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Molly Peacock
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D.W. Winnicott’s marvelous book, Playing and Reality, published in the mid-20th century, describes the intermediate area between external and internal experience where we play. As children play, they define this arena, beginning their relationships with the world. Play is the source of creativity, and Winnicott doesn’t mean artistic product, but instead the creativity of everyday life, the shared playing that creates culture. Though the talk about play is complex, actual playing feels simple and natural, provided you weren’t a child whose capacity for play was damaged. It is a very big job to teach someone how to play. Or to... Continue reading
Posted Nov 15, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
Caricature—beloved of 18th-century wits—still has its satirical seat in newspapers, news journals, and, of course, political blogs. But every time I look at a satirical cartoon, I feel sorry for the subject, even if it’s a centuries-dead Georgian-era moll. Another little hit on the vanity button… And what about caricatures of contemporary poets? Can the general public identify any North American poet from a photograph, let alone recognize that visage in a caricature? Poetry catapults no one to caricaturability. But on the cover of every volume of Storyline Press’s Critical Introduction monograph series is a caricature of the subject by... Continue reading
Posted Nov 14, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
My guess is that the Missionary Position of most collaborations between poets and artists is the sequential one: poet finishes poem, then illustrator steps in. It may not be fancy, but it’s so reliable. Who cares about a Kama Sutra of collaboration as long as the basic sequence works? In a week’s worth of blogging about collaboration, surely the traditional way to connect deserves its moment, provided that moment has just a little bit of glamour. My chosen star of the regular way to do it is the intriguing and gutsy Peck and Pock: A Graphic Poem by Kathleen Driskell... Continue reading
Posted Nov 13, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
A Companionship of Lines: Take two on poetry as a collaborative art... How do you stay in touch with poetry when you’ve had such enormous success as a novelist that all the winds in your life blow you toward the sentence and not the line? Poet and novelist Anne Michaels, the author of Fugitive Pieces and The Winter Vault, has found an answer in a fascinating collaboration with visual artist Bernice Eisenstein, herself the author of a graphic memoir I recommend to all: I Was a Child of Holocaust Survivors. The line is literally the source of their enterprise together.... Continue reading
Posted Nov 12, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
Poetry can be lonely to write. One antidote? Collaboration. A Mutual Muse steps out when two artists, from different disciplines, work in tandem. Each one can sense the vibrancy of the other’s imagination throbbing, stalling, racing, lolling, and napping. Intimate, yes. Sexual, no. But can untrusting and solitary souls like poets actually collaborate with other artists? Join forces, team up, cooperate, liase? Here comes a week of answers to solo angst… The Rose-Colored Chair at the End of the Mind “Oh I want that chair!” my friend the poet Phillis Levin said to me when I emailed her Kara Kosaka’s... Continue reading
Posted Nov 11, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
James Arthur! So there are TWO of you! Thanks for bringing up the issue of form. Besides Zach's sonnet anthology, there is also the intriguing anthology IN FINE FORM edited by Sandy Shreve and Kate Braid a collection of all kinds of forms followed by and even invented by Canadian poets. It's published by Polestar Books. Cheers, Molly
Dear Zach, Thanks again for adding zest to this discussion. Poetry in Canada rather than Canadian Poetry is a great way to reinvigorate the aesthetic/national talk that, you're right, breaks out into superficialities at every turn. But I do notice that the subtitle to your fab anthology Jailbreaks is, um, 99 Canadian Sonnets, not 99 Sonnets from Canada. There is something sticky about those national adjectives! And, as you note, something fascinating about geographical proximity. The closeness of Newfoundland and Ireland, for instance, and the powerhouse literature being made in Newfoundland. Again, I appreciate all you've said as our Canadian-American week comes to an end. All the best for breaking us out of the jail of these distinctions, Molly
Thanks for bringing laughs into our ultra-serioso conversation, Jim! This girl rolls her sleeves, but she stops at insect antennae. Eeeuuwwh!
Hi Zach, Thanks for joining the fray! You mean you don't like my swimming pool/lake analogy? I kind of enjoy your notion of a "lake school" (and a "pool school" for that matter). It's true, I haven't fit minimalism into my categories, and it certainly belongs there. I'm quite a fan of Catherine Graham's work myself. Still, isn't there some value in hungering to describe what's distinctive about national poetries? Even if it propels one to resort to a cliche? Whenever I ask Canadian poets what distinguishes them from their US counterparts, I get only the vaguest answers. Have you got an analogy that makes better sense? Perhaps its all a point of view problem: the closer a commenter becomes to this poetry, the fewer distinctions the commenter can see? But literature thrives on distinctions! So I'm going to go on making them. Even a stereotype, properly framed, can foster cultural growth. Thanks for your your non-Canadian impoliteness. (And I'm proud to be in 99 Sonnets.)
Susan Ioannou, I'm going to look for that Canadians Are Not Americans book. . .
Susan Cody, thank you so much for those comments on Avison and her "double-jointed back handedness." It's too bad that The New Yorker's website doesn't have a way of helping people identify poems such as the one you remember. And I wonder if anyone out there has been tracking Canadian appearances in that magazine. . . .Anyone?
Sonia Elizabeth Di Placido makes an important point about the new canon: that's very much why we're engaged in this project. By naming names we're enlarging the existing canon, or at least changing it. I also like to think of projects like this as shaping the landscape of contemporary letters -- or perhaps simply acknowledging that the landscape is now being influenced by new weather and new upheavals.
Thanks so much for your thoughtful comments, Jason. I'm glad you were impressed with Stephanie Bolster's choices. I was, too. As the General Series Editor I didn't want to interfere with her process, and I must say it was absolutely meticulous. She found many stunning poems, yours included. As for naming the names of Canadian poets, I think we need to do that wherever and whenever we can. It keeps bringing these poets into the light of an American readership -- a readership that only knows a very few of them So I'm very glad you have added to Bloom's list, even while appreciating his opinions.
I'm just catching up on responding to these posts, and I want to thank Craig Poile for reading that Avison poem aloud. It's worth the "punishment" to figure out how to deliver it. She thanks you, I'm sure, from wherever she is now . . . All the best, Molly
This blog is honored to hear from Professor Ian Lancashire, the pioneer of the fabulous website Representative Poetry On Line. If you've never been to this site, it's quite amazing. It's one of the most comprehensive and august sites for poetry in English on the web. (I say this with prejudice, since I sit on its Board of Advisors.) The names that Ian reels out pack a punch for Canadian readers, but hardly make a "ting" in the ears of Americans, so I'm glad to hear this litany. Just to add: Jason Guriel, who takes Harold Bloom to task, is in The Best Canadian Poetry 2008.
Sylvie Planet, thank you for reading this blog at 2am and adding that non shoulder shrug! Americans don't have much awareness of the dual languages of Canada. That's why the "we" is so fraught, you readers out there. . . Nous avons besoin d'un anthologie en francais aussi.
I'm thrilled with all these responses, both to The Best Canadian Poetry in English idea as well as to Margaret Avison herself. To Bruce Meyer's love of Avison's prickly distance, I should add her comments about this poem, written shortly before her death: "Hag-Ridden" was written in Margaret's eighty-eighth year, when she was well-acquainted with a need to use a cane on her daily walks out under the "mysterious (some days dazzling) sky." This comment can be found in the end notes to The Best Canadian Poetry 2008.