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Dante Micheaux
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The envy of all other arts organizations (because of its titanic wealth), the Poetry Foundation “aspires to alter the perception that poetry is a marginal art, and to make it directly relevant to the American public.” If this is a truly an aspiration, perhaps it might make more sense to move past racializing the information it provides the public. I know that the trendy intellectual stance is to have no opinion or have all opinions—which in my thinking amount to cowardice. I am nitpicking here but it is an easy matter to clear up. Jay Wright is, unequivocally, the greatest... Continue reading
Posted Sep 4, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
“From that time forward a profound change set within me.” —Edward Carpenter, after reading Leaves of Grass “Because you have, as it were, given me a ground for the love of men I thank you continually in my heart…For you have made men to be not ashamed of the noblest instinct of their nature.” —Edward Carpenter to Walt Whitman, July 12, 1874 When I read Carpenter’s autobiography, particularly passages on the experience of reading Walt Whitman, there was such a familiarity. Years ago, I too had what Will Self describes as an epiphanic moment of empathy, when I first read... Continue reading
Posted Sep 3, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
but I couldn’t keep it to myself”, says the refrain of a gospel song, close to my heart—especially when sung by Mother Eloise Knight of Jerusalem Baptist Church, in Trenton, New Jersey. And I suppose the truth must have out: it bothers me that I have never had a poem published in The New Yorker. It bothers most American poets, even the ones who claim they couldn’t care less about the magazine. It bothers younger poets to an even greater extent. The magazine has a reputation for making journalists and literary artists feel as if they “have made it”, or... Continue reading
Posted Sep 2, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
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Besides making the best crab cakes in world and winning the Nobel Prize for astonishingly graceful yet epic prose, Toni Morrison is a consummate poet. On May 26, 2006, friends and family gathered to celebrate her retirement from Princeton University. Some of us had been President of the United States, some us were legendary performers and some of us had accosted her with so many questions as an adolescent that she never forgot us. As selected guests were each given time to discuss an aspect of her colossal artistry, a colleague, Paul Muldoon, got the honor of speaking in her... Continue reading
Posted Sep 1, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
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Jorie Graham is among the best poets writing in English and her poems have changed, both visually and in aspects of content, in a dramatic way—most evident from one collection of poems to the next. Helen Vendler, in a book that studies the changes in style of three different poets, theorizes that if “a poet puts off an old style (to speak for a moment as if this were a deliberate undertaking), he or she perpetrates an act of violence, so to speak, on the self”, (The Breaking of Style, 1), and goes on to apply this notion to Graham’s... Continue reading
Posted Aug 30, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
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In a 1999 essay published in The Southern Review, literary critic Laurence Goldstein implies Robert Hayden’s “Perseus” to be the greatest poem in the world. Though it may not reach such titular extravagance for me, it is my favorite Hayden poem and the reason why I continue to return to him again and again. Her sleeping head with its great gelid mass of serpents torpidly astir burned into the mirroring shield— a scathing image dire as hated truth the mind accepts at last and festers on. I struck. The shield flashed bare. Yet even as I lifted up the head... Continue reading
Posted Aug 30, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
Mr. Hummer, you lived in the same UK as I do now. There are certainly intelligent Englishman, like the eminent Henry James scholar mentioned in my first paragraph. James Byrne is English and kind and one of the most charming people I've ever met. Surely, there is good company to be found in Arizona.
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(home of John Keats) Everything you have heard about the English is true. They are disingenuous and dull except when they are drunk, which is almost all the time, on the cheapest, warmest swill one can imagine; and then they reach a level of unspeakable vulgarity. If I never stepped inside an English pub again, it would be too soon. Beating the streets of London in search of a good cocktail, I might as well have been training to climb Kilimanjaro! Contrarily, the English have great dental hygiene but simply have a different definition of the color white. The country... Continue reading
Posted Aug 29, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
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Aug 26, 2010