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

Friday, January 28, 2011

New England Review Update

It is heartening to see the many supporters of New England Review listed in the new issue. (Note that these are only those who had donated by the end of 2010.) The magazine faces the loss of its institutional (Middlebury College) funding and has been in danger of having to cease publication. Here's hoping the magazine has a long life ahead of it! It's truly one of the best.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

From Blackbird: Patrice de La Tour du Pin, translated by Jennifer Grotz

This is a real discovery for me. I have never before read the work of French poet Patrice de La Tour du Pin, but thanks to the translations published in the current issue of Blackbird, I will now seek out his work. Even in these few poems, the depth of this man's spiritual struggle and devotion is evident. I can't wait to read all of his work. Here are some sample lines from Jennifer Grotz's translations:

From "Psalm 6":

If my dream is laughable, Lord,
extinguish it, for it consumes me.


One must be able to hear the cry of others, to do nothing but

empty the self for the sake of a common call.

To hear in the voices of others your love cry and your lament:

so I go silent: you hold me.

From "Psalm 18":
I waste my efforts translating the ineffable:

my rendering of life will never achieve clarity.

Who would believe in my caverns, in my trees?

Who will take my stones as real?

From "Psalm 31":
The one who wanted to understand too much,

you struck him endlessly to be understood:

for a Lord, you come down hard when you decide to.

He wasn’t defying your intelligence,

he was only stretching his branches up to you:

you weigh so heavy for a God of light.

From "Psalm 33":
If it’s still to you that I cry out my anguish,

I’m sickened by the halting realization:

isn’t it you who tolls my heart like a funeral bell?


Why did you burden me with such a desire to praise

before you made me an angel,

why invest in someone who must be torn apart?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Max Borders on Art

Max Borders has some interesting and succinct thoughts on art at the blog Ideas Matter in a post called "What is Art? A Question of Meta-aesthetics." Also have a look at my previous post on the same subject.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Nathaniel Perry Wins the 2011 APR/Honickman Book Prize!

Nathaniel ("Neil") Perry is one of the absolutely finest poets I know, with a formal dexterity that is exceptionally rare. (Just have a look at three of his poems from storySouth for a sample.) I was in school with him for a bit at Indiana University, and let me tell you that this guy is the real deal--as a poet, as an editor, as a critic. So I am thrilled to hear that he has won the 2011 APR/Honickman Book Prize. His work deserves this.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Abolition of the Self?

Some spiritual practitioners and artists and poets like to talk about transcending or abolishing the self. What an ironic thing to talk about! As soon as you say it, it can no longer be true. But, in any case, I don’t hold transcendence of the self as the ideal. I am in my poems, both in the writing of them and in their finished states, and I don’t try to take myself out. To do so would be to deny my humanity and would therefore undermine the very foundation of art. And in moral terms, if the self ceases to exist, how can I love my neighbor as myself?

I do seek transcendence and I do have transcendent experiences, but I think it's a mistake to think of transcendence as the state of being freed from one's selfhood. Transcendence, for me, means being freed from my absorption or obsession with my self, yes, but not being freed from my identity as my self. One can blessedly rise momentarily above pride, fear, pain, confusion, and suffering, but in doing so one does not lose the self, rather one discovers it more fully. What was hindering full selfhood falls away, and one can become, briefly, a more fully realized self. And that is a powerful pathway to love for other selves.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Daniel Nester Announces a Contest

Daniel Nester, who originally broke the story of the most recent Paris Review poetry purge (also see my article here), has announced The Robyn Creswell Bouts-Rim├ęs Contest! Follow the link to his post at We Who Are About To Die for details. I love Nester's sardonic tone in this announcement. Here's a sample: 
Yes, the very same Creswell who required a new broom to unaccept 40-50 poets’ work to make room for his chance to define his own section, will be talking about publishing poetry. It’s winter break, after all, and so it should be convenient for Creswell, a student in NYU’s comparative literature PhD program, to make this event.
The “list of words that rhyme” we will use comes from poetry editor Robyn Creswell's only published poem to date, “Foreign Correspondent”....
Put your satirical wit to the task and have fun with this!