"[P]oetry makes nothing happen: it survives, / [...] a way of happening, a mouth." -W. H. Auden

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Introducing Orison Books

It is with great pleasure that I introduce Orison Books, a 501(c)(3) non-profit literary press focused on the life of the spirit from a broad range of perspectives. Please visit our website and our Indiegogo page, where you will learn about our mission, our goals, and our first title, scheduled for release early next year, which I am thrilled to present to the world. 

Please consider making a tax-deductible donation today:

Website: http://www.orisonbooks.com/

Indiegogo: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/orison-books

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Southern Poetry Breakthrough Series: North Carolina

Attention all North Carolina poets who have yet to publish a full-length book: An exciting call for submissions from Texas Review Press (publisher of, among many other things, The Southern Poetry Anthology series, an anthology that features writers from a different southern state each year, organized by series editor William Wright). 

The Southern Poetry Breakthrough Series, judged by Paul Ruffin, is open this year to North Carolina residents who have yet to publish a first book. A resident is defined as follows: 

-If you were born in NC, you are eligible.
-If you live elsewhere, but have lived in NC for at least five consecutive years, you are eligible.
-If you now live in NC, and intend to live there for at least five years total, you are eligible.

Send a manuscript of 50-80 pages. Please include a cover letter with your submission, as well as two title pages—one with your contact information, including e-mail address, mailing address, and phone number—and the other with the title only. Include an acknowledgments page for previous publications.

There is no reading fee. The Breakthrough Poetry Prize entails publication of the winning manuscript, national distribution via the Texas A&M University Press Consortium, plus twenty-five free copies furnished to the author upon publication.

All submissions must be sent as e-mail attachments to William Wright at vercimber@hotmail.com in one of the following formats: .doc, .docx, .rtf, or .pdf. Please include a short (75-100 word) bio as a separate attachment in one of the above formats. 

In the subject heading of the e-mail, write "NC Breakthrough" followed by your name in parentheses.

Deadline for submissions is September 15, 2014.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Christopher Davis reviews Poems of Devotion for Anglican Theological Review

"Poems of Devotion: An Anthology of Recent Poets is an interesting, unique collection of poems, each of which in some way demonstrates that the act of writing a poem can be 'devotional' in the same spirit as prayer. In his eloquent and compelling introductory essay, editor Luke Hankins writes, 'If there could be only one criterion for devotional poetry, it would be authenticity of personal religious or spiritual expression' (p. xxi). Hankins emphasizes the ways in which the creative process is as volatile and active an experience for the artist as other forms of worship. Discussing a poem by George Herbert, Hankins claims, 'The poem is so successful in articulating the spiritual struggle that we can speculate that Herbert was actually experiencing a sense of separation from God as he composed the poem – it is at least a possibility – so that the spiritual struggle being dramatized is not simply a re-enactment' (p. xvii). This is a brave stance to take in an era of critical theory, irony, formalism and coolness. Whatever reservations a reader might have about this possible conflating of 'performance' with 'prayer,' once that reader has spent time with the actual poems, he or she will probably be convinced that 'authenticity' is possible, when the poet, often so closely identified with the speaker of the poem as to be indistinguishable from that speaker, unstintingly, passionately, imaginatively and humbly risks complete exposure of sensibility through writing. 
The consistency of tones and approaches of these poems is balanced by the great diversity of kinds of poets represented here. Beginning with T.S. Eliot, the anthology includes several poets writing originally in languages other than English, such as the thrilling Hungarian poet Janos Pilinszky, whose 'Complaint' is a prayer which startles in its strange intimacy: 'Does my complaint reach you? / Is my siege to no purpose? / All around me glitter / reefs of fear' (p. 31). Many exciting poems by younger American writers appear here too, giving the reader a chance to enjoy the continuity of a tradition of devotional poetry. This anthology would be an excellent text to use in any college Religious Studies course focusing on religion in the arts. The quality and quantity of poems which explore the human, psychological side of transcendental experience would also make for fruitful 'book club' discussions. There is a fierce, passionate commitment to the art of poetry embodied in this book, made especially exciting because it is equal to, and inseparable from, faith."

-Christopher Davis, Anglican Theological Review (Winter 2014) 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Review of Psalms of All My Days, by Patrice de la Tour du Pin, translated by Jennifer Grotz

My review of Psalms of All My Days, by Patrice de la Tour du Pin, translated by Jennifer Grotz (Carnegie Mellon Univ. Press, 2013), is up at the blog of 32 Poems magazine here

Monday, June 17, 2013

Mystical Sensualist: Eric Pankey's New Book

Eric Pankey, one of the poets included in my anthology, Poems of Devotion, has a beautiful new book out from Milkweed Editions entitled Trace. Pankey's spare, condensed poems in this collection examine details of the physical world with the kind of reverence we usually reserve for works of art, or perhaps for scripture. The voice here is one of a mystical sensualist, one who is highly attuned to the most minute visual or tangible details of experience and who senses a mysterious spiritual significance underlying it all. Here is one of my favorite poems from the collection, reprinted with permission from Milkweed Editions. (Note: A burin is a flint or metal tool used for engraving.)

Moon Phases Carved on a Bone
by Eric Pankey

One can interrogate the stars,
Count the barbs as they slope
Toward the feather's tip,

Make of prime numbers 
A hive of the mind,
Speculate with images.

At the shore of waking,
A fragment insinuates narrative,
A sequence of events, phases:

The half-moon adorned in its cornhusk mask,
The crescent moon as it sheds
Scree, grit, pollen, and spores,

The straw effigy of the new moon--
Expiatory, a jabber of smoke--
Rendered, reduced to a notion.

Yet awake, one recalls mere sleep,
Not the torch-marks on the bear's skull,
Not the blister the burin rubbed up.

"Moon Phases Carved on a Bone," from Trace by Eric Pankey (Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions, 2013). Copyright © 2013 by Eric Pankey. Reprinted with permission from Milkweed Editions. www.milkweed.org

Thursday, February 21, 2013

"The Next Big Thing" Interview: Poems of Devotion

I have  been tagged in a rolling self-interview series called--unfortunately--"The Next Big Thing." In any case, I have been tagged to post my self-interview this week by Yahia Lababidi, poet and aphorist, whose most recent book, co-authored with Alex Stein, is The Artist as Mystic: Conversations with Yahia Lababidi (Onesuch Press, 2012).

Each tagged author is, in turn, asked to tag another four writers with new or forthcoming books to answer the same 9 questions, below, the following week (February 27, 2013).

Please note that my response to the second question below is copied, with slight editing, from an interview Matt Mulder conducted with me at his blog, Coffeehouse Junkie. 

The Next Big Thing:  What is the title of the book?

Poems of Devotion: An Anthology of Recent Poets

TNBT:  Where did the idea come from for the book?

In my final year of graduate school, I took an independent study course with the superb poet and teacher Maurice Manning, which essentially meant that I chose an academic/creative project and he offered input on and evaluation of it. I have had a strong interest in spiritual poetry for many years, so it was natural that I would choose a topic that reflected this passion. The essay I wrote for that class was an examination of a particular set of qualities that characterized many of my favorite spiritual poems, qualities which, in my mind, constituted a distinct mode of composition. The essay was an early form of what is now the introductory essay of the anthology, examining what I call the devotional mode in poetry. When I first wrote it, the idea of editing an anthology hadn’t occurred to me, but as I continued to revisit and revise the essay after graduate school, I felt increasingly that compiling "poems of devotion" would make for a wonderful collection of poems. As an experiment, I began gathering poems that I would include in a theoretical anthology, and that’s when I began to feel a real impulse — a “call,” if you will — to bring these poems together in an anthology. I sent out a proposal to several publishers, and I eventually signed a contract with Wipf & Stock Publishers.

What followed was — well, let’s just say a year of very hard work! Gathering the poems I wanted to include was one aspect: reading widely, taking recommendations, spending long days in the library or in coffee shops with large stacks of books. But all of that, though difficult, was full of pleasure and felt deeply rewarding. The other aspect was obtaining — and paying for! — permission from copyright holders to reprint the poems. That process was often labyrinthine, frustrating, and, not least of all, expensive. But it was worth it. I’m very excited about the finished anthology, and am moved and challenged anew each time I read it. Truly.

TNBT:  What genre does your book fall under?

Poetry (with an introductory essay and appended interview)

TNBT:  What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

In this case, the characters are not mine, so I dare not assign the roles.

TNBT:  What is a one sentence synopsis of your book?

Poems of Devotion is a collection of the finest recent poems in the devotional mode, including seventy-seven poets who collectively demonstrate the ongoing vitality of poetry as a spiritual practice, in the long tradition of poets, psalmists, and mystics from the East and West. 

TNBT:  How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

It took essentially two years to complete the anthology.

TNTB:  Who or what inspired you to write this book?

The entire experience of my life, in the world of matter and the world of the spirit--and the experience of the art of many poets, especially George Herbert.

TNTB:  What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

If the table of contents doesn't, nothing will:

T. S. Eliot
E. E. Cummings
Robert Penn Warren
Theordore Roethke
M. Vasalis
Patrice de la Tour du Pin
Czeslaw Milosz
William Everson (Brother Antoninus)
R. S. Thomas
John Berryman
Thomas Merton
William Stafford
Madeline DeFrees
János Pilinszky
Richard Wilbur
Anthony Hecht
Denise Levertov
Yehuda Amichai
Zbigniew Herbert
Vassar Miller
A. R. Ammons
Luci Shaw
Geoffrey Hill
Wendell Berry
Leonard Cohen
Charles Wright
Alicia Ostriker
Seamus Heaney
Robert Siegel
Joseph Brodsky
Judy Little
Louise Glück
Richard Jackson
Stella Vinitchi Radulescu
Agha Shahid Ali
Robert Cording
Marie Howe
Suzanne Underwood Rhodes
Andrew Hudgins
Mark Jarman
Sofia M. Starnes
Richard Chess
Jane Hirshfield
Richard Jones
Gjertrud Schnackenberg
Franz Wright
Scott Cairns
Nicholas Samaras
Mary Karr
Patrick Donnelly
Li-Young Lee
Bruce Beasley
Marjorie Maddox
Eric Pankey
Carl Phillips
Harry Newman
Malaika King Albrecht
Maurice Manning
Christian Wiman
C. Dale Young
Morri Creech
Philip Metres
Jennifer Grotz
Philip Memmer
Sufjan Stevens
Daniel Westover
Jericho Brown
Michael Schiavo
Ilya Kaminsky
Amit Majmudar
Steven C. Brown Jr.
Tarfia Faizullah
Hannah Faith Notess
Malachi Black
Nate Klug
Ashley Anna McHugh
Anna Connors

TNTB:  Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

It was published by Wipf & Stock Publishers.


I have written the following poets to ask them to post their self-interviews on February 27th:

Jennifer Grotz
Keith Flynn
Morri Creech
Malachi Black