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Moira Egan
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(Seamus Heaney & Damiano Abeni, Casa delle Letterature, May, 2013) Blackberry-Picking for Philip Hobsbaum Late August, given heavy rain and sun For a full week, the blackberries would ripen. At first, just one, a glossy purple clot Among others, red, green, hard as a knot. You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet Like thickened wine: summer's blood was in it Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for Picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger Sent us out with milk cans, pea tins, jam-pots Where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots. Round hayfields,... Continue reading
Posted Aug 30, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
Though I worry that it sometimes veers into corniness, gratitude practice can be a lovely and helpful thing. I know that when my mood has swung very low, no sweet chariots in sight, I start to think about the things for which I am grateful. Though I live in a city that often drives me crazy, I am grateful that it's a beautiful city (and that you can't beat the food and the wine here). I am grateful that it seems that the Italian Parliament has finally voted to kick Berlusconi out. (Long time coming, but still.) I am grateful... Continue reading
Posted Nov 28, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
[Paolo Febbraro, Seamus Heaney, and Damiano Abeni at the Casa delle Letterature, Rome, May 2013] [According to the Poetry Foundation's website, "Paolo Febbraro is a poet and critic. His collections of verse include Il bene materiale (Libro Scheiwiller, 2008) and Deposizione (LietoColle, 2010)." He is also one of our dear friends. This piece was first published in Il Sole 24 Ore, 1 September, 2013.] It’s very much worthwhile to learn English to read a poet. To learn a language in its chromatics, in its folds, in its rhythmic inclinations. And certainly, in literature, that language is always the language of... Continue reading
Posted Sep 14, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
I first “met” Rosie Schaap, author of Drinking with Men, in a most unusual and literary way. Damiano and I had just finished up our “Poetry & Translation Song & Dance Routine,” as we call it, for this past spring’s group of University of Washington Rome Center students. One of them came up to me and said, “I really liked your poem that was on that podcast.” “What podcast?!?” I hadn’t known. So when I got home, the first thing I did was google it, and this is what I found. Have a listen if you want to hear a... Continue reading
Posted Aug 16, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
I’m certainly not going to complain about where I spend my Augusts these days. But I must confess to a little pang of nostalgia when one dear poet girlfriend who lives in New York wrote to tell me about hanging out in the East Village with another dear poet girlfriend who will be staying in New York for the next few months. How I loved New York in August, especially my old, East Village stomping grounds. You know the story: the city empties out. It’s hot as hell, but the streets are relatively quiet, and you can walk in the... Continue reading
Posted Aug 5, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
It's been an Andrea-infused whirlwind at the West Chester Poetry Conference this week, and it's also, I will formally state, been a lot of fun. And I don't mean this post to seem a cheat, but I'm going to share with you some excellent ideas for summer poetry reading. Mezzo Cammin, an online journal of formal poetry by women, has just published its 15th issue; to celebrate, they have published 15 reviews of poetry books by 15 contemporary poets. I'm going to re-recommend the wonderful Babette Deutsch, as I have done in my review. I knew her name mostly from... Continue reading
Posted Jun 7, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
Oh forgive my early-morning typo! FORMALLY, of course!
Last night we had the great pleasure of listening to Julia Alvarez read -- her poems! She said herself that it's been a while since she thought of herself as a poet rather than a novelist. At our sonnet panel earlier in the day, we had talked about the value of bringing simple diction and earthy detail into contemporary poetry in form, and it was wonderful to hear her talk about her own early loves: many dead white guys. But how to insert a female, as she said, immigrant voice into that tradition? Well, she said, go into the poems... Continue reading
Posted Jun 6, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
Overheard at dinner: "When reading Merrill, you just have to suspend your heterotextuality." "You are right there in the liminal zone." * * * Tomorrow: sonnets on parade. A wee sampling: From the inimitable Kathrine Varnes: The Fleshpot Sonnets (a crown) 1. This moment's peach -- sometimes it's just enough sweetness, despite the stone and bitter skin or because of both, because. Because the thin juices won't behave: soaking the white cuff edges, filling, spilling from the palm's trough, flesh of water, sugar gracing the chin, tracing the neck like a contemplation of sin we can wash away. We don't... Continue reading
Posted Jun 4, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
Jet lag is not fun but it can be funny. Imagine sitting across the table from your sister, having a perfectly normal conversation, when suddenly, although you seem to be awake, you are not, and you start talking in your sleep. You say completely irrelevant and inexplicable things, like "Not everyone can be a chef." Maybe the Delphic Oracle had jet lag. Though I have always suspected that Tori Amos was the Delphic Oracle for our age. No, I never was a Corn Flake girl, either. This week, after the jet lag: sonnets, sestinas, and live reporting from the West... Continue reading
Posted Jun 3, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
One of the great things about being an American poet who happens to live in Rome is the proximity to the American Academy in Rome. In recent years, things have become even better for us poetry-loving Romans, thanks to AAR trustee William B. Hart, who endowed an eponymous Residency for a senior poet to join the community at the Academy. Karl Kirchwey, poet, professor, and, for these past three years, Heiskell Arts Director at the AAR, has provided some wonderful programming in conjunction with the poets' visits (a remembrance of Brodsky, readings and seminars on and in translation [Italian/English and... Continue reading
Posted May 22, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
Don't you love it when the New York Times imitates life? When I saw today's article about sipping on a sunset and thinking about Italy, I couldn't decide if I should laugh or cry. I came back from Sardegna to Rome just in time for the latest heat wave. They've begun naming heat waves here the same way hurricanes are named in the States. Well, sort of the same way: it's not alphabetical and they are named after classical characters, both mythological and historical. The first one I heard about was Charon, then there were Minos, Ulysses, Scipio. Now it... Continue reading
Posted Aug 8, 2012 at The Best American Poetry
Happy New Year! I'm just sorry that I couldn't find the scratch-n-sniff version of this image that is intentionally out-of-season for many of us who read this blog. Time passes, seasons change: yep, that's what they do. Hope you're dug out from under that snow! Just thought I'd pass along the time-altering, season-shifting resolution that I'm really going to try to keep this year. This one is not about going to the gym or eating fewer carbs or being nicer to your neighbors (though those things might just alter time, or create that feeling anyway!) Here it is: Take ten... Continue reading
Posted Jan 1, 2011 at The Best American Poetry
Happy Mother's Day to all of you moms out there! Like many wandering Americans, I've spent much of my adult life living in places that happen to be far away from my mother, from New York to Dublin, from Thessaloniki to Rome. This, I should say at the outset, has been driven by my desire to wander rather than a desire to be away from my mother, who is a very cool mother and, by the way, also a dear friend. So this last move, which brought me here to Rome, also began to pose interesting possibilities for spending good... Continue reading
Posted May 9, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
We can't be there, but we hope you can. Continue reading
Posted Dec 5, 2009 at The Best American Poetry
That floating, tooth-shaped thing and the wiggle beneath it are murmurations of starlings. Yes, that really is the collective noun for starlings: nice, isn't it? There was a beautiful photo essay about Rome's starlings in the NYT a couple of years ago that's well worth checking out: go here. Of course, we don't have "Black Friday" in Rome, since we don't have Thanksgiving, but I thought I'd post some pictures that feature black in honor of the day. I'm not going shopping, no. Are you? But we did have Thanksgiving dinner. Did you see that New Yorker essay about expat... Continue reading
Posted Nov 27, 2009 at The Best American Poetry
[Vesuvius looming over Naples] Things I remember from the first time I visited Naples: it was mercilessly hot. Our hotel room was tiny, brown, and stifling, and the toilet paper was, well, awful. I couldn't sleep because, out on the streets, they were playing music very loudly, especially, over and over, "Delilah" by Tom Jones: it was the summer when that was a huge and ubiquitous hit, even in Italy. More recent impressions of Naples have concerned the Camorra, described by Roberto Saviano in his best-selling, terrifying book, Gomorra. The garbage strike, millions of Euros spent putting that trash on... Continue reading
Posted Nov 12, 2009 at The Best American Poetry
This just in! Tomorrow (Thursday) at 5 p.m. Rome time (11 a.m. East Coast Time), listen to an interview on RAI with John Ashbery on the occasion of Un mondo che non può essere migliore: Poesie scelte 1956-2007 (translated by Damiano Abeni and Moira Egan, with an introduction by Joseph Harrison) having won a Special Prize from the Premio Napoli. Go to Continue reading
Posted Oct 21, 2009 at The Best American Poetry