selected Poems of Wang Xiaoni (Zephyr Press, 2014) was the recipient of a 2013 PEN/Heim Translation Grant and winner of the 2015 Lucien Stryk Prize. The book was also shortlisted for the International Griffin Prize. The anthology Iron Moon, a translation of Chinese worker’s poetry, will be out in 2017. Her first poetry book, Nine Dragon Island (Enclave/Zephyr, 2016), was a finalist for the Drunken Boat First Book Prize.
Welcome back, Eleanor.
This week we welcome Heather J. Macpherson as our guest author. Heather is the executive director at Damfino Press, which publishes an online journal, sponsors an annual chapbook contest, and publishes Five Poems, a yearly chapbook series. The most recent Five Poems is by Ilya Kaminisky. Heather's own poetry and other writings have appeared in Niche Lit Magazine , The Broken Plate, Spillway, Pearl, ATOMIC, CLARE Literary, OVS, Rougarou, and elsewhere. She has twice been features editor for The Worcester Review, and is currently at work on her third feature, forthcoming in 2017. Heather is also finishing her second Master's degree and hopes to pursue a Ph.D. You can find out more about Heather at her blog, Scribble Hysteria.
We're excited to announce the first issue of a new online magazine of art and poetry: Decals of Desire. The founding editor is British artist and poet Rupert Mallin, and the poetry editor is British poet Martin Stannard, who lives and works in China (and who has been a guest here).
Martin Stannard used to edit joe soap’s canoe, a UK magazine that was the first in the UK to draw heavily upon the New York School, publishing among others Ashbery, Kenneth Koch, Paul Violi, Charles North, and Tony Towle. One can expect a similar taste to show up in Decals of Desire.
The first issue demonstrates its commitment to both the visual and the written, and kicks off in stunning fashion by featuring 8 collages by John Ashbery, as well as a poem, and extracts from Ashbery’s 1968 essay on the avant-garde. Among other writers featured in the issue are Ron Padgett, Sharon Mesmer and Mark Halliday from the U.S., Ian Seed and Alan Baker from the UK, and Mairéad Byrne, who was born in Ireland, emigrated to the U.S., and now appears to be travelling…. But it’s not all “poetry”. There’s even a short play in there. Variety is almost all.
In terms of the visual arts, Decals of Desire will look back but also across to traditional, experimental and off-the-wall art forms today.
Featured in the first issue is the work of contemporary landscape painter Martin Laurance. Laurance’s work captures the crumbling English coastline through dramatic, captivating studies. The magazine also reviews The British Art Show touring exhibition – a show that claims to represent the “most dynamic” art produced in Britain today, but which probably doesn’t. There is sculpture, too: sculpture of the 20th century is often viewed in terms of form and mass. Decals of Desire outlines how sculptor Alberto Giacometti dealt primarily in scale and human distance.
Other articles include a sideways look at the Turner Prize 2016. Back in 1999 Tracy Emin turned the prize into prime time TV viewing but didn’t win. Will a female artist win this year? And whither the Avant-Garde? In this piece evidence of its existence and withering is found in contemporary dance and the ‘NO Manifesto.’ And in each issue an unusual artistic technique will be explored and the side streets of modern art history revisited.
Decals of Desire can be found at http://decalsofdesire.blogspot.com.
We're already looking forward to Issue 2, which will include a review of the Abstract Expressionism exhibition at the Royal Academy, an exploration of Catalan Contemporary Art, the Anglo-French Art Centre 1945-51 plus an abundance of poetry and regular columns – featured artists, Decals DIY and more.
Decals of Desire does not accept unsolicited manuscripts or poetry submissions.
This week we welcome Sonja Johanson as our guest author. Sonja is president of the Massachusetts Master Gardener Association. She is a contributing editor at the Found Poetry Review, and the author of Impossible Dovetail (Ides, Silver Birch Press), all those ragged scars (Choose the Sword Press), and Trees in Our Dooryards (Redbird Chapbooks). She has recent work appearing or forthcoming in BOAAT, Concis, and The Writer’s Almanac. Sonja divides her time between work in Massachusetts and her home in the mountains of western Maine.
This week we welcome Carlie Ramer as our guest author. Carlie studied English and Creative Writing - Poetry at SUNY Binghamton. She has participated in poetry workshops at The New York State Summer Writers Institute, NYU, Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, and Eckerd College Writers In Paradise where she was awarded an artistic merit scholarship. Her collaborative work with the North Carolina-based dance troupe Moving Women won a Catalyst Series Award and was performed at The North Carolina Stage Company, among other venues. Her work was part of the "Grand Slam” group exhibit at the Piq Gallery in New York City at Grand Central Station, in which her poem, “Subway Songs,” was the main component of a mixed media art piece. She has published work on parenting in The Huffington Post. She is working on a memoir comprised of her poetry and creative nonfiction essays.
The Best American Poetry Blog is pleased to announce that Resurrection Biology, the first full-length collection by featured blogger Laura Orem, is now available for preorder from Finishing Line Press.
Some words about the collection:
"Maybe if we look deep enough we will see ourselves looking deep at ourselves," Laura Orem writes in Resurrection Biology, and in perfect reply this collection of poetry looks deeply (widely and passionately, too) at both the beauty and terror of living with and battling illness. Weaving together the past and present, politics and music and medicine, Orem's poetry is at once narrative and lyric, formal and explosive, playful and grave. Hers is a vulnerable, brave poetic, and this book is required reading for anyone with a memory, a body and obstacles to overcome.:
Jessica Piazza, author of Interrobang and co-author (with Heather Aimee O'Neill) of Obliterations
Laura Orem’s Resurrection Biology is a close-up glimpse of the world, the one in which we now live and the past, which inhabits us: from the arctic to Gaza; from a woman’s ravaged body to a nameless boy shot and left to die in the snow; from a famous castrato to a feathered man; from the dog, unfed on the porch, to the mammoth still sleeping in icy Neolithic dreams. Look hard at this world. As Orem says,"You can stand it. Stand it some more."
Anne Caston, author of Prodigal, Judah's Lion, and Flying Out with the Wounded
Order your copy today!
The American Scholar introduces its podcast series. Click below -- or here -- for an intro:
During my hiatus, I worked diligently to figure out what “bad poetry” meant to me, and once I become empowered to disappoint, how I could appall myself in a poem. I felt vicious, intemperate, outrageous, sleazy, hysterical, cantankerous, willful. I made poems with unconscionable and irrelevant leaps, poems with overblown abstractions heaped upon abstractions (who will ever forget “the turpitude of forgiveness”?), poems with speakers pronouncing upon every character in sight (because “I” always knows so much better than her or his family), poems with social toxicities heightened further by specious speechifying. I made poems that clanked and thumped, beset by sneaker-in-the-dryer iambs, and conversely, poems that used non-metrical speech oblivious to all considerations of sound, the kinds of poems that deserve to be chopped up, but are too often just divided into lines and called free verse. I made poems that ended four times without beginning once, poems that left out crucial details, poems with no details. I made poems that suffered from gender whiplash, empathy deficit, emotional aphasia, and narrative ataxia. I hated every line I wrote (who will ever forget “the hounds of my heartbeat”?), and wanted nothing more than to ball up each of my poems and drown them in a bucket of my crocodile tears.
And I read appalling poems, too. I searched for well-known poets I thought over-rated, bought a book by each, scoured the Amazon algorithms for like-minded horrors, and read on, McDuff. Bruising poems that attempted to meld unethical politics and self-righteousness, those bedmates always stealing the too-small blanket. Vapid poems that combine cosmetically, in the name of originality, unrelated subjects—as Lear says, “two pernicious daughters join'd” (King Lear, 3:2:22). I drank each drop of the soured milk in my summer’s failing fridge.
I crawled inside the zeitgeist and curled into a ball. Oh, the ekphrasis! Oh, the Self as our One Hero! I read fourteen ekphrastic poems on the Dutch Masters by fourteen poets, and forty-seven ekphrastic poems on Frida Kahlo by forty-one poets. (Where goeth Van Gogh? Where fleeth O’Keefe?) I read eighty-eight poems in which the last two lines begin with “I...,” after not using the first-person throughout the whole poem (“Sudden I Syndrome”). I read forty-three poems that begin at dawn or at dusk, but only three that begin after lunch. I read an even two-dozen poems that are centered by Microsoft Word because the software can. I read sixteen poems that mention breasts in the first four lines metonymically. I read—and I believe this is a coincidence, but I cannot be sure—five poems in the month of May about pets running away, poems in which I began to cheer for the pets, “Run, Sparky, Run! Run from the horrid poem....” (I wondered if the pets running away in May had anything to do with April being National Poetry Month.) In one of these poems, the narrator promises to ‘whup’ the dog beater, but doesn’t, because the dog beater turns out to be an elected official: that poem ends with the line, “and this is an allegory, people.” I read thirty-one poems with “Why” in the title, twenty of which also have “Why” in the last line. In the moment, out of time, and bad poem mad, I read so many bad poems I couldn’t tell where the poems ended and my emotions began.
I began to believe there was sand in my mouth, Jell-O in my shoes. I felt as though I had done a Morgan Spurlock, and super-sized all of the awful poetry I could consume. The lines were too salty, my glass of metaphors too fatty: I was threatening my psyche with The Poetry Arteriosclerosis.
After two months of the most god-awful poetry, I became mean to those around me. I kicked my bicycle whenever the chain fell off; standing on the sidewalk, I kicked and kicked. One time, I was so mad at how my own new poem ended, I drove my car straight onto a restaurant’s lawn, and insisted to the policewoman that I receive a moving violation. I felt as though I had enlisted in a poetry assassination squad, a private cohort of beauty slayers, and my code name had become Buzz Kill.
But nevertheless, all the while, keeping a working notebook in which I recorded my abjection, I began to clarify what had ruined my work too often, and especially the kinds of go-to conventions of free verse I had inherited, and learned to teach.
And then I stopped, the alarm went off, and adorned with my obsessions once again, though a little more sure of my weaknesses, I began to write what I hoped might be “good” poetry.
My poems had changed: my poems had become zanier, woofier, airier, less subject to fad-ism, more emotionally unpredictable, both sadder and happier, less touristic, more polyphonic, more intuitive. I had become skeptical of the comma and the period—I, a badge-wielding member of the Punctuation Police. My poems had learned to bang around in the inexplicable, and I had learned to trust how the darkness felt.
And now I’ll tell the story backwards, at least partially. Here’s a passage that might help explain my initial motivation, aside from the endorphins of the self-flagellant. In “The Use of Theory,” an essay first developed in 1955 and revised again in 1963, French novelist Alain Robbe-Grillet writes:
"There is no question, as we have seen, of establishing a theory, a pre-existing mold into which to pour the books of the future. Each novelist, each novel must invent its own form. No recipe can replace this continual reflection. The book makes its own rules for itself, and for itself alone. Indeed the movement of its style must often lead to jeopardizing them, breaking them, even exploding them. Far from respecting certain immutable forms, each new book tends to constitute the laws of its functioning at the same time that it produces their destruction." (Robbe-Grillet, For a New Novel: Essays on Fiction; Northwestern U Press, 1989; trans. Richard Howard)
Substituting the word “poem” for the word “novel” here, and thinking about the unrecognizability of “each new book” to the readers of the moment, I am interested in the notion that a poem “makes its own rules for itself, and for itself alone.” Even within received forms, isn’t this what happens, the work of art becomes a combo of promises kept and un-, the poem a linguistic and prosodic entity predicated upon the appearance of constant reinvention? Consider, in this context, the opening of John Donne’s “Holy Sonnet V”: “I am a little world made cunningly / of elements....” I believe that Donne is talking about the poem itself here, and the behaviors within the poem consistent with specific physical constants and the text’s idiosyncratic rules of gravity.
But somewhere between reinvention, promises kept and dashed, and style, I had suffocated in my old little world, in my AMP-ocentrism. It’s a struggle, I think, to act upon a mature vision without parodying whatever artistic progress one has ostensibly made. A mature vision may yet generate a single (and singular) poem: however, a mature vision that corresponds too easily and too readily to Robbe-Grillet’s notion of the “pre-existing molds” that yield to “immutable forms” – which I believe the mature artist invents for herself or himself – threatens subsequent works with the prospect of being paler imitations of art already done well.
In other words, if you’re in the box, it’s because you are the box. And the box might look pretty, but that’s because you made it.
I’m no Kenneth Goldsmith, and this is not a stump speech for the uncreative; I’m much more inclined to Cathy Park Hong’s understanding of the history of the avant-garde anyway. Nor am I arguing to write against one’s own talents, which I realize constitutes an extremely complicated idea packed into a gnomic truism. Nor am I saying the zeitgeist is only a prison. Instead, I’m trying to endorse a healthy skepticism of the familiar: lesser versions of our own best poems need to be preempted by continued experimentation.
When I wrote bad poems on purpose — and hold your tongues here, social media wags — informed by my reading of bad poems, I found myself filling in the silences and the spaces between the words. Appearances aside, I’ve never been a narrative poet: my poems often perform what I call “the attitude of narrative,” and present in narrative ways their lyricism without succumbing to story. Filling in the silences and spaces, for me, might have meant adding plot, undermining inference, dumbing down ambiguity — but really, what it means, and what I think may be the best individualized lesson I learned during my Season of Hell, is that sound by itself isn’t a sufficient poetic phenomenon until dynamically interpellated by white space and silence. Perhaps I’ve come upon a commonplace in music composition, and/or a truism implicit to my earlier work, but the idea seemed a newly articulated notion for me.
You might expect a rant in a piece I’m calling “Bad Poems,” as I detail all that is execrable in the art form today, and name the worst offenders. I’m not going to do that —in part because I have an allergy to negative campaigning, and it’s a bad year for vitriol, but also because I wrote horrifyingly bad poems myself, and now I know they’re in me.
Besides, I wouldn’t trust me. Whose opinions aren’t provisional anyway? What working artist could possibly believe in an idea beyond its utility in the studio? Although I want what I want from a poem, and I tend to teach what I want, my desires have proven fungible with age, disproven as I go. Moreover, I remain a man suspicious of what I call “managed aesthetics.”
I am often reminded of a moment in 1993 when I was adjuncting at Rutgers University, and moderating a forum at "Writers at Rutgers" with visiting Nobel Laureate Czeslaw Milosz. A persistent questioner insisted upon asking Milosz to share his “world view,” a mode of inquiry I couldn’t seem to countermand; the questioner was trying to pin down Milosz, to get the great poet to collate all of our truths for us.
Milosz was gracious — he raised a spectacular eyebrow and smiled at me; he could handle this one, his gesture said — and answered wryly: “A world view is a world order.” I feel that way about learned experience in poetry writing, about my “moves” and their power over my aesthetics, but bad poems have now helped me work toward unlearning such vanities.
Here’s Milosz reading on March 26, 1998. At the 8:35 mark, he reads one of his masterpieces, “The Day the World Ends,” first in English and then in Polish; that’s the wild, good Milosz poem for me.
Cartoons © Felicia van Bork, 2016
Alan Michael Parker is the author of The Ladder (Tupelo Press), his eighth collection of poems, along with four novels, including Christmas in July, forthcoming from Dzanc Books. He has edited or co-edited five books, including The Manifesto Project (with Rebecca Hazelton), to be published in January 2017, by the University of Akron Press. His awards include three Pushcart Prizes, two inclusions in Best American Poetry, the Fineline Prize, the 2013 and 2014 Randall Jarrell Prize in Poetry, the North Carolina Book Award, and the Lucille Medwick Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America. Parker is the Douglas C. Houchens Professor of English at Davidson College. He also teaches in the University of Tampa’s low-residency M.F.A. program. More about Alan Michael Parker can be found at here. Follow him on twitter here.
In Russia, according to the Independent, a vodka-soaked advocate of poetry killed a prose partisan in a brawl. Last month, apparently, a similar dispute, with the same fatal outcome, occurred over the theories of Immanuel Kant.
When Stacey and I visited Russia, I breakfasted with a novelist and asked her whether she could write while drinking. She said: "My der David, if you could not write while drinking, there would be no such thing as Russian literature."
This story comes to my attention thanks to Beth Gylys:
from The Independent
Russian teacher 'kills friend in heated poetry versus prose argument'
Suspect stabbed his friend to death after victim insisted prose was superior as literary genre
The discussion on the merits of poetry over prose soon escalated into a lethal brawl GETTY IMAGES
A Russian teacher allegedly killed a friend in a drunken argument over literary genres, investigators have said.
The pair engaged in an animated discussion on the merits of poetry over prose during a drinking session, which soon escalated into a lethal brawl, after the suspect stabbed his friend insisting that poetry was superior.
In a statement, federal police in the Russian region of Sverdlovsk said: "The host insisted that real literature is prose, while his guest, a former teacher, argued for poetry.
"The literary dispute soon grew into a banal conflict, on the basis of which the 53-year-old admirer of poetry killed his opponent with the help of a knife."
The suspect fled his home in the town of Irbit in the Ural mountains, where the 67-year old victim was killed on 20 January, before he was found in a nearby village and arrested by Russian police on charges of murder.
The incident comes four months after a similar argument over the theories of German philosopher Immanuel Kant, who argued that reason is the source of morality, resulted in a man being shot in a grocery store in southern Russia.
This week we welcome Lynn Domina as our guest author. Lynn is the author of two collections of poetry, Corporal Works and Framed in Silence, (Four Way Books) and the editor of a collection of essays, Poets on the Psalms (Trinity University Press). She lives in Marquette, MI on the beautiful shores of Lake Superior and serves as Head of the English Department at Northern Michigan University. You can read more here: www.lynndomina.com.
In other news . . .
"Best American Poetry 2016" Launch Reading: Sept 22 at the New School in NYC 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm. David Lehman, poetry coordinator for the Creative Writing Program and series editor, will moderate the event. He will be joined by contributors to the anthology as well as Edward Hirsch, guest editor of the 2016 volume.
The Auditorium, Alvin Johnson/J.M. Kaplan Hall 66 West 12th Street, New York, NY 10011
David Lehman, poetry coordinator for the Creative Writing Program and series editor, will moderate the event. He will be joined by contributors to the anthology as well as Edward Hirsch, guest editor of the 2016 volume.
With poets Christopher Bakken, Catherine Barnett, Jill Bialosky, Paula Bohince, Michelle Boisseau, Marianne Boruch, Lynn Emanuel, Martín Espada, Charles Fort, Emily Fragos, Juliana Gray, Linda Gregerson, Mark Halliday, Jeffrey Harrison, Cynthia Hogue, Garrett Hongo, Erin Hoover, Richard Howard, T. R. Hummer, Major Jackson, Lawrence Joseph, Julie Kane, John Koethe, Loretta Collins Klobah, Keetje Kuipers, Deborah Landau, Robin Coste Lewis, Paul Mariani,, Debra Marquart, Hai-Dan Phan, Rowan Ricardo Phillips, Stanley Plumly, James Richardson, Patrick Rosal, Brenda Shaughnessy, Anya Silver, Taije Silverman,Tom Sleigh, A. E. Stallings,Susan Stewart, Nomi Stone, Adrienne Su, Lee Upton, Eleanor Wilner . . .
It will be historic.
Sponsored by the Creative Writing Program.
From the "Next Line, Please" corner of The American Scholar. A weekly challenge in verse.
The prompt for this week—to rewrite two to six lines of Milton’s “Lycidas”—turned out to be one of the most stimulating we’ve had in a long time. What wonderful submissions we’ve received. “Put it in the books,” as Mets’ radio announcer Howie Rose says after a New York victory. This is one for the books. John Milton, author of "Lycidas," the greatest elegy in the language, is pictured at the left. He was a handsome young man as a student of Christ's College, Cambridge.
I am happy to reveal that from now until the onset of winter, each week’s winner will receive a complimentary copy of The Best American Poetry 2016, edited by Edward Hirsch.
First place this week is divided between two different entries:
So what’s the point in striving every week
To pen some verses fit for “Next Line, Please”
While straining every sinew of the mind?
Why not seek pastimes of more common kind,
Abandon art, with YouTube take some ease,
Watch shady porn or kittens tangling skeins?
Which is, as she says, “(De)based on”
Alas! what boots it with uncessant care
To tend the homely, slighted shepherd’s trade,
And strictly meditate the thankless Muse?
Were it not better done, as others use,
To sport with Amaryllis in the shade,
Or with the tangles of Neæra’s hair?
This happens to be my own favorite quotation from “Lycidas,” and the very passage that I undertook to translate into a modern idiom (see below). I admire Millicent’s balance of contemporary reference (YouTube, “shady porn”) with the noble accents of the master (“While straining every sinew of the mind”). Nicely done.
Co-winner is Berwyn Moore’s
So spirals the seeds of the sunflower,
its buttery lattice a mathematical marvel.
Though Helianthos fades at summer’s end,
in time our friend will bow his studded head again.
After lines 168-171 of Milton’s poem:
So sinks the day-star in the ocean bed,
And yet anon repairs his drooping head,
And tricks his beams, and with new-spangled ore
Flames in the forehead of the morning sky:
Berwyn says her entry was “inspired by the Fibonacci sequence.” I like and use the Fiboinacci formula but don’t quite see how it applies here. This looks more like an “n + 7” exercise formulated by OuLiPo, the French association of writers and mathematicians devoted to creating new strict literary forms. (I hope Berwyn will elaborate on her method here.) In any case, there is something lovely in the alliteration of Berwyn’s first line, and the poignancy of “Though Helianthos fades at summer’s end” reminds me of my favorite line in Shakespeare’s sonnet # 18, “And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.”
First runner up is Paul Michelsen’s eloquent
Another Perfect Day
The sweetest friends make the most bitter ends
Not the first or last perfect day death ruined
Not too young, but too young for our liking
Our preferences no match with those of wild nature.
Once we sang together, now I sing alone,
but tomorrow’s silence here will lead to somewhere
else a chorus.
Inspired by the following lines:
Bitter constraint and sad occasion dear
Compels me to disturb your season due;
For Lycidas is dead, dead ere his prime,
Young Lycidas, and hath not left his peer.
Who would not sing for Lycidas? he knew
Himself to sing, and build the lofty rhyme.
Here is my own effort to capture the pith and meaning of the lines both Millicent Caliban and I chose:
Why study poetry, major in English, climb the stair—
Way to failure as you struggle with an obsolete art,
And woo a fickle muse, forsaking wealth and fame?
Wouldn’t it make better sense to enter the frame
Of the picture, kiss the girl and capture her heart
And glory in every last curl and wave of her hair?
For more, click here.
This week we welcome back Lisa Vihos as our guest blogger. Lisa's poems have appeared in numerous journals both print and online. Twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize, her third chapbook, This Particular Heaven, will appear in 2017 from Aldrich Press. She is the Poetry and Arts Editor of Stoneboat Literary Journal and the Sheboygan, Wisconsin organizer for 100 Thousand Poets for Change. She recently was the recipient of a Time-Out Grant from her undergraduate alma mater, Vassar College. In the coming year, she will be planning and building a children's reading garden to support literacy in Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi.
Welcome back, Lisa.
It could be because I have read the work of too many self-absorbed novelists who favor such sentences as these: "The next day I got up early and shut myself in the bathroom. I took a long shower. I dried my hair carefully, worrying that the hotel hair dryer, which blew violently, would give it the wrong wave." If this is the sort of thing you hate, read on for a recommended alternative.
Michel Houellebecq's new novel Submission, translated from the French by Paris Review editor Lorin Stein, and officially published this week by Farrar Straus and Giroux, comes as refreshment because it is about the great world outside and beyond the self -- the world of history in the making, as Hobbes might depict it if he were around. It is a world of wars and surrogates or warnings of war: threats, pronouncements, failed diplomacy, mob behavior, and murderous violence of an infinitely greater magnitude than that of a hotel hair dryer.
A moment ago I said that Submission came as refreshment to one who is tired of memoirs by individuals who have never done anything memorable. But while refreshing in this sense, the new novel is terrifying. It is a vision of the future that defies the policemen of political correctness. It dares to spin out a plausible scenario extrapolated from the acts and proclamations of ISIS, Al Queda, the Ayatollah, and terrorist entities whether organized or consisting of indoctrinated loners.
Some novels are like the needless elaboration of a Facebook entry. Not Houellebecq's. Submission is a work of invention and speculation. What happens if, in the next decade, the political alignments in France evolve to the point that the nominee of a Muslim political party wins the presidency? Is "Eurabia" the future of Europe? The vision of "submission" that is central to Islam informs this first-person narrative in which, inevitably, a proud people submits to fanatic religious dogma, women submit to men, and "submission" represents an impulse and a drive that would have merited Freud's attention. It is a fact sometimes neglected by commentators that Sharia represents a triumphant form of patriarchy -- a fact Houellebecq goes to town with.
Francois, the narrator, is a tenured professor, a scholar whose lifework centers upon J. K. Huymans, the late nineteenth-century author of A Rebours, a book that has been aptly called the "breviary of the Decadence." The conduct of university administrators, professors, and intellectuals is expertly skewered by the skeptical, world-weary Francois: "Over the course of the twentieth century, plenty of intellectuals had supported Stalin, Mao, or Pol Pot and had never been taken to task. For the French, an intellectual didn't have to be responsible. That wasn't his job."
The prose, always good enough to sustain the reader's attention, sometimes rises to eloquence: "We feel nostalgia for a place simply because we've lived there; whether we live well or badly scarcely matters. The past is always beautiful. So, for that matter, is the future. Only the present hurts, and we carry it around like an abscess of suffering, our companion between two infinities of happiness and peace."
Effortlessly provocative, informed as much by resignation as by ire, Submission may just be the most important novel published in the United States this year.. -- David Lehman [originally posted 10/23/15]
This week we welcome back M.J.Fitzgerald as our guest author. M.J. is the author of novels, short stories and essays, and teaches in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Minnesota.
Yearbook is part of an ongoing project, Drifts of Chance, a daughter's discoveries, a book of essays about the poet Robert Fitzgerald, best known for his translations of The Odyssey, The Iliad and The Aeneid. An earlier essay, Plots and Sisters, was posted on The Best American Poetry Blog in October 2014.
Welcome back, M.J.
Katy Evans-Bush is a New York-born poet and blogger who has spent most of her life in London. Author of two collections with Salt Publishing, her latest book is Forgive the Language, a collection of essays published by Penned in the Margins. Find her at baroqueinhackney.com
Thank you, Katy.
I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark
from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman
THE RULE OF THUMB
Ringfinger was nervous
when they learned
that Hand might succumb
to the rule of Thumb.