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The Best American Poetry
Welcome to The Best American Poetry blog. We launched this blog in January, 2008, to create a place where we and friends can exchange, discuss, and argue about poems and poetry. We soon discovered that it would be even more fun to post about anything that fuels our passions, be it movies or sex or baseball or ballet or cocktails or finance or music, because these are, after all, the same subjects that generate poems. Then we flung the doors open and invited others to join in. And we decided that contributors to the blog need not be poets as long as they share a love of good writing and poetry. The only things we ask our regular and guest bloggers to avoid are personal attacks. You'll find enough of that stuff elsewhere. We celebrate freedom of expression. The opinionS of our contributors are their own and not necessarily those of the blog's editorial team or of other contributors. We welcome comments as long as they keep within the bounds of civil discourse. Our roster of correspondents is always changing. We are large! We contain multitudes! Please visit often.Our roster of correspondents is always changing. We are large! We contain multitudes! Please visit often.
Interests: music, food, finance, cocktails, movies, baseball, sex, poetry, mad men.
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Hello friends - this is Jess Smith with my second installment on fitness and writing. Thank you all for your thoughts on last week's piece. For the next few weeks I'll be exploring the connection between physical fitness and writing. Long obsessed with both, I'm hoping to examine the relationship between the body and the pursuit of writing from many angles - why are so many of the most exciting poets I know also obsessive runners? Why are so many of the poets I know former hardcore athletes, some of them even flirting with professional status? Alternately, why do some writers slyly criticize the pursuit of physical fitness? Is fitness an addiction like anything else, and we poets are somehow more prone to be seduced by its high? And, as with any work, I'm excited to explore questions I've long had about myself and my own dogged pursuit of fitness, often at the sacrifice of sitting down to write. I look forward to posting here and to hearing your thoughts on the matter, all you poet-athletes out there. For my second post, a meditation on illness, family, and how I dealt with my body and my writing when my mother was sick. That's her holding my hand at her wedding in 1988. Big hair = big love. Happy reading and happy weekend. * First, she said it was a stomach bug. Nothing to worry about. Then she called me to say, okay, it’s a lump. A lump I have to have removed. Three days later, finally, she said it: cancer. Sometimes, when you have a horrible suspicion, it almost feels good to have it confirmed. The relief of substantiation. * While I do not always write about my mother, she is present in everything that I write. She has often struggled with her appearance in my work. Ever my biggest supporter and number one fan, it’s still not easy to be criticized or dramatized by your daughter. I’ve also appropriated some of her stories - mostly because they are so totally amazing and crazy - but I’ve never known how to just write about her. It’s always around her, next to her, or she’s operating as an overseer, some high Southern priestess hovering above my work. A mentor whose mother passed away when he was a teenager put this phenomenon well when he told me “No matter what poem I’m writing, my mother is always dead in that poem.” Though I have a large and exceptionally close family, my mother is the epicenter of my writing world. For many reasons (all of them sad), my father has not been a part of my life since I was a child. My mother and I had a few hardscrabble years in there where it was her and me against the world. I don’t think either one of us has quite lost that sensation. Because poetry begins where words fail us, it is the only medium in which I’ve ever adequately been able... Continue reading
Posted yesterday at The Best American Poetry
1. New and Selected Poems by David Lehman "Lehman uses many conveyances—including the prose poem, the sestina, and curt rhymes—to travel across the writing life of a poet whose instinctive romanticism is always bracing and tough-minded, brimming with a rare generosity.” - Ken Tucker 2. The Best American Poetry 2014 guest editor Terence Hayes. "One of the strongest volumes in recent years, Hayes makes an offering to readers: "salute what I salute, and be transformed as I have been transformed." " Publishers Weekly 3. This Way Out by Terence Winch. "Winch's seventh collection is "imaginative, soulful, and funny...THIS WAY OUT gives us Terence Winch at the top of his game."—Bob Hicok 4. Holistic Tarot by Bennebell Wen “Benebell Wen’s erudite, personable guide to Tarot is essential reading not only for Tarot learners, but for writers, artists and anyone interested in the mysteries of the human psyche." -- Amy Glynn 5. Paul Violi: Selected Poems 1970-2007 "These poems consistently amaze but never veer into implausible flights of fancy and always remind readers to celebrate the world." --Publishers Weekly 6. Short: An International Anthology of Five Centuries of Short-Short Stories, Prose Poems, Brief Essays, and Other Short Prose ed. Alan Zeigler “Essential reading for anyone interested in the short form.... The array of writers is unprecedented, and the pieces are fabulous, engaging, and, well, they’re short!” —Gary Shteyngart 7. Spin Cycles by Charles Coe "Charles Coe has done something remarkable and indispensable. He has reminded us, as the best fiction always does, that every person has a story to tell, even that sad, disheveled, and vaguely disturbing street-wanderer from who we a avert our eyes when we pass." –William Martin, Back Bay and The Lincoln Letters 8. Castrata: a Conversation by Laura Orem "Castrata" is a conversation across history—a conversation about the body’s centrality in grief, rage, and ultimately in triumph" -– Leslie McGrath, author of Opulent Hunger, Opulent Rage and By the Windpipe. 9. Why God is a Woman by Nin Andrews "On the island where I grew up--Virginia in the 1960s--mothers told their daughters, 'it's a man's world.' Nin Andrews stands that world on its head, throwing its absurdities into sharp and witty relief. But her poems are for men as well as women, inviting us all to re-imagine love, desire, death, and visions of paradise."—Anne-Marie Slaughter 10. Bloof Books Just about any title from this hard working small press will please and delight. Here you will find recent titles by Danielle Pafunda, Sandra Simonds, Jennifer L. Knox, and Peter Davis. 12. Poets have to make a living. Jennifer L. Knox has figured it out with Saltlickers, her inspired and inspiring line of flavored salts. All natural, with "no preservatives or other creepy shiznit." I made gravlax. 13. Give the gift of giving. Heather McHugh, poet and guest editor of BAP 2007 established Caregifted to give long term caregivers "a week off, to give them a week where they’re magically transported to this breathtakingly gorgeous place of nature and art,... Continue reading
Posted yesterday at The Best American Poetry
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Kathy Ossip and Mark Bibbins, members of the first graduating class (1998) of the New School Writing Program (photo by Danielle Chin) On December 10th at the New School, former and current students, faculty members, friends, admirers, and aspiring writers joined professors and poets Mark Bibbins and Kathleen Ossip as they read their poems and discussed their careers. The forum, aroused feelings of nostalgia for Bibbins and Ossip, who had both been members of The New School M.F.A. Writing Program's first graduating class. Luis Jaramillo, the Chair of the Writing Program, gave Bibbins and Ossip a warm welcome, saying they weren't just guests or faculty members, but family. "If we had an alumni award, these two should get the alumni award," Jaramillo said. "Will we have to share it?" Bibbins remarked, giving the audience a sense that he was just as funny in person as the humor he creates in his poems. "You'll each get your own," said Jaramillo. "They're wonderful literary citizens, not just at the New School but in the broader poetry community. I'm so honored and humbled to be able to introduce these two," Jaramillo said before giving the podium to Bibbins. Bibbins is the author of three volumes of poetry, most recently They Don't Kill You Because They’re Hungry, They Kill You Because They're Full (Copper Canyon Press, 201. He is the poetry editor of The Awl and a recipient of a New York Foundation for the Arts fellowship. His work has appeared in The Paris Review, The Boston Review, Tin House, Poetry, Legitimate Dangers: American Poets of the New Century, and elsewhere. Poems of his have been included in three volumes of The Best American Poetry (2004, 2009, 2010). During their time as New School MFA students, Bibbins and Ossip were workshop students of David Lehman and they spoke proudly of the work they had produced in his class. To introduce the his first poem, Bibbins referenced the man who inspired his writing of it: “David Lehman has a poem, one of the first of his that I read. It’s called ‘A Little History’ and I rewrote it.” “Some people find out they are post-modernists./ They can’t believe it./ They had always hated post-modernists./…Sometimes they were content to chase a post-modernist and he could elude them by theory,” read Bibbins, provoking hearty laughter from the audience. “I don’t remember what book the original was from…No Lehman scholars in here?” Mark said after reading his revision of Lehman’s poem. [Editor's note: It is in Lehman's 1996 book Valentine Place.] Bibbins had once been advised to say the name of his books before referring to the poems in them while speaking at a panel or forum. “[The title is] too long for that,” Bibbins said, referring to They Don’t Kill You Because They’re Hungry, They Kill You Because They’re Full. “I’ll look like a tool. More of a tool.” In his poem “The Editors,” Bibbins describes how barbaric their jobs can be: “To statements made in order/... Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at The Best American Poetry
Hot Toddy by David Lehman December 16, 2014 To this bon vivant, the limericks you wrote featured just the right amount of mixology and sexology. There was a photo finish, and the winner by a nose was Rebecca Epstein’s There once was a man named Abel Whose thirst was insati-able. All day he lapped brandy That tasted like candy, But at night his hot toddy was Mabel. The ostentatious cleverness of the initial rhyme gets us right into the spirit of things, and the cocktail named in the final line goes down like a rum grog in a candlelit chamber. So “Hot Toddy,” as I think of it, gets the win, while this unheralded entry from Someone with a Clue finished strong to take second place: “I’ll give you a choice,” said Mabel, (Who’d screw any drunk in a label), To the smooth-talking dandy, With fine taste in brandy, “On top or under the table?” It may have the best last line. I admired, too, the way “label” in the second line works as shorthand for a certain type of fashion-conscious professional, male of the species. Of James the Lesser’s several impressive entries, the one about able “Andy” finished in the money. It wowed with its closure, which conveys a sense of mighty prowess in beautifully understated rhetoric. A clever feat, it reminded me of what can be done when restraint and repetition are yoked—as in the final stanzas of Edwin Arlington Robinson’s Miniver Cheevy, a poem I heartily recommend: There once was a sweetheart named Andy, whose ‘tastes’ were exceedingly randy. Of what he was able, ask Doris, or Mabel— or Jessica, Alice, or Brandi. Reagan Upshaw deserves honorable mention for the sophistication of sensibility and vocabulary here on display: An overindulgence in brandy Had Chaplin the Tramp feeling randy. He called out to Mabel “I want you in déshabil- Lé, with a camera handy!” Though it didn’t use the suggested rhyme scheme, Carlos Alcala’s limerick may be the naughtiest in the old-fashioned sense, and if this were chess, where extraordinary moves get exclamation points (also known as screamers), I’d place one after the second and fifth lines, for the colloquial excellence of the former and the reference to Thelonious Monk’s piano jazz on the other. At the abbey, the Sisters were drunk On the sacrament, who woulda thunk? One nun quit her habit For an unrighteous abbot, And played with felonious monk If you’re wondering, I chose “brandy” and “Mabel” as possible end words for two reasons. One was Ogden Nash’s “Reflections on Ice-Breaking” (“Candy / Is dandy, / But liquor / Is quicker.”). The second is that W. H. Auden in one of his speculative essays postulates that nearly all writers “are either Alices or Mabels.” For example, according to Auden, Virginia Woolf is an Alice, while James Joyce is a Mabel. Figuring out what Auden meant by this classification, which is accompanied by two passages from Lewis Carroll, would itself make for a fine parlor game.... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at The Best American Poetry
(This video first appeared here on December 20, 2011) Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at The Best American Poetry
On the subject of brilliant closure, consider the endings of the final two stanzas here. Notice the power of understatement -- how rhetorical restraint can serve to underscore rather than undermine. I'm thinking of "kept on" in the last stanza, and even more so "and thought" in the second to last. -- DL Miniver Cheevy, child of scorn, Grew lean while he assailed the seasons; He wept that he was ever born, And he had reasons. Miniver loved the days of old When swords were bright and steeds were prancing; The vision of a warrior bold Would set him dancing. Miniver sighed for what was not, And dreamed, and rested from his labors; He dreamed of Thebes and Camelot, And Priam’s neighbors. Miniver mourned the ripe renown That made so many a name so fragrant; He mourned Romance, now on the town, And Art, a vagrant. Miniver loved the Medici, Albeit he had never seen one; He would have sinned incessantly Could he have been one. Miniver cursed the commonplace And eyed a khaki suit with loathing; He missed the mediæval grace Of iron clothing. Miniver scorned the gold he sought, But sore annoyed was he without it; Miniver thought, and thought, and thought, And thought about it. Miniver Cheevy, born too late, Scratched his head and kept on thinking; Miniver coughed, and called it fate, And kept on drinking. Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at The Best American Poetry
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This week we welcome back Loren Goodman as our guest author. Loren is the author of Famous Americans, selected by W.S. Merwin for the 2002 Yale Series of Younger Poets, Suppository Writing (2008) and New Products (2010). He is an Associate Professor of Creative Writing and English Literature at Yonsei University/Underwood International College, UIC Creative Writing Director, and Pacific Correspondent for The Best American Poetry Web Blog. Welcome back, Loren. --sdh Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at The Best American Poetry
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Hello friends - this is Jess Smith and I want to start by saying I'm grateful to Stacey and David for giving me the space on here to connect with all of you. For the next few weeks I'll be exploring the connection between physical fitness and writing. Long obsessed with both, I'm hoping to examine the relationship between the body and the pursuit of writing from many angles - why are so many of the most exciting poets I know also obsessive runners? Why are so many of the poets I know former hardcore athletes, some of them even flirting with professional status? Alternately, why do some writers slyly criticize the pursuit of physical fitness? Is fitness an addiction like anything else, and we poets are somehow more prone to be seduced by its high? And, as with any work, I'm excited to see what answers come to questions I've long had about myself and my own dogged pursuit of fitness, often at the sacrifice of sitting down to write. I look forward to posting here and to hearing your thoughts on the matter, all you poet-athletes out there. For my first post, a little background on my time as a yoga teacher. Happy reading and happy weekend. I can always tell when my students have crossed what I think of as “the yoga line.” They go from doggedly pursuing the postures - breathing raggedly, eyes darting about the room to see if they can imitate other students, flopping into child’s pose in mock defeat - to total acceptance. I can tell by the way their faces go blank, by the symmetry of their inhales and exhales. I can tell when they’ve let something go they didn’t even realize they were holding on to. This boundary is significant not because these students can suddenly put their ankles behind their necks or hold handstand in the middle of the room, but rather that they are practicing. Truly, mindfully practicing. Just as someone can be taught to write a technically perfect sonnet but not how to breathe life into it, I can teach my yoga students where their bodies are supposed to go in a given posture (right foot here, left elbow there), but teaching them how to practice is an entirely different pursuit. Despite its significant presence in my life, I’ve always found yoga to be a difficult thing to write about. How to say what emptiness feels like? An emptiness that need not be filled? As if you are now complete because you are empty? Yoga feels uncool to discuss, too soft and frilly for a serious writer. I’ve never quite known how to explain what it means to me without sounding didactic or egomaniacal. I came to teaching, I think, because it was the best way to talk about yoga, to be grateful for it, without actually having to talk about it. But if I’ve learned anything from yoga, as with writing, I know you have to sit... Continue reading
Posted Dec 14, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
December 14 This bed thy center is, these walls, thy sphere, The tarnished, gaudy, wonderful old work Of hand, of foot, of lip, of eye, of brow, That never touch with inarticulate pang Those dying generations-at their song. The One remains, the many change and pass The expiring swan, and as he sings he dies. The earth, the stars, the light, the day, the skies, A white-haired shadow roaming like a dream Limitless out of the dusk, out of the cedars and pines, Think not of them, thou hast thy music too -- Sin and her shadow Death, and Misery, If but some vengeful god would call to me, Because I could not stop for Death, Not to return. Earth's the right place for love. My playmate, when we both were clothed alike, Should I, after tea and cakes and ices, Suffer my genial spirits to decay Upon the bridal day, which is not long? I thought that love would last forever; I was wrong. *** These translations were downloaded from the web: Ce centre ton lit est, ces murs, la sphère: le travail vieux non jamais terni, voyant, merveilleux de la main, du pied, de la lèvre, de l'oeil, du front, de celui contact avec douleur inarticulée ceux qui meurent génération à leur chanson. Celui reste, les nombreux changement et passe le cygne expirant, et pendant qu'il chante il meurt. La terre, les étoiles, la lumière, le jour, les cieux, ombre blanc-d'une chevelure comme un rêve sans limites hors du crépuscule, hors des cèdres et des pins, pensent pas à eux, au trop-Péché la musique less pensees et à son mort d'ombre, et à la misère, si mais un certain dieu vengeful appellerait à moi, puisque je ne pourrais pas m'arrêter pour la mort, pour ne pas retourner. Ont mis à la terre le bon endroit pour l'amour. Mon ami, quand nous tous les deux avons été vêtus de même, devrait thé et gâteaux, après qu'et glace, souffrent mes spiritueux réconfortants pour se délabrer sur le jour nuptialenqui n'est pas long? J'ai pensé que l'amour durerait pour toujours; j'avais tort. *** Diese thy Mitte des Betts ist, diese Wände, thy Bereich, die getrübte, gaudy, wundervolle alte Arbeit der Hand, des Fusses, der Lippe, des Auges, der Braue, des dessen nie Note mit inarticulate Pang die, die Erzeugung-an ihrem Lied sterben. Das man bleibt, vielen Änderung und führt den ablaufenden Schwan, und während er singt, stirbt er. Die Masse, die Sterne, das Licht, der Tag, die Himmel, A der weiß-behaarte Schatten, der wie ein Traum grenzenlos ist aus der Dämmerung heraus, aus den Zedern und den Kiefern heraus durchstreift, denken nicht an sie, Thou hast thy Musik AuchSünde und ihren Schatten Tod und Elend, wenn aber irgendein vengeful Gott zu mir benennen würde, weil ich nicht für Tod stoppen könnte, um nicht zurückzukommen. Bedeckten den rechten Platz für Liebe mit Erde. Mein Spielkamerad, als wir beide gleich gekleidet wurden sollte I, nachdem, Tee und Kuchen und gefriert, erleiden meinen genialen... Continue reading
Posted Dec 13, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
And this, too, is part of the discourse -- oops, I mean the "national conversation" -- about poetry. <<< 42. Jorie Graham The more striving to be relevant, the more she seems to fade 43. Alan Cordle Strange, how this librarian changed poetry with Foetry.com 44. Janet Holmes Ahsahta editor and MFA prof works the po-biz system like no one else 45. Paul Muldoon How easy it is to become a parody of oneself! 46. Cole Swensen Some theories always seem to be missing something 47. Matthew Dickman Was reviewed by William Logan. And lived 48. James Tate For some reason it depressed us to learn he was not a laugh riot in person. 49. Geoffrey Hill His poetry is more important than you are 50. Derek Walcott A great poet, but great poets don’t exist anymore 51. Charles Bernstein A bad poet, but bad poets don’t exist anymore, either 52. Kay Ryan Emily Dickinson she’s not. Maybe Marianne Moore when she’s slightly boring? 53. Laura Kasischke She’s published 8 novels. One became a movie starring Uma Thurman. Who the hell does she think she is? 54. Louise Gluck X-Acto! 55. Rae Armantrout “Quick, before you die, describe the exact shade of this hotel carpet.” 56. Heather McHugh “A coward and a coda share a word.” >>> All I can say is: Jeepers, creepers, where did you get those peepers? Ahem said my friend Flicker. It's more like Flaubert's "Dictionary of Received Ideas." Well, maybe. And there are comments on the picks, earnest as all get out. The public chimes in! For example, Mary Douglas: "I wholeheartedly agree with Scarriet in awarding the top place to Valerie Macon—in her appointment as poet laureate of North Carolina and in her subsequent resignation. . .When Valerie Macon was appointed Poet Laureate of North Carolina on July 11, 2014, I was jubilant, as I realized she had made it through the gates without the tedious, tendentious counting up of prizes, accolades and tenures. I considered it a miracle. The criticism of her made me gleeful, almost giddy, because I realized she had soared above it all on the merits of only loving poetry and writing it for and out of love: the thing I most believe in (next to God and Christ) of all things left to believe in on this earth. . .On July 17, 2014 I was at home, halfway listening to the radio (local news) and doing, as a friend of mine says, “little busy things” around my minuscule apartment, when I heard the announcement: Valerie Macon has resigned. . . Oh no, I said and dropped what was in my hand. Fortunately, it was only a feather duster and nothing breakable etc. >>> Click here for the whole listicle, 2013 vintage, or here for the 2014 version of "Poetry's Hot 100" as brought to you by Scarriet. This post is brought to you as a public service dedicated to those who quote William Carlos Williams on the subject of... Continue reading
Posted Dec 13, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
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KS: Before I ask you about your press, I’d love for you to tell us where you are and how you came to be there. PP: It’s lovely to talk with you, Karen. I’m writing from Doha, Qatar. The heat is finally relenting a bit, and we’re just a few days away from Eid. I’m looking forward to both the cooler temperatures, and a week off from school! I was a student in the MFA program at Virginia Commonwealth when VCU established a branch campus here. VCUQatar arrived in 1998, and was the first American university established in Doha. It has since been joined by Weill Cornell, Georgetown, Northwestern, Texas A&M, and Carnegie Mellon. I was interested in coming here because I wanted to know more about this region, and I have always been interested in travel. After high school, I joined the marine corps, in part, to travel, but sadly, went from boot camp in Parris Island, South Carolina, to the School of Music in Norfolk, Virginia, and was then stationed in Quantico, Virginia. I didn’t manage to get very far from my hometown of Vernon, New Jersey. In 2005, I had been out of the MFA program for a few years, and was teaching at VCU in Richmond when a position opened up in the English program at VCUQatar. I jumped at it, and was fortunate to get hired. This is my 10th year here. I’ve been here much longer than I thought I would be, but VCUQ continues to be a place that offers enormous opportunities for personal and professional growth, and I can see myself staying another 10. It’s quite a momentous time to be in Qatar. The country is growing rapidly, and it’s especially interesting to observe the bristling dynamic between tradition and ambition. KS: diode poetry journal came into being sometime during your 10 years at VCUQatar? I arrived in Doha in 2005, and in 2007, started diode. When I was in the MFA program at VCU, I had the good fortune to intern at Blackbird the year before it went live. Blackbird was one of the first journals to go online, and in my humble opinion, it continues to be one of the very best journals, online or otherwise, in existence. My time with Blackbird piqued my interest in starting an online journal, and this was further fueled by feeling somewhat isolated from the poetry community. Jeff Lodge, one of the founding editors of Blackbird, came to teach at VCUQ in 2007, and he was instrumental in helping me get diode up and running. He’s wholly responsible for the design of the journal, and even though he’s now back in the US, we continue to create the journal together. Diode has far exceeded my initial hopes. I’ve had the opportunity to publish emerging poets, and poets I’ve admired for years, including teachers and mentors. One of the most gratifying experiences I’ve had as an editor is this one, which I wrote about in... Continue reading
Posted Dec 13, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
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(Ed note: When we received the sad news that Mark Strand had died, we invited readers to post their memories of him. You will find them below. I've also included an excerpt of David Lehman's review of Mark's Dark Harbor (1993, Knopf), which ran in the Chicago Tribune. sdh) Moon Poem by Mark Strand , 2013, Bascove, pigment print, drawing & collage, 30” x 43” From Mark Strand's Farewells: Celebrating A Book-length Poem Of `Sustained Literary Grace' by David Lehman (Chicago Tribune, August 1, 1993) In "Dark Harbor" we catch glimpses of the poet celebrating "how good life/ Has been and how it has culminated in this instant," lunching with his editor at Lutece, then striding along the pavement, well-fed, lanky, in his "new dark blue double-breasted suit." A poet of glamor for whom light is "the mascara of Eden," he also is a poet of romance who speaks of the ". . . feel of kisses blown out of heaven,/ Melting the moment they land." As the nation's fourth poet laureate Strand took part in a number of panel discussions devoted to the problems of contemporary poetry. At one such, somebody raised German philosopher Theodor Adorno's famous question: "How can one write poems after Auschwitz?" Strand retorted: "How can one eat lunch after Auschwitz?" Strand's point is that poetry may be as necessary as lunch, and that one "cannot" yet one does enjoy one's pleasures, despite the knowledge we have of the horrors that the human race has committed. Are poems about Orpheus or angels-Strand writes about both, as did Rilke-necessarily evasions of death and evil? And if they are, should that damn them? Poetry does have a moral dimension, but it is not a moral instrument exclusively. Nor is what Auschwitz represents the whole of our morality. Strand's poetry is a vehicle of the moral imagination simply because it amply accommodates the world of material things as well as the impulses of the spirit. Like one of the resuscitated poets described on the last page of "Dark Harbor," Strand is now "ready to say the words (he) had been unable to say-/ Words whose absence had been the silence of love." Mortality as a fact and as the name of our chief fear is the base condition of his new work. Continuous is the need to say farewell to the things that require, and requite, a poet's attention. Death is the mother of beauty; poetry is a valediction forbidding mourning. The book's penultimate poem is a remarkable example of a "moralized landscape," in which the sea and the mountains embody different aspects of the human condition. The noise of the breaking waves had once frightened him, writes Strand, "But in those days what did I know of the pleasures of loss,/ Of the edge of the abyss coming close with its hisses/ And storms, a great watery animal breaking itself on the rocks./ Sending up stars of salt, loud clouds of spume." (Read the full review here.) Kateri... Continue reading
Posted Dec 12, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
Frederick there are no other comments. Perhaps they're on the American Scholar page? If they're limericks, that's where they should be.
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(Ed note: Scribner has launched a new on-line magazine and its first issue features a conversation between Best American Poetry Series Editor David Lehman and 2014 Guest Editor Terrance Hayes. Follow this link to read an excerpt. The full interview is reproduced below. Click on the cover image above to purchase The Best American Poetry 2014. -- sdh) (Image left: John Ashbery & David Lehman (c) Star Black. R: Terrance Hayes) DL: Terrance, when you look back over the year you surveyed for The Best American Poetry 2014, what surprised you the most? TH: One of the many surprises was just how many literary journals are out there. It's hard to believe — no, I can't believe poetry isn't thriving when so many editors are dedicating time and energy to so many publications. Here are some of the amazing journals I was unaware of before my editorship: Make Literary Magazine, Little Patuxent Review, The Carolina Quarterly, Spillway, The Normal School, ABZ Poetry Magazine, Willow Springs! One of the vital fringe benefits of The Best American Poetry is discovering these publications. I hope they get a few new subscribers because of it. DL: I hope so, too. I never tire of saying that lit mag editors are among the unsung heroes of American poetry. You know who I think is an underrated poet? Nabokov. I take it you admire him from your decision to cast your introduction in the form of a fake q-and-a with Charles Kinbote of Pale Fire fame. TH: Nabokov is an early and enduring guide -- muse, really -- for me as a writer. Lolita was my first love. When I read it for the first time at 20 years old or so, it prompted something I'd never experienced as a reader: something like ecstasy by way of the language and horror by way of the implications. (I feel similarly reading a lot of Flannery O'Connor.) In any event, Pale Fire prompts similar complex feelings because of the ways it combines poetry, fiction and criticism. I love that it implies that "close reading" requires, or maybe prompts, a sort of delusion. Looking at poems, little constructions of suggestion and innuendo, requires, or maybe prompts, a little craziness. Who better than Charles Kinbote, then, to help us into an anthology of contemporary poetry: contemporary songs, illusions, and shadows? DL: Lover of wordplay that you are, do you think verse forms, traditional or ad hoc, are making a comeback? You and I both do variants of the "golden shovel." Sometimes I suggest that aspiring poets take an Auden sonnet, retain the end words, omit the rest and fill in the blanks. TH: No, I don't think traditional forms are making a comeback, but that's only because I don't think they've ever really gone away. We all need something to push against or outgrow or reinvent, and I believe all the old fashioned forms are where we start and sometimes return to... I suspect if we look under Gertrude Stein's... Continue reading
Posted Dec 11, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
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Illustration of Edward Lear's "There was an Old Man with a Nose." For the new installment of the American Scholar's Next Line, Please contest, David Lehman has invited readers to write a limerick: Everyone who likes rhymes and jokes has at least one good limerick in him or her. No one has yet figured out a way to put the limerick to anything but lighthearted use. But the British poet Wendy Cope showed great originality in paraphrasing (and parodying) the five sections of T. S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land” as five limericks, which you’ll find if you click here. The five lines of a limerick amount to a rhyme sandwich, an eminently suitable form for saucy wit. The best limericks are bawdy but too good-natured to seem truly obscene. Their humor keeps offense at bay. Here’s a famously anonymous example that has made it into several light-verse anthologies: An Argentine gaucho named Bruno Said, “Sex is one thing I do know. Women are fine, And sheep just divine, But a llama is numero uno.” Continue reading for the rules and to enter your own limerick. -- sdh Continue reading
Posted Dec 10, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
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This week we welcome Philip Brady as our guest author. Philip is Executive Director of Etruscan Press and author of four books of poems, a memoir, and a collection of essays. His most recent book is To Banquet with the Ethiopians: A Memoir of Life Before the Alphabet (Broadstone Books). His work has been awarded the Snyder Prize from Ashland Poetry Press, a Gold Medal from ForeWord Magazine, an Ohioana Poetry Award, five Ohio Arts Council Individual Artists Awards, Thayer and Newhouse Fellowships from New York State, and residencies at Yaddo, the Headlands Center for the Arts, Ragdale, Hambidge,the Virginia Center, the Tyrone Guthrie Center in Ireland, Fundacion Valparaiso in Spain, Hawthornden Castle in Scotland, and the Soros Centre for the Arts in the Czech Republic. Brady has taught at the University of Lubumbashi in the Congo; University College Cork, Ireland; and on Semester at Sea. Currently, he teaches at Youngstown State University and in the low-residency MFA Program at Wilkes University. He plays bodhran in the New-Celtic band, Brady’s Leap. For more information please visit www.philipbrady.com Welcome, Philip. -- sdh Continue reading
Posted Dec 7, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
A Woman of Worth Proverbs 31 A woman of worth who can find? For her province is far above rubric. A woman of wood, hooks, and rind. The forks have gone suddenly ruthless. The hearth of her husband, husk of her -- She does him good, she evolves. Dislodges God the last days of her life. A woman of words: who could mind? So what if her rupees surprise us. She is fond of her housefly, her housefly is cloned with garnet. She consoles a friend yet bests him. The fruit of her hands is vincible. A woman of wound who can find? She gilds her lawn in streaks, makes song her law. Her hands hoist the splendor, the spilt. She strews her hands toward the pool. “A woman at war with her mind.” “Her parlance is totally useless.” She counts singers in fields, and bison. Steak and doubloons in her cloud chamber. She opens her mouth: hysteria. Its likeness on her tongue. A woman reorders, combines. Chills rise up into her breast, blessing the husk also, singing: Favor is false and beauty is vain, flavor is pulse and bedding is vale. This woman yet fears the Lord, praise her. Praise the wood, praise the intimate grain. -- Joy Katz Continue reading
Posted Dec 6, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
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George Herbert’s ‘Love (III)’ from 1633 Yao Xiao Like John Donne and Gerard Manley Hopkins, though not as flamboyant as the first or as metrically inventive as the second, George Herbert proved that devotional poetry can generate high intellectual excitement. Born in Wales in 1593, Herbert distinguished himself at Trinity College, Cambridge, and was elected to Parliament twice. In 1630, a year after he married, Herbert took holy orders. He served as rector in Bemerton near Salisbury, delivering sermons and writing poems, for the rest of his short life. Before he died in 1633 he entrusted a gathering of his poems, “The Temple,” to a friend. The poems won an immediate audience. Herbert is one of the so-called metaphysical poets, who rely on cunning wit and use elaborate, sometimes incongruous metaphors to explore complex themes. He has a poem, “The Pulley,” in which God pours all his pleasures on man except “rest.” Anyone who doubts that the lowly pun can perform sublime feats need only consider these two lines in which “rest” meaning “remainder” and “rest” meaning “repose” are entangled to their paradoxical enhancement: “Yet let him keep the rest, / But keep them with repining restlessness.” Where Herbert is most obviously innovative is in his use of carmen figuratum—shaped or patterned poems. He has one in the shape of an altar and another, “Easter Wings,” that demands to be viewed as a pair of birds in flight. Herbert was also an inveterate compiler of proverbs. To him we owe one that has since become a durable cliché: “His bark is worse than his bite.” Continue reading here. Continue reading
Posted Dec 2, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
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For last week's "Next Line, Please" contest, David Lehman invited readers to write the last sentence of a nonexistent story—either a story that we can imagine or one that we would yearn to read strictly on the basis of your sentence. The winning entry may imply a specific narrative—or it may be so suggestive that readers will be inspired to supply the writing that culminates in the sentence. Click over the The American Scholar to find out whose last is best. Continue reading
Posted Dec 2, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
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Because. . .she's magnificent. . .the tremble in her throat. . .the fusion of melancholy and joy . . . Listen to her deliver Cole Porter's "Looking At You" or the Gershwin brothers' "My One and Only" or Rodgers & Hart's "Manhattan" or Harold Arlen's "Let's Fall in Love." Because I told Amy Gerstler that LW is my favorite female vocalist and AG (who had thought Helen Forrest was my fave) instantly sent me three lovely Lee Wiley images. And because I do believe that she was the first to record an entire album devoted to one songwriter or one songwriting team. -- DL Continue reading
Posted Dec 2, 2014 at The Best American Poetry