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Jonathan Farmer
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Reading and writing are solitary pleasures, and yet both can offer a profound sense of connection. Writing these posts, I hear what I always do when I write, a version of my own voice, sometimes confident—as though I’m convinced by my own posture that someone wants to hear what I’m saying—sometimes trying too hard to sound confident, as though I’m fighting against the vulnerability of it all. After all these years of writing, I still haven’t learned how to write without aspiring to authority (pun intended, I guess), which is (he writes with apparent confidence) one of my biggest weaknesses.... Continue reading
Posted Sep 21, 2012 at The Best American Poetry
I’ve just finished a review of Lucille Clifton’s Collected Poems for next month’s Slate Book Review. I wanted to cover the book for a variety of reasons, chief among them the fact that some of Clifton’s poems have been immensely important to me. But I wanted to write about it, too, because I’m the only poetry critic for the Review, and I think it’s important that the poetry there represent some of the diversity that makes up American culture. It’s a challenging assignment, which was also part of its appeal. In the book’s afterword, Kevin Young places Clifton’s poetry in... Continue reading
Posted Sep 20, 2012 at The Best American Poetry
“Kind” and “kind”—adjective and noun. They go back to the same root, one they share with “kin.” Family, sex, rank: it’s all in there. An idea of belonging, or not. Enlarging the circle, or not. As I get older, I value kindness more and more. And yet I’ve never been able to get all that excited about my membership in the human family, or the family of all living things, or the family of poets, aspiring and otherwise. Whatever we are, we aren’t one, and spare me the poem that says otherwise. Kindness, for me, is a humbling—not ignoring distinctions,... Continue reading
Posted Sep 19, 2012 at The Best American Poetry
These days, in this country, if you ask someone why poetry matters, she probably won’t reach for Shelley. Poets had a much better chance of being the “unacknowledged legislators of the world” back when some of the acknowledged legislators still read poems—and the emphasis on power and control doesn’t sit as well with the democratic ideals that shape so much of the thinking about American poetry. Now, you’re more likely to hear from William Carlos Williams: It is difficult to get the news from poems yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there. Williams sets... Continue reading
Posted Sep 18, 2012 at The Best American Poetry
“I had yet to share in the communal sense-making procedures (the horizon of expectation, the interpretive community, what have you) that would make this text readable.” -- Maureen McLane on Frank O’Hara, from My Poets I’ve been stuck on community lately—community expectations, the promise of meaning, what it means and what it takes to write a poem. Poetry’s a funny business. We work with a relatively marginal art form that seems to insist on its centrality. And one that, while requiring the fewest possible resources for its creation, seems to require more than most from its audience to succeed. A... Continue reading
Posted Sep 17, 2012 at The Best American Poetry
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Sep 15, 2012