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Sandra Beasley
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We spend so much time talking about the frustrations of poetry--from the perils of revision to the difficulties of publication--and so little time talking about how lucky we are to be poets. Once, during a fight with a lover, he snapped, You don't know what it's like, to not know what you want to do. And he had a point. For better or for worse, for twenty years I have known what I wanted to do: write poetry. It hasn't always been easy, and it's certainly never been financially viable, but it's been a steady priority. And that (along with... Continue reading
Posted May 8, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
Tonight I attended a ceremony for the 27th Annual Larry Neal Writers' Awards, a wonderful program the DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities uses to honor Washington's child, teenage, and adult writers in the genres of fiction, essays, dramatic writing, and poetry. The guest speaker was Sherman Alexie, winner of the 2010 PEN/Faulkner Award for his novel War Dances. He told a charming story about overhearing a couple break up in a bookstore, sentencing the (ex-)boyfriend to a lifetime of nauseous association with bookstores. Or (here the storyteller in him was kicking into gear, he warned), perhaps the distaste... Continue reading
Posted May 7, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
Sestina: six six-line stanzas that use a common set of endwords, culminating in a tercet incorporating those same six endwords, with the endwords appearing in a prescribed order. Sestina: a 12th-century form invented the the troubadours, particularly Provençal poet Arnaut Daniel. A form whose acrobatics declare Look at me. If I weren't a Real Poet--worthy of patronage--could I write this? Sestina: jigsaw puzzle. Obsession. Bee in the bonnet. Bugaboo. I first came to the sestina form in college, at the order of an advanced seminar that cycled us through every major poetic form. Faced with that Soduku-like pattern of endwords,... Continue reading
Posted May 6, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
Once, a friend was giving me feedback on a poem that would appear in my first collection, Theories of Falling. He had concerns about the leaps of narrative that my draft was making, the wild associations between image and intent. "Look," he said, "to write a poem is to build a wall. Every image is a brick in that wall." He made a gesture of wedging a brick in place, then troweling the cement around it, then shaving off the excess. Methodical. Neat. "When you lay your last image down, there's your story." As much as I respected this poet,... Continue reading
Posted May 5, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
This past Sunday, I read to about 70 people at Politics & Prose in Washington, DC. I couldn't have asked for a better audience: friends, poetry lovers, old high school English teachers, former bosses, and my grandmother (in the pink suit). I told them to "smile for the Best American Poetry blog," so here they are: Afterwards, there were books to sign. A lot of books. I took far too long with each one--as always, I find myself slipping back into the mode of signing high school yearbooks--and while there are certain phrases that come easily to me, I always... Continue reading
Posted May 3, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
Red, green, blue horses, I wrote, ride up and down. I paused, wondering how to complete my ode to carousels. Up and down, I scribbled a second time. Repetition was poetic, right? Our third-grade teacher circulated the classroom, reading over our shoulders as we hunched over our desks. “You,” she picked. “Okay, you. You.” With a handful of others I walked down the halls of Haycock Elementary School to the classroom where, for the rest of the year, we would have a weekly poetry class. A round table nearly filled the tiny space. We sat down to wait in our... Continue reading
Posted May 2, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
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May 2, 2010