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

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

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Best American Poetry Blog

Dear Readers,

I apologize for being so long absent from this, my very own blog! However, this week I'm the guest blogger at the Best American Poetry blog, where I'll be discussing the devotional mode in poetry and my forthcoming anthology, Poems of Devotion: An Anthology of Recent Poets (Wipf & Stock, Nov. 30, 2012). I invite you to follow my posts there. I also hope to begin blogging here again in the near future. 


Friday, July 27, 2012

The Problem

Robert Rauschenberg, White Painting (Three Panel), 1951; painting; oil on canvas, 72 in. x 108 in. (182.88 cm x 274.32 cm); Collection SFMOMA, Purchased through a gift of Phyllis Wattis; © Estate of Robert Rauschenberg / Licensed by VAGA, New York

The problem with modernism and postmodernism is that their art and literature so often have as their primary aim being "modern" or "postmodern." "Il faut être absolument moderne [One must be absolutely modern]," said Rimbaud. This attempt to be "modern" or to be "postmodern" is ubiquitously evident in 20th-century art and literature. But this is an attempt that originates in the arrogance and blindness of believing oneself to occupy a unique and novel position in human experience. THIS IS NOT SO. The artist's manifesto should err on the side of brevity: instead of attempting "to be modern" or "to be postmodern," it would better serve simply "to be." An artist produces the most powerful and enduring work when she enacts her being rather than attempts to make propositions about it.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Fred Chappell

Fred Chappell is a poet who I believe is not read or talked about enough outside of his home state of North Carolina. He is a true master of form, and he wields the most exquisite formal experiments with such seeming ease and nonchalance. He is one of our greatest poets. Check out some of his work here and here and here.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Recent Work Available Online

Here are some links to recent work by me or related to my work available online:

Caravaggio's "Narcissus" -- appropriate to this post...