Category Archives: poetry

Book Spine Poetry, or Moving with Lots of Books is a Pain

Alex Crowley -- October 10th, 2013

I just moved to a new apartment, and probably like many of you, I don’t own a lot of things, but the thing I own a lot of is books. Boxes, crates, shelves—you name it and it has books in or on it. So to keep from going nutty while I unpacked and (re)organized, I decided to make some book spine poems. Of course there’s always some measure of narcissism in a little project like this (“ooh, look at all the cool books I have!“), but I also think seeing someone else’s personal library is a window into their head (however small the window or head). So in that spirit, I’m posting my poems below, and you all should make some and send them our way! Take pics and tweet them to us @pwreviews and we’ll retweet them to all our followers.

better off without ‘em

I am a strange loop

louder than hell

beyond good and evil

you will die

civilization and its discontents

leaning against the rain

against architecture

the damned

in baltic circles

near to the wild heart

you are not dead

from the observatory

on the spectrum of possible deaths

to keep love blurry

rain

down the rabbit hole

on the tracks of game

collapse

either way I’m celebrating

consciousness explained

modern music and after

a brief history of time

blood, class, and empire

coming of age as a poet

making your own days

laughable loves

by word of mouth

seven american deaths and disasters

Poetry Books in the Stack Next to My Bed

Alex Crowley -- August 29th, 2013

Anyone who has been through the PW office and seen our desks (especially the reviews editors) has also surely seen the stacks of books we each have waiting to be taken home. These stacks tend to grow wild, as we live in small apartments already filled with piles of books. It can be difficult to justify taking more books home when you haven’t even made it through the ones that are already there. I happen to be a non-fiction editor here, and thus take home plenty of science and history and art books, but it’s always fun to cover something different, so to that end, here are five excellent poetry collections that I’ve recently read or am in the midst of reading.

bozicevic rise in the fall

Ana BožičevićRise in the Fall (Birds LLC, 2013)

So far my favorite poetry collection of 2013, Božičević somehow combines war and trauma and sex and love in that bizarre paradox world where out of dark themes emerges total life joy. It does what in my mind great poetry is supposed to do, which is leave you reeling and ecstatic that some human made this thing that you barely comprehend but totally understand so that when somebody asks “yeah, so it’s good, sure, but what’s it doing? what’s she do?” and you stammer “I don’t know… like, everything.” (PW review) Continue reading

Remembering Wislawa Szymborska and Dorothea Tanning

Craig Morgan Teicher -- February 2nd, 2012

Two beloved poets passed away this week: Nobel winner Wislawa Szymborska, who died yesterday at 88, and Surrealist painter turned poet Dorothea Tanning, who died on Tuesday at 101.   Both women led extraordinary, and extraordinarily different lives.  By way of remembrance, we wanted to simply quote a few lines from a poem by each…

from “Miracle Fair” by Wislawa Szymborska:


A miracle, for what else could you call it:
today the sun rose at three-fourteen
and will set at eight-o-one.

A miracle, less surprising than it should be:
even though the hand has fewer than six fingers,
it still has more than four.

A miracle, just take a look around:
the world is everywhere.

An additional miracle, as everything is additional:
the unthinkable
is thinkable.

 

from “Artist, Once” by Dorothea Tanning:


enfolded as in a pregnancy,
those not-yet-painted works

to be. They, hanging fire,
slow to come—to come

out—being deep inside her,
oozing metamorphosis

in her warm dark, took
their time and promised.

Fast forward. Trapped in now,
she’s not all that sure.

Compared to what entwined
her mind before the test,

before the raw achievement
pat, secure—oh, such bounty

to be lived, yet untasted,
undefined—all the rest…

University of California Press Suspends Award-Winning Poetry Series

Craig Morgan Teicher -- July 20th, 2011

In anticipation of upcoming state budget cuts, the University of California Press has elected to suspend its award-winning poetry series, New California Poetry, according to LA Times Jacket Copy. The series, which is extremely well-regarded in the poetry world, won some mainstream attention recently when one of its authors, Keith Waldrop, won the National Book Award for his 2009 collection Transcendental Studies: A Trilogy.

UC Press director Alison Mudditt told Jacket Copy that most books in the series “sell around 1,000 copies” and that the series “requires substantial support.” 1,000 copies represents typical, and, in many cases, strong sales for a poetry title, and much poetry is published by nonprofit presses, so UC’s experience is pretty standard for poetry publishing.

This news will come as a significant blow to many poetry readers and publishers. According to Jacket Copy, the series will publish three titles slated for 2012, and the press is seeking funding to relaunch the series in the future.

New Poetry Book Series Features Mountain West Poets

Craig Morgan Teicher -- April 19th, 2011

The Fort Collins, CO-based Center for Literary Publishing is debuting a new poetry book series this Spring called the Mountain West Poetry Series. All poets published in the series are residents of either Idaho, Montana, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico. The series will be edited by CLP director and Colorado Review Editor Stephanie G’Shwind and poet Donald Revell, who is one of the poetry editors of Colorado Review.  The series is funded by a $10,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

The first four books in the series are:

We Are Starved by Joshua Kryah (June 2011)

The City She Was by Carmen Gimenez Smith (November 2011)

Upper Level Disturbances by Kevin Goodan (June 2012)

The Two Standards by Heather Winterer (November 2012)

CLP is a nonprofit which also publishes the winner of the Colorado Prize for Poetry book contest (Full disclosure: CLP published this blogger’s first book) as well as the literary journal Colorado Review.  The new series will be published in addition to these other publications.

It’s still National Poetry Month, and a new book series is big news for poetry…

A Lost David Foster Wallace Poem

Craig Morgan Teicher -- April 12th, 2011

David Foster Wallace, a bit older than when he wrote this poem

A lost poem by David Foster Wallace, written when he was a child, has been found in the Wallace Archives at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas. The researcher who found it posted it on the Writebynight blog.  You can see it in Wallace’s adorable handwriting over there, but below I’ve typed the poem as it seems to be liniated on the page:

My mother works so hard
so hard and for bread. She needs some lard.
She bakes the bread. And makes
the bed. And when she’s
threw she feels she’s dayd.

Dang.  That’s deep, dark stuff for a kid…happy National Poetry Month?

NPM @ PWxyz: On Not Waiting Alone Part IV

John Gallaher & G.C. Waldrep -- April 7th, 2011

To celebrate National Poetry Month, PWxyz has asked John Gallaher & G.C. Waldrep, a pair of poets who collaboratively wrote their new collection of poems, Your Father on the Train of Ghosts, to reprise the method by which the book was written–a conversation conducted by email exchange–in order to create a series of blog posts on the art of poetry and their process of writing. They’ll offer one post per day between Monday and Thursday of this week. Here’s the last:

John Gallaher:  Now that we’re no longer writing YFOTTOG, I have a recurring sense of loss.  While we were exchanging poems (the average, I think, was that between us we wrote 2.5 poems a day) everything I was doing was to feed the poems.  I felt like all my receptors were open.  And now, I have only myself to wait for.  There’s a loneliness to that.  I wonder if others who have worked collaboratively feel this way.

Just a minute ago, I went looking for the title of a collaborative book I read years ago, to mention in this exchange.  It was written by Olga Broumas and Jane Miller, and is titled Black Holes, Black Stockings.  While looking for it, I came across a book with the subtitle “New Ideas for the Imaginative Quilter.”  That’s just the sort of thing that would have gotten directly folded into the collaboration.  I would know that what you’d send would relate to imaginative quilting.  There would be a connection, as there’s always a connection.  And then I’d just tune in.  But now what do I do with this thing?  This little scrap?  I have to wait to think of something or for the voices to speak or something.

There’s a definite sense of loss in that.  Just as I feel this sense of loss about the 290 or whatever poems we wrote that didn’t end up in the book.  Where are they to go?  Seattle or something?  They don’t exist for me or you, they exist for each other.  If we don’t do something with them together we won’t do something with them, right?  Will they become mercenaries?  Competitive quilters?

G.C. Waldrep:  They will form their own support groups, certainly.  I can see them sitting in little circles in church basements, late at night, saying “Hi, my name is ‘New Ideas for the Imaginative Quilter,’ and….”

JG:  “… and I’ve wasted my life waiting,” yeah.  Now we’re back to waiting, and one of the definition of poetry.  So is that how it ends, then?  They wait?  Or we do?  Either way, I would suggest collaboration, and others would as well, as I’m seeing more collaborations these days.  It must be something in the water.  Maybe that’s one of the things about long exposure to fluoridation the Keep America Committee tried to warn us about.

But at least when you collaborate, you don’t have to wait alone.

NPM @ PWxyz: On Not Waiting Alone Part 3

John Gallaher & G.C. Waldrep -- April 6th, 2011

To celebrate National Poetry Month, PWxyz has asked John Gallaher & G.C. Waldrep, a pair of poets who collaboratively wrote their new collection of poems, Your Father on the Train of Ghosts, to reprise the method by which the book was written–a conversation conducted by email exchange–in order to create a series of blog posts on the art of poetry and their process of writing. They’ll offer one post per day between Monday and Thursday of this week. Here’s the third:

G.C. Waldrep:  One of the reasons I liked using the particular Spicer quotation for an epigraph for the book—“Like somebody knocking on your door at three in the morning, you know.  And you try to pretend that you aren’t breathing”—is that I’ve never been entirely sure just what the space opened up by poetry is.

A colleague of mine here at Bucknell recently defined the poem—a poem, any poem, literature itself—as essentially a space of waiting, in part because while you’re reading, you’re not really “doing” anything.  In another context, I’ve written “Poetry is like entering a room someone or something has just left.  Maybe it’s a homey sitting room, fire crackling in the grate, inviting; maybe it’s a sumptuously-appointed hall.  Either way, you’re the only one there.  There was music playing, but it’s quiet now.  You’ve missed someone or something important by minutes, perhaps even seconds.  The telephone has just been ringing—somehow you know this—and you pick it up, just in time to hear click.”

For me, this was part of the essential mystery of YFOTTOG—writing poems in this voice that was neither John’s nor mine, but somehow a stepping-outside of our usual voices, perhaps of Voice itself.

What do poems do when we’re not reading them? …is one way of thinking about it.  What are they up to?

John Gallaher: I swear I saw some minor poems of Wallace Stevens’s wandering aimlessly in the soda aisle at Walmart the other night.  They seemed rather forlorn.  For me, this sort of defining is fun, as it creates an architecture, or a landscape where we can think of poetry going, not just the singular poem.  I’ve always been more interested in poetry than poems, if that makes any sense.  There’s a form of letting go involved.  Neil Young talks about it.  How technically proficient musicians can play better than he can, but they come to a wall.  He likes to go through the wall.  Collaboration is a form of that, I think.  At least it felt that way to me.  I was writing talking to a friend and I had no idea where we were going, where it was taking us.  The friend part, the poem I was responding to, took over, and then whatever happened happened, wall or no wall.

GCW:  The last time this happened to me, with a friend, we wound up eating Ethiopian in Brooklyn….

I’m interested in that wall, though.  Is it keeping us from something, or is it the something from which we are being kept?  Should we try to scale it, or decorate it, or blow it up?  Sketch it in pastels?  Tell our pets about it, late at night?

NPM @ PWxyz: On Not Waiting Alone

John Gallaher & G.C. Waldrep -- April 5th, 2011

To celebrate National Poetry Month, PWxyz has asked John Gallaher & G.C. Waldrep, a pair of poets who collaboratively wrote their new collection of poems, Your Father on the Train of Ghosts, to reprise the method by which the book was written–a conversation conducted by email exchange–in order to create a series of blog posts on the art of poetry and their process of writing. They’ll offer one post per day between Monday and Thursday of this week. Here’s the second:

John Gallaher:  For many years these two questions have continued to tap me on the shoulder:

What are you going to listen to?
What are you going to listen for?

I think they’re two of the fundamental questions for artists, whether the artist thinks directly about it or not, as the answers to these questions become the metaphors the poet will use to tune into the process.  If the poet believes poetry comes from inside, this singer you mentioned, the poet will tune to that.  If the poet believes poetry comes from outside, the poet will tune to that.

That’s the LISTEN TO.  And it matters, because what one listens to will exclude things that one could listen to.  So one has to have a belief as to where poems come from.  Then there’s the LISTEN FOR.  And what one listens for matters, because when one tunes to one thing, one will invariably miss other things.  Like conversations in a crowded room, something will/must get filtered out.  But, either way, the inside and the outside will both still get in.  There is always bleed-through.

I found myself circling this formulation many times during the back and forth that became YFOTTOG.  A poem written by you would pop up in my inbox, and I was to read it and then respond.  And what form would that response take?  We both went through many versions of what “responding” meant.

G.C. Waldrep:  Jack Spicer says “The words are counters, and the whole structure of language is essentially a counter.  It’s an obstruction to what the poem wants to do….”  So, if language is a game—if poetry is a sort of game we play with language—what then is a “response”?  What are the words, the poems in earnest of?

JG:  Spicer’s been important to both of us in this way, I think?  I suppose, to use his terms, the response is predicated upon what furniture we leave in the room for the voices to inhabit.  How we prepare.  Or unprepare.

GCW:  Although sometimes, it’s the voices that turn out to be the furniture.  We live here, we move some things around, some things move us around.  A heart attack.  A radio.  A poem is a vessel, or a poem is searching for a vessel.  Or…something else, entirely?

National Poetry Month on PWxyz: On Not Waiting Alone by John Gallaher & G.C. Waldrep

John Gallaher & G.C. Waldrep -- April 4th, 2011

To celebrate National Poetry Month, PWxyz has asked John Gallaher & G.C. Waldrep, a pair of poets who collaboratively wrote their new collection of poems, Your Father on the Train of Ghosts, to reprise the method by which the book was written–a conversation conducted by email exchange–in order to create a series of blog posts on the art of poetry and their process of writing. They’ll offer one post per day between Monday and Thursday of this week.  Here’s the first:

G.C. Waldrep:  For me, the origin of Your Father on the Train of Ghosts was a set of largely inchoate ideas about poetry and community—about art and life.  It seemed to me that we were all still mired, largely, in a Romantic conception of the poet as a solitary singer:  that poetry, from both a writer’s and a reader’s standpoint, was something isolated and isolating.  But this wasn’t how the Dadaists and Surrealists viewed it.  As someone who has committed his life to a certain ideal of community outside the classroom and written page, the presumption bothered me.  What sort of poetry might arise out of collaboration, that is, artistic community?  Out of friendship?

It’s a question I’m still pondering, even after the 16 months of poetic exchanges from which YFOTTOG was sculpted.  Can reading and writing be public/ collective/ collaborative acts?  Rather than personal/ private/ individual?  What sort of literature—what sort of poetry—might result if they were?

John Gallaher:  The creation of YFOTTOG was a social act (and it still IS, as we figure out what to do with all the poems that are not in the book).  That’s one of the things I really enjoyed about it.  We didn’t have a purpose or plan, other than what was in front of us.  It’s interesting to hear you mention the “solitary singer” conception.  It’s one of the many things I didn’t know about you when we started, but it’s something I’ve also been contending with for a long time.  This “solitary singer” is just as fraught (or, as I’ve also heard it termed, “authenticity”) as is “originality.”  What I mean is that the notion of this Romantic I with its “authenticity” gets passed around a lot, and I think it’s largely a fantasy.  Just as “originality” is largely a fantasy.  These are relative terms, not absolutes.

Poems, in reality, come from everywhere the poet can find them:  memory, environment, gum wrappers.  It’s all reaching out into the context to add something new.  The poet just tunes in to whatever works.  It’s been my general feeling all my writing life that all writing is collaborative.  One collaborates with the world.  Working on this book has made it literal.  It’s given the world an email address, so to speak.