"I write this at a time when many individuals with many different kinds of lives aspire to be poets, and many different kinds of poetry are said to thrive in these United States. Is it too easy to say that Lowell's star has fallen a bit? Or is it actually that the sense of achievement his work self-consciously carries with it itself carries less credibility than it used to?" Introduction to New Selected Poems by Robert Lowell
"Nothing is natural in the work of Rae Armantrout. Our words, gestures, and relationships are conventional, scripted, deformed — or outright produced — by, as she has it, 'the interventions of capitalism into consciousness.' On the subject of 'nature,' I notice plenty of leaves, and leaf-shadows, and leaf-reflections (in both senses of the word) in her poems — but her plants are urban, compromised, possibly parodying of Keats..." The Lonely Dream
"What does anyone—any one of us—represent? Whom do we represent? In 'The Poet' Emerson fuses democratic idealism and aesthetic power when he asserts that the poet is representative: 'He stands among partial men for the complete man, and apprises us not of his wealth, but of the common wealth'... I want to press on the issue of representation anew as I look at two new books of poems by emerging male poets who seem, at first, to represent far-distant points on the continuum of cultural engagement and personal revelation. What does it mean to represent?" Representative Men
"'Is there a life before death?' If we can pry it loose from its political context, the question echoes throughout Heaney’s oeuvre. How much of life are we given before death takes it away? Can we call it life if it is constantly shadowed by the fear of death, or the deaths of loved ones? Can we separate the realms of death and life so neatly?" Descent into Darkness
"I've been reading William Hazlitt after many years and thinking about 'first meetings with poets,' Hazlitt's essay by that title, and some first meetings of my own, along with the question of apprenticeship. Luckily enough, the first poet I met wasn't Samuel Taylor Coleridge. And luckily enough, it wasn't 1798. When Coleridge visited the Hazlitt family home in Shropshire, he began to talk and, says Hazlitt in his famous account, 'did not cease while he staid; nor has he since, that I know of.' For me, John Berryman was a little like that, but Berryman, again luckily enough, wasn't the first poet I met. The first poet I met was Milton Kessler." An Apprenticeship
"Do you too dislike it? Not the idea of it. Not the best of it. Not the impulse. But let's face it, most of what calls itself poetry is god-awful. Writing a good poem is hard and it's hardly ever accomplished. It's important to dislike the mediocre, self-important, cheaply-made, insincere or spineless poem, because only then can there be imaginative allowance for the extraordinary one."The Rising Generation Questionnaire
"Perhaps to live in the present—the bell, the heron—is enough. What the cell teaches me isn't the peace found in solitude, isn't the detachment one requires. What I find is what lies beneath the Word: silence. I bring to it my life, my memories, my history, and I don't wish to give them up, or can't give them up without becoming something other than who I am." In the Moment: An Interview with Peter Everwine, by Christopher Buckley and Jon Veinberg [Start 2017]
"On January 18th, 1914 seven male poets led by the celebrities of their number, Yeats and Pound, rented a car from Harrod’s department store and drove to the small market town of Horsham in Sussex. There [W.S.] Blunt (philanderer, political radical, horse breeder, a septuagenarian poet who hadn’t published anything for years) served them roast peacock followed by roast beef. In return, they offered him their poetry.... [E]ven at the time, the entire affair fell decidedly on the awkward side of quirky." Birds of a Feather (reviewing Poets and the Peacock Dinner by Lucy McDiarmid)
"There is no overstating the affection and gratitude we feel for someone who trusts our work before we have come to do so ourselves, someone who leads us to trust our more eccentric impulses—at least when those impulses have turned out to be, as they have in my own case, the main current of the work. I will always be grateful to George Core for giving me room and respect at a crucial time, and for reminding me again and again what a respectable literary life—that there might be such a thing!—might look like." Homage to George Core: Essays and Notes in Honor of his Retirement
"Transforming a badger into a raccoon demands a Dremel tool and at least two types of saws. For my second class at Prey Taxidermy—the studio in downtown Los Angeles run by the taxidermist and former Disney employee Allis Markham—I’d signed up for the Sunday workshop called Mammal Shoulder Mounts." Modifying the Badger
"Having so often heard Shakespeare's account of their love, we might wish to ignore his voice for a brief time and submerge ourselves instead in the voice of the beloved friend. Though he often speaks in great distress, he also defends himself brilliantly against Shakespeare's complaints. In his most intimate poems, he conceives of himself and his lover as twins, and speaks with the tender confidence we associate with Romeo and Juliet....
While it may be hard to turn away from this lyric voice, we must open this story by listening for a time to Shakespeare. By doing so we will come to see what, with the help of patience and suspension of disbelief, may eventually stand forth with simple clarity: the beautiful young man is the poet, international diplomat, and brave defender of religious tolerance Henry Constable—or, as he was often called by contemporaries, 'sweet Henry Constable.'" Introduction to Naming Thy Name: Cross Talk in Shakespeare's Sonnets
Beverley Bie Brahic:
"Do poems think?
"Big question, one that has nagged people at least since Plato was grumbling about the dangerously loose thinking of poets in contrast to the rigor of philosophers. 'There's an old quarrel between philosophy and poetry,' he said in the Republic—but what exactly that quarrel was is moot—not least because Plato's use of dramatic dialogue to make his case was itself poetical."
Charms, Prayers, and Curses: on Reginald Gibbons's How Poems Think
"Where other poets try to remove inessentials, to compress and condense, to make poems (as Ezra Pound quipped) into 'gists and piths,' Goldbarth does the reverse: his gregarious poems (he has published over a thousand) try to fit everything in, juxtaposing the serious concerns that have been the traditional domain of lyric—love, death, anomie, God, depression, joy—with trivia, ephemera, facts from any field of human knowledge, and other items that seem too awkward, too inconsequential, or too absurd to find a place in a more conventionally, or more densely, organized poem." The Poem Is You: Sixty Contemporary American Poems and How to Read Them
"The opening lines of 'Some Older American Poets', from Frank Ormsby's Goat's Milk: New and Selected Poems, offer a pithy summary of the three volumes under consideration here:
Tired of the accomplished young men
and the accomplished young women,
their neat cerebral arcs and sphinctral circles,
their impeccable chic, their sudden precocious
their claims to be named front-runner,
I have turned to the ageing poets—the marathon
the marathon women—the ones who breasted the tape
and simply ran on, establishing their own distance.
In an era when the latest arrivals seem to eclipse so much, it is refreshing to be reminded that excellence was not invented by a generation born in the 1980s." Marathon Men, Marathon Women
"A poet fools around with words. And that’s one way of getting a poem started—just playing, not asserting a concept or an idea, because as Valéry says... 'If you want to write verse and you begin with thoughts, you begin with prose.' Redefining 'stupidity' as 'foolishness' feels both right and inadequate, as if the riddle’s answer were too easy. On the other hand, are we looking for an answer, or are we trying to discover those elusive 'subtle relations'? 'The proper object of poetry,' Valéry writes, becoming oracular again, 'is what has no single name, what in itself provokes and demands more than one expression.'" Poetry and Stupidity
"The cumulative effect of these lectures is magnificent and inspiring. Paula Meehan is, by a very, very wide margin, the most important thinking poet of her generation. In a world that has become more hopeless than hopeful, these deeply spiritual essays will be an important dressing-station in our worldwide, darkening battlefield."
The Bears and the Bees
Matthew and Michael Dickman:
"One thing that is a little touchy about publishing both of us is that we also happen to be identical twins, so that can be a little odd..."
Rooting for Language: Matthew and Michael Dickman talk to Chrissy Williams
"Don Share's The Poems of Basil Bunting is... long-awaited on two separate counts: not only because a scholarly, critical, variorum edition of this major modernist poet has long been required, but also because this edition has for many years been imminent, a ghostly vessel forever breasting the horizon. Now it has come alongside... Well done, Faber. Well done, Don Share." Lean Words
"At least twice in his life—once in a passing remark and once in a perfect line—Philip Larkin, who played at being merely dour, used the word lovely. It doesn’t seem to be a coincidence that photography (almost his second art, as this selection of Larkin’s prodigious output reveals) is a close presence in each case. The poet, on a trip to the country, turns positively exclamatory on seeing, of all things, some cows. 'How lovely they are!' he writes in a letter, not having to explain, really, not explaining away. He takes several snaps in close-up. The loveliness on offer at the close of 'Lines on a Young Lady’s Photograph Album' is of another order: 'It holds you like a heaven, and you lie / Unvariably lovely there, / Smaller and clearer as the years go by.'" Another Look at Larkin
William Logan :
"Geoffrey Hill was the major English poet of the last half of the twentieth century. Hill’s intransigence, his clotted difficulty, his passion for the redolent fineries of English landscape—he eyed the woods and fields like a plant hunter—have stood in magnificent solitude. Among the poets long set for A-level examinations in Britain, Thom Gunn and Ted Hughes, good poets in their way, had neither the depth nor the irritating brilliance of Hill—both Gunn and Hughes seem poets of their day, with the manners of that day. That’s the fate of most poets—for many, their highest aim. Hill was never on the syllabus." Geoffrey Hill, 1932-2016
"I think I was enabled to think of myself as a poet during a few years in my early twenties, living in San Francisco, and knowing some of the survivors of the Jack Spicer Circle. It was clear with them that being a poet did not mean being part of any literary establishment or having the sponsorship of any publisher, but an engagement with the craft of poetry—writing, reading, discussing, criticizing, promoting poetry." A Conversation with Marilyn Hacker by Jessica Greenbaum
"I hope... that poems have a kind of resistance: an ability to slough their authors and their authors' small talk as they move forward in time. George Johnston writes that poems aspire to the condition of anonymity. I think that's true." Interview by Ange Mlinko
"The speaker in a John Koethe poem is never skittish about a pause for thought. He courts the reflective moment, he revels in it, he finds it comforting. He has made his peace with the mind's essential sadness, and if the sadness does not rise to the level of misery, still he asks the reader to keep him company. And here is another reason why Koethe's embrace of melancholia does not feel depressing: he is a convivial poet. Far from constituting a protective shell, the surface of his poetry is inviting." Poetry in Review, on collections by James Lasdun and John Koethe
"A reviewer might observe that a particular poet is passionate, raw, visceral, working from the unconscious; another poet might be said to be intellectual, cool and refined. I would say that the adjective that best describes Groark's work as a whole is transcendent. Even in the midst of a grief where 'I find I cannot speak of love /or any of its wind-torn ghosts to you / who promised warm sheets and a candle, lit' she manages to leave the shadows behind, and to keep instead, the 'remembered light' ('The Garden in Hindsight')."
Opening Out, a review of Vona Groarke's Selected Poems
"Dionysus, for me, is the most attractive of all the gods in the Greek pantheon. He's the trickster god and the equivalent to the North American Coyote, or the Scandinavian Loki. He is a protean figure, always transforming himself into other things; more protean than Proteus, in fact. He is the most volatile of all the gods, the youngest god in the pantheon, and the most intriguing, I think. So I've been following his progress and trying to write about him for quite a few years."
At Scraich of Day: An Interview with Robin Robertson
"One day in the last few weeks of his life, when he was having frequent coughing spasms, my father and I explicated Shakespeare's Sonnet 71. We had originally set out to read King Lear, his favorite play in the Shakespeare canon (he had read nearly all of them), but now the aggressive radiation seemed to be working only marginally, its effect outstripped by the destructive power of the spreading lung cancer, and a complete play seemed too demanding. He could, however, take poetic language fourteen lines at a time." Smoothing the Serpent's Tooth
"Despite my new surroundings, and the eerie quiet of Main Street in this small Iowa town that I'll call Ramoth (next door to Gilead), something about the morning's combination of anxiety and excitement feels familiar. I realize that when I'm at home during the middle of the week, working on my own poetry instead of ministry, I assume the same posture, staring out the window with the words of others nearby, my mind clouded with witnesses—or often just cloudy." Listening Unfolding: Notes on Ministry and Poetry
"Has a poetic project like 'General Instin' ever been carried out in the United States? I have never heard of anything even remotely resembling, in scope and approach, this droll, mysterious, and drolly mysterious cultural adventure that has involved dozens of French poets, writers, and artists for nearly two decades, and that has now come to fruition.
"The project began in 1996 when the novelist Patrick Chatelier (b. 1965), who had admittedly 'gone astray' while strolling through Montparnasse Cemetery, came across the grave of one Adolphe Hinstin (1831-1905)..." Who Is General Instin?
"I seem to have a habit, almost a tic, of hearing what's around or just below ordinary phrases, whether my own or someone else's, of listening for surplus meaning or, on the other hand, for missing meaning ...." Rae Armantrout in Conversation with Katie Lederer
Myra Kornfeld and Stephen Massimilla:
"In the deepest cold of winter, this sensuous Romantic poem full of delightful contrasts provides a delectable, passionate partner for the glorious Moroccan feast of Braised Lamb Shanks or Short Ribs, Moroccan-Spiced Bastilla, and all the exotic dishes celebrated in this section..." On Keats's 'The Eve of St. Agnes': A Moroccan Feast
"We must learn to think of Chorale at the Crossing as Peter Porter's last collection, and that is hard. It is a book written in a valedictory register, from the characteristically tongue-in-cheek title of the opening sonnet, 'First Poem of the Last Book', to the wise and profoundly moving closing poem, 'Hermit Crab'. In between, Porter sounds every note he made familiar." Precision and Engagement (reviewing books by Peter Porter, Philip Gross, and Kathleen Jamie)
"Getting off the plane in Newark, New Jersey, a few years ago, before the Dodge Poetry Festival, I looked for the car service hired to transport poets to the festival grounds. It turned out I was riding in the same car as _______, a Native American poet, whom I had not met before.
"'Oh, it's nice to meet you,' I said. 'You and I are on the same panel on Sunday—'Poets on Race in Poetry.'
"Although she and I look pretty much the same—we both could pass for Minnesotans—she looked at me like I was crazy, and burst into laughter. 'What race are you?' she said." Going Crosstown: Four Poems About Race by White People
"'I, too, dislike it', wrote Marianne Moore, referring to poetry – and she must have included syllabic poetry because she was and remains its pre-eminent practitioner. Her opinion is not unusual. My impression is that contemporary syllabics, where the organisational principle in the line is the number of syllables, never was and still isn’t popular. I hear conversations between poets about which journal editors won’t accept a submission in syllabics. I know poets who write in syllabics but hate to be asked about it and dismiss the fact." Syllabics: Psycho-Syllabics / Confessing to Syllabics
"Heartbroken and in mourning, a man describes the terrible sorrow he feels at the loss of his beautiful and irreplaceable 'Perle.' In August, with flowers and herbs decorating the earth and perfuming the air, he visits a green garden, the scene of his bereavement. Tormented by images of death and decay, devastated by grief and overpowered by the intoxicating scent of the plants, he falls into a sudden sleep and begins to dream, embarking on an out-of-body experience that will lead to an encounter with his departed pearl, who we learn is his child, and a journey to the gates of heaven." Introduction to Pearl: A New Verse Translation
"The kind of verse I have in mind gives the illusion of accommodating accidents and hints, guesses, innuendoes and echoes, hints and intimations. Its implications call their own existence into doubt, they are so subtly present. If they were material, its stanzas might be gossamer and bits of lichen, thread, and thistledown stuck together with hummingbird spittle. The bougainvillea bract that seems a dwarf moth suspended in still air and turning as on angels’ breaths hangs from such a wisp of web as might be used in these ghosts of nests." Poetry in Review: Devin Johnston's Far-Fetched
"In 1965, during the seventy-sixth and final summer of her life, Anna Akhmatova encountered the work of Judith Wright, an Australian poet twenty-six years her junior, living more than eight thousand miles from Saint Petersburg amid the subtropical rainforest of Tamborine Mountain, in the state of Queensland. The experience, we are told by Anatoly Naiman, moved the Russian poet to compose a fragment, one of her last..." 'Creation's Holiday': On Silence and Monsters in Australian Poetry
"The great subject of the poetry of Sweden's Tomas Tranströmer—it sometimes seems as though it is his only subject—is liminality. He is a poet almost helplessly drawn to enter and inhabit those in-between states that form the borderlines between waking and sleeping, the conscious and the unconscious, ecstasy and terror, the public self and the interior self." Good Evening, Beautiful Deep
"There's a moment in the Wallace Stevens segment of the old Voices & Visions PBS series when one of Stevens's former co-workers at the Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company is asked his impression of his colleague. The anonymous questioner is off camera, so the question appears to be coming from the air. You have to imagine the simplicity of the scene. This co-worker is a genuine Connecticut Yankee—craggy, weather-worn, retired. He's wearing a ball cap, as I recall, and is sitting in front of a sort of work shed, its paint chipped and white, in what appears to be his backyard. There's a thoughtful pause before the interviewer rephrases his question. Then, after further thought, the old man says, 'Waalll,' in his sharp Connecticut Yankee drawl, now trying to bring back his memory of Stevens: 'Waalll, if you don't count his personal life I guess you could say he was a happy man.'" Does Ripe Fruit Never Fall?
"Claudia Emerson, who died in December 2014, had come to be known as a poet capable of revealing startling discoveries inside quiet, quotidian circumstances. Her poems are set mostly in Southern rural and small-town scenes, moments in ordinary lives that would normally elude anyone else’s attention—a woman straightening her hair before a mirror, or finding amid old photographs the daybook of someone else long gone; watching patterns that starlings make as they flock, or listening from inside a house to the sounds of horseshoes being thrown outside at dusk."
"The poetry of Sappho gives us the rarest of gifts—a genuine woman's voice from an age overwhelmingly dominated by men. ... What was it like to be a young girl over two thousand years ago? Why were marriage and motherhood at the center of a woman's life? How did life change as a woman grew older in classical times? The similarities between the lives of ancient and modern women are surprising, but the differences can be astonishing." Introduction to Searching for Sappho
"In the striking fables of James Tate, strangers appear out of nowhere. One falls from a tree, another emerges from an alley, a third pops up in the middle of a living room ..." Poetry in Review
"You can spend your whole life thinking of death. Or soaring from it."
On Ghosts and the Overplus
"When Simić looks at it, even a dog heading up the walk with the newspaper in his mouth becomes eerie and touches on an aspect of infinity." A Strange and Quiet Fullness
C. D. Wright:
"Poetry moves by indirection and in so doing avoids the crowd. This does not mean it would not draw others in. But one has to be responsive to its movement. One has to adjust to its unfamiliar configurations. One has to train one's best ear on its retrofitted lyre." Concerning Why Poetry Offers a Better Deal Than the World's Biggest Retailer
Lisa Russ Spaar:
"As the classically trained Thomas Jefferson would have known, the word poet derives from the Greek poetes ('maker'), from poein ('to make, create, compose'). Jefferson was himself a consummate and complicated maker—a compulsive builder and tearer-down and refashioner of houses; a fluent forger of declarations, laws, statutes, nations; the founder of two institutions of higher education, West Point and the University of Virginia; an amateur and innovator in realms as various as gardening and vaccination, viticulture and surveying, beekeeping and Biblical scholarship, architecture and muslins. The author of one incomplete autobiography, Jefferson was also a conjurer of selves—a creator of truths and a creator of fictions." Introduction to Monticello in Mind
"... I'm not a theorist. So I really don't have theories, which means I kind of invent each poem as I write it. Not always true. Too many times I'm imitating myself, and I get crap; but I think when the poems are interesting to me, they surprise me." Honouring the Human (an interview with Ahren Warner)
"A mysterious quickening inhabits the depths of any good poem—protean, elusive, alive in its own right. The word 'creative' shares its etymology with the word "creature," and carries a similar sense of breathing aliveness, of an active, fine-grained, and multicellular making. What is creative is rooted in growth and rising, in the bringing into existence of new and autonomous being. We feel something stir, shiver, swim its way into the world when a good poem opens its eyes. Poetry's work is not simply the recording of inner or outer perception; it makes by words and music new possibilities of perceiving. Distinctive realms appear to us when we look and hear by poem-light. And these realms clearly are needed—there is no human culture that does not have its songs and poems." Kingfishers Catching Fire: Looking with Poetry's Eyes
Tony Roberts :
"It is a potentially disastrous situation – one almost wills it to be: Allen Tate and his wife, Caroline Gordon, are furiously busy with their novels; their house guest, Ford Madox Ford, is dictating to his secretary (the wonderfully named Wally Tworkov) while her sister, his companion Janice Biala, sits painting. Out on the lawn of 'Benfolly' the young and callow Robert Lowell intones his own Miltonic sonnets in an olive-green tent. 'It’s awful here', writes Biala. ‘In every room in the house there's a typewriter and at every typewriter there sits a genius. Each genius is wilted and says that he or she can do no more but the typewritten sheets keep on mounting. I too am not idle. I sit in the parlor where I paint on three pictures at once in intervals of killing flies.'" With the Topnotch Tates at Benfolly, 1937
"At age seven, Stanley Moss announced to his teacher that he knew he was destined to become a poet. Few other modern poets, if any, have been as exhaustive as Moss in mining the post-Whitman ore of a "Song of Myself" for so many decades. Ages seven to ninety. Today, for him to discover that his relentless ongoing "Poem of Self" has suddenly become "obsolete" leaves him with a cataclysmic void to be filled. And he finds that there is to be no turning back from this difficult crossroads in his art." Beyond the Muse of Self
"At issue for both poets is vitality—the 'principal substance,' as Wilson calls it—that propels both 'action' and articulation in a sphere of profound solitude. Each poet situates her distinctly solitary speaker in a 'natural' scene; each represents in that natural site a corresponding interior circumstance. The notable differences lie in position and perspective. In Robert Frost’s lexicon, if Wilson looks 'in deep' at the dazzling, meticulous particulars of a flourishing landscape, then Klink gazes 'out far' into the vast echoing absences of a world iced over, damaged, bereft."
In Deep and Out Far
"He hands me his wire-framed glasses before turning, bowing, and stepping onto the mats. Today's tournament is one of the days my husband fights his visible enemies. Earlier I packed his gi, mouth guard, one-pound gloves, groin cup, bananas, bottled water, and gummy bears, the duffle crinkling with old granola bar wrappers. We spend our Saturdays in old gymnasiums and church basements that smell like weak chili and wet socks. My husband fights new strangers. A curious but easily bored spectator, I watch and read Ovid's Amores. Losing to the Invisible: An Ars Poetica
"At one time or another, when face-to-face with a poem, most everyone has been perplexed. The experience of reading a poem itself is as likely to turn us off, intellectually or emotionally, as it is to move us. Unless patronized by celebrities, set to music, accompanied by visuals, or penned by our own children, poems do a terrible job of marketing themselves. All those ragged lines and affected white spaces make them appear as though they should be treated only as pieces of solemn art. Look but don't get too close, and definitely don't touch." from Poetry: A Survivor's Guide [Start 2016]