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

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Poem as Devotional Practice

My essay on the devotional mode in poetry, looking particularly at the 17th-century Metaphysical poets and at the contemporary poet Franz Wright, is now available online at Contemporary Poetry Reviewhttp://www.cprw.com/the-poem-as-devotional-practice-luke-hankins-on-the-metaphysical-poets/

An excerpt:
Although it is, of course, impossible to know, based on the text of the poem alone, to what extent a poet did or did not have the conclusion of the poem in view during the act of composition, we can say this much, at least: Some religious poems (like Herbert’s “The Search”) dramatize a mental or spiritual struggle; other religious poems (like Donne’s “Holy Sonnet X”) do not purport to dramatize a current struggle, and instead explain or explicate a struggle that happened prior to the composition of the poem. In the latter case, the entire poem functions as a conclusion; even if there is some dramatization, as there is in Donne’s poem (a speaker personifying and addressing death), there is no uncertainty in the rhetoric since the conclusion is foreknown and stated or implied from the beginning. This kind of poem engages the reader the way a sermon or an essay might. On the other hand, the rhetoric of a poem that dramatizes a struggle in the literary “present,” as Herbert’s poem does, proceeds with uncertainty and thus engages the reader the way a play might. This effect is intensified to the extent that the reader senses that the poet’s composition of the poem proceeded in uncertainty—not only of the literary or formal outcome of the nascent poem, but also the spiritual outcome of engaging the poem’s idea.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

all seeds & blues: A New Collection of English Poems by Stella Vinitchi Radulescu

all seeds & blues, by Stella Vinitchi Radulescu
CW Books has just released all seeds & blues, a new collection of English poems by Stella Vinitchi Radulescu (she also writes in Romanian and French, and I translate her French poems). An excerpt from my review of her English work appears as a blurb on the new book (you can read the entire review by clicking the text of following quote): "Radulescu is skeptical, but unrelenting, in her pursuit of mystery. In her unrelentingness, she reminds me of the 17th-century Metaphysical poets, while stylistically she is clearly a descendent of the Surrealists and Modernists. She has melded disparate traditions seamlessly in her poetry, and the precise mixture of elements in her work is perhaps unique in American poetry, and our poetry is richer for it." 

For sample poems from all seeds & blues and to order, see http://www.readcwbooks.com/radulsescu.html