Hello all, I haven’t been here for a while – so busy – so I thought I’d stop by, say hi, and share some curated posts with you. 🙂
This list includes love poems by poets from thirty countries including Latvia, Iraq, and South Africa. Love is all you need!
There’s no “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways”, or “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” here: instead, a new list of the 50 greatest love poems ranges from Maya Angelou to Vikram Seth and from Pakistan to Nigeria.
Chosen by poetry specialists at the Southbank Centre, instead of focusing on more traditional options by the likes of Barrett Browning and Shakespeare, the selectors looked at work written over the last 50 years to come up with their list. The American Angelou was chosen for her lyrical plea, Come, and Be My Baby, in which the poet writes: “you sit wondering / What you’re gonna do. / I got it. / Come. And be my baby”, while Indian author Seth makes the list for the mournful All You Who Sleep Tonight – “Know that you aren’t alone / The whole world shares your tears”.
The poets come from 30 countries, from Saint Lucia to Iraqi Kurdistan, but some well-known British names also make the cut. The late Adrian Mitchell is included for the short but perfectly formed Celia, Celia –
“When I am sad and weary
When I think all hope has gone
When I walk along High Holborn
I think of you with nothing on”
– as is Scottish poet Jackie Kay for Her.
“I had been told about her,” writes Kay.
“How she would always, always.
How she would never, never.
I’d watched and listened
but I still fell for her.”
Michael Donaghy was chosen for The Present –
“Make me this present then: your hand in mine,
and we’ll live out our lives in it”
and Edwin Morgan for Strawberries .
“There were never strawberries,” writes the late Scottish poet, reminiscing,
“like the ones we had
that sultry afternoon.”[…]
Get ready! View the rest of The Guardian’s introduction and the list here!
“Lately, I’ve been thinking about what this region has to say for itself in contemporary poetry, and I’m clearly not the only one thinking about this. There has been a spate of new books about the Rust Belt in the last few years, and some interest in a new subgenre sometimes called Rust Belt Noir and/or Rust Belt Gothic (no vampires needed). While most of these books are novels or collections of short fiction, many poets have also been increasingly concerned with post-industrial ruin.”
Part one digs into Jamaal May’s 2013 book Hum, which takes post-industrial Detroit as its mise-en-scène. Hurt writes:
What’s dead and gone never stays buried in this collection, as the motif of alternately burying and uncovering returns almost obsessively. There is something unsettling about this act, but it is what allows May’s speaker to learn how to live in his particular –post (post-industry, post-adolescence, etc.). This digging isn’t entirely negative, nor is it simply a balm.
Writing about the Rust Belt can be understood as a form of apocalyptic writing. A new generation of writers in the US has set to work digging through the ruins of the industrial economy that was collapsing just as they were being born, and they are unearthing revelations of their own.
Hurt picks through the rubble in May’s poetry with some close readings and sees, overall, “no satisfactory answer to be found in the wreck, yet there is no way to live in it without searching, digging, trying to uncover and recover the past.”
“As a new mom, I haven’t gotten the chance to read grown-up books lately. I have, however, rediscovered the pleasure of rhyme.” —The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle and Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson.
Is reading Sjón’s The Whispering Muse which contains stories within stories, blends those stories, blends cultures. This is the first line: “I, Valdimar Haraldsson, was in my twenty-seventh year when I embarked on the publication of a small journal devoted to my chief preoccupation, the link between fish consumption and the superiority of the Nordic race.”
Is reading Zbigniew Herbert, Selected Poems, translated by John and Bogdana Carpenter (Oxford University Press, 1977): Re-reading this slim volume of Herbert’s poems so well translated by John and Bogdana Carpenter, I was struck anew by the poems about his family. In “Mother,” for example, he sums up a relationship in one brilliant image:
“He fell from her knees like a ball of yarn. He unwound in a hurry and ran blindly away.
She held the beginning of life. She would wind it
on her finger like a ring, she wanted to preserve him.”
Marc Kaminsky, The Road from Hiroshima: A Narrative Poem (Simon & Schuster, 1984): I’m also re-reading a book that accomplishes what seems impossible. In urgent, clipped lines, Kaminsky channels the voices of Hiroshima survivors:
“I began walking over the bodies of the dead
and the disappointment in their eyes
they stared right through me
as if I were the one
who would never again walk
in a man’s body.”
As we approach the seventieth anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing, a publisher should rescue this classic from its out-of-print limbo.
I find I enjoy poetry most when it somehow surprises me, and this summer I’m revisiting books that had that effect. News that stays news, you know.
As I reread Don Bogen’s An Algebra, I’m struck by the subtle use of abstraction and adroit sense of the line. “Algebra … uses mathematical statements to describe relationships between things that vary over time,” and this protean process is a trope throughout. Bogen’s fragmentary lines suggest restless dichotomies, but things don’t remain autonomous for long. The poems also consider liminal spaces where life and mechanism blur—the virus, the robot. When they speak to memory or our attempts to freeze the frame, the lines, like rulers, hold their edges rather than enjamb. Bogen’s syntax is sometimes disjunctive, sometimes painterly, rich with “flesh music.” I keep discovering new valences in this cerebral, beautifully realized book of “shifting equivalents.”
I’m also re-relishing Sarah Gorham’s Bad Daughter, a collection of good-strange poems that speak to the complexity of mother-daughter relations while avoiding sentimentality.
Next on my summer rereading list are Brian Henry’s wickedly reverberant The Stripping Point; Rebecca Morgan Frank’s brilliant debut, Little Murders Everywhere; Emily Rosko’s gorgeously witty and allusive Prop Rockery. And more. Till I’m “Further in Summer than the Birds—”
Summer is the time for reading as they say, but I don’t always get as much reading done as I want to in these hot days. Still, this handful of books has been keeping me busy as of late:
1. I saw Dodie Bellamy read from her new book, The TV Sutras (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2014), at the start of the summer and it cracked my head wide open. It is a stunner—weird, and wonderful—and the blue light of it has carried me through some dark nights in my city’s hell heat pit, like when the Blue Angel in the book says “This is the Blue Light,” I feel the cold rush of benevolent afterlife coming at me through Bellamy’s insanely perfect sentences, a benevolence that gets me asking myself important questions. Like when the book asks, “Is it possible to have spirituality without narcissism?”—I don’t know. But I am going to spend way into the fall wondering about this.
2. I picked up Carolyn Burke’s Becoming Modern: The Life of Mina Loy (University of California Press, 1997) at Unnameable Books in Brooklyn this July and it was the kind of book that found me with its lush history and immense level of detail, chronicling Loy’s major life events almost monthly, with the kind of rabid insight that makes me feel as if I were there. It’s the kind of book that makes me really wish for time travel, so that I could travel along with Loy through her life, seeing all of these things in action, the movie of history bright and brash and ringing.
3. Speaking of time travel, I have been doing some intense browsing this summer through a little book called simply Art Deco (Thames & Hudson, 1988) by Alastair Duncan. It’s not so much a read or looksee but an exploration into what made what we know as Deco.
4. Ok, so maybe I am not trying to take a spaceship into other time periods, but maybe I am. Maybe just a ship into an ocean of other realities. Another book I’ve been looking through a lot while sweating my brains out is Laura (Riding) Jackson’s Lives of Wives (Sun & Moon Press, 1988). In this book, (Riding) Jackson looks again at history for what the imagination never lets itself tell in history books.
5. One last book on my reading list is Eric Baus’s latest book of poems The Tranquilized Tongue, just out from City Lights. Eric Baus has always been a seering poet, creating language that means sound as much as it means anything, creating nothing out of anything and everything and vice versa.
I’m in the middle of the Gold Rush. Among recent books:
Adolphus Windeler, The California Gold Rush Diary of a German Sailor. Windeler was one of hundreds of sailors to abandon ship in San Francisco Bay and head for the mines. He had better luck than many but did not get rich. One of my favorite quotations: “Lost my hat, had to beg a chew tobacco.”
William Kelly, An Excursion to California. Kelly had a traveler’s eye and set down in meticulous detail some of the byways of the Rush, including the reuse as stores and offices of the ships abandoned by sailors like Windeler.
Then an odder volume:
Louis Moreau Gottschalk, Notes of a Pianist during His Professional Tours. Gottschalk was a beloved popular composer (quite terrible, to listen to examples on YouTube), as well as the first barnstorming American pianist. As a young man, he was refused a place at the Paris Conservatoire because “America was only a country of steam engines.” There is much to enjoy in his portraits of rude audiences and bad hotels.
There’s poetry in my reading, too, of course, and TLS, London Review of Books, and New York Review of Books, ditto. And cereal boxes. And the manual on my heating system.
It’s a strange paradox that I tend to prefer lighter reading in the colder months (I’m sure it has something to do with the academic calendar), whereas in the summer I like long complicated novels and sad poetry. Maybe it’s easier to bear sadness in the summertime when the weather’s not sombre and dark. Two recent books that provide a moving encounter with loss, M x T by Sina Queyras and Book of Hours by Kevin Young, are on top of my current reading stack.
Queyras echoes a pantheon of predecessors including Plath, Rich, Whitman, and Wilfred Owen. “How can we move forward carrying the weight of our dead?” she asks and then, “how can we come forward not carrying the weight of our dead?”
Young’s book, meanwhile, begins in bereavement for the passing of his father, even as it reminds us that the body knows more than we do; that it is meant to go on providing for a new generation. “Let me be // like the child who knows / & loves her youthful belly.”
I just picked up Emily Kendal Frey’s Sorrow Arrow – I totally get Frye’s dark sense of humor. “Make it sad,” she writes, “so it won’t come near again.”
Other recent favorites include Seam by Tarfia Faizullah; a comparatively older book by Larry Eigner, Things Stirring Together or Far Away, which I’m rereading because I misplaced this copy for so long it seems new to me again; and a book I fell in love with last year and am still going back to, Boyishly by Tanya Olson.
Recently, I’ve been inspired by Katie Peterson’s collection of poems, The Accounts. It’s a sober, psychologically delicate work. Peterson endows apparently commonplace observations with immense symbolic resonance and emotional power: it’s an art of strategic understatement.
I’ve been living happily with Ellen Bryant Voigt’s Headwaters: Poems, a book of amplitude and mastery. Voigt by now has perfect control of voice: the poems skim, or soar, or drop suddenly, or veer. They move expansively between past and present. It’s breathtaking.
Louise Erdrich’s novel The Roundhouse absorbed me. It’s part thriller-mystery, part painful reckoning with discordant justice systems (Ojibwe Indian and the United States), part coming-of-age story, part keening for violence against Indian women.
Since I moved to Chicago this past year, I’ve been reading books by my new colleagues. In Doubting Thomas, Glenn W. Most rereads the religious tradition of the story of the Apostle Thomas putting his finger in Christ’s wound in order to test the reality of His apparition after death. It turns out there’s no Scriptural evidence of the actual touching: the narrative has to be pieced together from apocryphal writings and an extraordinarily rich history of works of visual art. This astounding book is about reading texts, paintings, and sculptures, and about the conditions of belief.
In Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition, David Nirenberg examines the ways in which various religious communities, starting with the Ancient Egyptians, and including the Romans, different strains of Christianity, and Islam, have imagined themselves in relation to their imagination of Judaism. Not a standard history of anti-Semitism, this book patiently unfolds a story of virulent projections of the fantasized Other, century after century, in detailed narratives and sometimes mind-boggling documents.
Here’s a list of some of the books that have been following me around lately:
You Good Thing by Dara Wier
The Collected Poetry of Jack Spicer
Devine Nothingness by Gerald Stern (forthcoming)
The Book for My Brother by Tomaž Šalamun
The Burning History of Anna in 1951 by Kenneth Koch
Destroyer and Preserver by Matthew Rohrer
April Galleons by John Ashbery
Trout Fishing in America by Richard Brautigan