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Matthew Thorburn
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This has been a fun week, and it’s gone by too quickly. I want to leave you with one more book recommendation and some wise words from another poet I deeply admire. Stepping Stones, the collection of interviews with Seamus Heaney conducted by the late Dennis O’Driscoll, is like a portable literature seminar and MFA program all rolled into one. It reminds me, in fact, of a “mini-course” I took as an undergrad at the University of Michigan, taught by the great Leo McNamara; we met once a week with Leo Mac and he guided us page by page through... Continue reading
Posted May 24, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
Lately I’ve been thinking about the things we keep returning to as writers. Our obsessions, I heard an old novelist call them once, speaking to a group of students. You all have them, he said, you just may not know it yet. I guess this started because a friend invited me to contribute to an anthology she’s putting together of poems about ______. (A quick Google search doesn’t turn up the title, so I’ll keep this cat in its bag.) And I’ve learned ______ is something she’s really very interested in, both personally and as a writer. Whereas I’d really... Continue reading
Posted May 23, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
Tonight I’d like to recommend some summer reading. I’ve long admired Marianne Boruch as a poet. Her work is beautiful, quirky, wonderful to read aloud, and absolutely her own. Her poem “Still Life,” from Grace, Fallen from, for instance, is one of my favorites. (And what a great book title.) It’s hard to quote from without just giving you the whole poem, because where to stop? But here’s how it begins: Someone arranged them in 1620. Someone found the rare lemon and paid a lot and neighbored it next to the plain pear, the plain apple of the lost garden,... Continue reading
Posted May 22, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
Philip Larkin once remarked that he would like to visit China, but only if he could come home the same day. (I could do another week here on funny and/or curmudgeonly things he said.) He also said in his Paris Review interview that writing a poem was, for him, a way “to construct a verbal device that would preserve an experience indefinitely by reproducing it in whoever read the poem.” (As coldly scientific as that sounds, he of course also wrote some of the most beautiful and moving verbal devices in 20th century English. And he did go on at... Continue reading
Posted May 21, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
I want to kick off my stint here with a painting, a favorite poet, and a poem called “Poem.” At the beginning of last year I paid a visit to the Tibor de Nagy Gallery for what felt like a belated Christmas gift. It was one of those January days in New York – cold but sunny, no snow, milder than a January day ought to be – when you half-forget it’s winter, and I had brought my wife along to check out a compact but wonderful show of pictures by Elizabeth Bishop. “Small paintings on paper,” the Times called... Continue reading
Posted May 20, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
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May 20, 2013