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David Yezzi
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No doubt you have seen this headline from The Onion, one of their best: “Unconventional Director Sets Shakespeare Play In Time, Place Shakespeare Intended.” In recent years, the young director Arin Arbus (the daughter of the recently deceased actor Allan Arbus, whose fist wife, the photographer Diane Arbus, was the younger sister of Howard Nemerov) has been demonstrating, through her brilliant, critically acclaimed productions of Othello, Macbeth, Taming of the Shrew, and Much Ado about Nothing--all at Theater for a New Audience--that Shakespeare unadorned by heavy directorial concepts still has what it takes to reveal to us our humanity like... Continue reading
Posted May 3, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
I want to tell you about one of my favorite poems at the moment. It’s from Lord Byron’s Foot, by George Green, which was selected last year by David Mason for The New Criterion Poetry Prize and recently published by St. Augustine’s Press. As an editor at The New Criterion, I was thoroughly delighted by Mason’s choice, since I had championed George’s work on a number of occasions, both in the magazine and in The Swallow Anthology of New American Poets. I remember showing up several years ago to a marathon reading organized by Roddy Lumsden at a bar up... Continue reading
Posted May 2, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
If you can keep your head, while Dennis Hopper recites Rudyard Kipling’s “If” on the Johnny Cash Show, then you are a better man than me, my son. Check it out: The poem (still wildly popular in England) and Hopper are both quite good. Personally, I have been unsuccessful thus far in recruiting celebrities to recite my work on television. My fallback is to read the poems myself, occasionally in public. There's an open mic near me that I like called Carmine Street Metrics, though it takes place on Ave. B (after getting bounced from the Bowery Poetry Club last... Continue reading
Posted May 1, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
Of poetry, Marianne Moore famously wrote: “I, too, dislike it.” I wonder what she might have said about poetry readings? Moore herself was, I think, a charming reader, but, like her poems, also idiosyncratic. Sometimes the recording is at fault (I have a copy of a reading she gave at the 92nd Street Y with W. H. Auden that is grainy and hard to hear), but sometimes it’s just the way she reads—too quickly in spots, without careful articulation. Still, it is breathtaking to hear her voice. Hearing poets read can tell you so much about their work that you... Continue reading
Posted Apr 30, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
I like E. A. Robinson. I really do. No, I mean it. I really like his stuff much of the time. Especially the lyrics. The long poems, not so much (except maybe as sleep aids). Well, anyway, I want to like him a lot, but sometimes I get put off by a certain tone of . . . what? Fustiness? Creakiness? More and more, I’m realizing, though, that it is not always Robinson’s voice I am hearing in the poems, or not just his voice. The more I think about his poems—such as “Reuben Bright” and “Richard Cory”—the more I... Continue reading
Posted Apr 29, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
Here's a little intro I wrote for Don Paterson, who read at the 92nd Street Y last night with Paul Muldoon. It's not much of anything, and certainly not even a shadow of Paterson's gorgeous reading, but it has a few biographical facts that might interest folks who don't know Paterson's work. Unfortunately, I had to leave out quotes from poems I thought he might read. Here's one from his latest book, Rain, called "Correctives" that breaks my heart (the second-born of his identical twin boys, now 10, has a hand tremor, as the result of a difficult birth): The... Continue reading
Posted Oct 15, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
My squib today is about the epigraph to The Waste Land, which I had forgotten refers to the Sybil of Cumae, about whom more below. I’ve read the epigraph (and its translation) many times in the Norton Anthology and more recently in The Oxford Book of American Poetry and elsewhere, but only this week was I reminded by the composer Thierry Lancino--who had included a few lines of Eliot in a recent composition—of the wider resonances of the reference. (Again, apologies, if this is old hat.) First, there’s the epigraph to Eliot’s poem, taken from Petronius’s Satyricon: Here is the... Continue reading
Posted Sep 14, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
Here's a thought I had rereading Yeats's slightly curious and gorgeous-sounding late poem "Long-Legged Fly." I am pasting it below, so you can judge for yourself. If you are game for this miniature experiment in what Christopher Ricks might call allusion (intentional and perhaps un-), read the poem and count how many Auden poems it brings to mind. In other words, it seems to me that something of the music of this poem found its way into a number of Auden poems, about which more in a second. Here's the Yeats poem; find the lines that Auden must have admired... Continue reading
Posted Jul 7, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
Dianne Blakely is a phenomenal poet, and just now she's publishing a series of articles on about lesser-known but wonderful Southern poets that is well worth a look. First up are Lisa Russ Spaar, Molly Bendall, and Brian Teare, complete with extensive interviews of each. As she writes: "Charlottesville seems the right place to begin this National Poetry Month. As teachers there, Charles Wright and Rita Dove have received the most acclaimed national recognition, and I’ve written about both in the recent years [here and here], as well as a reminiscence of Eleanor Ross Taylor, whose husband Peter was... Continue reading
Posted Apr 23, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
Swallow Press & Book Culture invite you to a reading to celebrate The Swallow Anthology of New American Poets with Daniel Brown, John Foy, George Green & Molly McQuade. Introduced by David Yezzi Wednesday, February 17, at 7:00 p.m. Book Culture 2915 Broadway (entrance on 114th Street) Continue reading
Posted Feb 16, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
There's a provocative article in the current issue of the London-based magazine Standpoint titled "Eliot versus Hardy" by Dan Jacobson, an emeritus professor at University College. In it, Jacobson tells of an interesting reversal in his literary tastes: he began with a rapturous fondness for Eliot that over time was supplanted by an appreciation of Hardy's homier virtues. It's a fascinating compare-and-contrast, not least because the two were basically contemporaries. When Eliot wrote (unfavorably) about Hardy in After Strange Gods (1930), Hardy had been dead only two years. Hardy, for his part, copied verses from Eliot into his notebook. The... Continue reading
Posted Dec 9, 2009 at The Best American Poetry
This is brilliant, Jim. Many thanks for it!