Poetry

Wittgenstein Elegies by Jan Zwicky

Wittgenstein Elegies by Jan Zwicky

Jan Zwicky’s new edition of Wittgenstein Elegies is a panoplied response to this, from Wittgensein ". . . philosophy ought really to be written as a poetic composition."

In order to create a complex choral conversation between philosophy and poetry, in general, and philosopher and poet, more specifically, Zwicky employed the risky art of appropriating others’ words for the purpose of more than homage, but for the repurpose of a different understanding.

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Garments Against Women by Anne Boyer

Garments Against Women by Anne Boyer

Anne Boyer’s new book of poems, Garments Against Women, is a subtle feat of poetic mise en abyme. She conceptualizes the daily into the philosophical and, thankfully, collapses the philosophical into the quotidian. With her lyric prose, she does not spare words—there is no fear of that sort of economy here; and her language patterning is reflective of the template one might use for sewing: This is two-dimensional so that you may make of it something three-dimensional, something to walk away with, to cover you. These poems collapse her world perfectly onto the page, and in reading them, they become again the uncollapsed world—like a three-dimensional rendering of a mise en abyme painting, each frame falling into the next like an accordion: in and out, in and out (until it slips, beautifully); the music produced may not be perfectly in tune, but it is amazingly attuned.  

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Saint Friend by Carl Adamshick

Saint Friend by Carl Adamshick

Without a wasted syllable, the poems in Carl Adamshick’s sophomore effort Saint Friend address death, life, and the meaning of both with a lean, angular prose. This collection is many things: heartbreaking, funny, strange, heavy. It is a collection reflective of the varied nature of our own existence, a lifetime of minor tragedies, quiet triumphs, and the biting fear of irrelevance.

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Think Tank by Julie Carr

Think Tank by Julie Carr

“What black butterfly, voiceless with its fourth-person narration / is the real world?” Julie Carr’s poem asks, in Think Tank, just out by Solid Objects. This is poetry of the temporal, witnessed through the spatiality offered by the window of the quotidian and domestic (“… Morning’s not / measured nor meant / just assured and rude in its lack of regard …” (10)), of parenthood and chairs, and “all, all” (“Windows blaze, all, all—the train jumps its tracks” (1)). Carr brings “all, all” by way of fragmentation, because there is no other way, and she knows this; poetry is this. As Phillipe Lacoue-Labarthe writes, “Poetry occurs where language, contrary to all expectations, gives way.” By way of amazing observation and diction of capture and release, along with her use of the empty space of the page, Carr’s poems, allow for what Jean-Luc Nancy calls the “syncope of language.” Caesurae reign supreme—at least as supreme as her words.

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Short Talks by Anne Carson

Short Talks by Anne Carson

Almost everything about Anne Carson’s collection of prose poems, Short Talks (originally published in 1992), is, as its title suggests, short: the poems themselves, the length of the collection, the new afterword by the author (with textual brevity to rival that of her beautiful book-object Nox (New Directions, 2010). This book is even short on illustrations, of which there is only one. Thankfully, however, the gorgeously written and elucidating introduction by poet Margaret Christakos takes almost ten pages—it deserves all ten; and the poetry itself is long on knowledge, art, history, mastery, and is pregnant with crystal-clear insight (along with its refractions). As an homage to these small, brick-shaped poems, I will keep these words to a minimum: a short talk on Short Talks.

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Belleza y Felicidad: Selected Writings by Fernanda Laguna and Cecilia Pavón

Belleza y Felicidad: Selected Writings by Fernanda Laguna and Cecilia Pavón

Chris Kraus writes that Fernanda Laguna and Cecilia Pavón “understand everything,” and she might just be right. The poetry found in Belleza y Felicidad: Selected Writings is a dialogue of friends, candid storytelling about being women in love, dialectic on being alive; it is also an exploration of what it means to create and practice art and writing outside the confines of a group of poets who write for other poets primarily (read: academic careers). Fernanda and Cecilia may not write for themselves, as some poets often weakly argue, but they very well may write for each other—and somehow this doesn’t feel exclusive at all. I am thankful to Stuart Krimko for offering the English-speaking world an invitation to this ongoing project of conversation.

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The Game of 100 Ghosts by Terry Watada

The Game of 100 Ghosts by Terry Watada

            “night

                        crept like

              smoke in a forest fire

 

            at sundown

                                     the evening

                        settled and everyone sat

                        in        

                                    a circle

            around

            a circle of candles.”

So begins Terry Watada’s The Game of 100 Ghosts, a book of poems inspired by a Japanese tradition known as Hyaku Monogatari Kwaidan-kai. As Watada describes in the excerpt above, participants gather in a circle lighting one hundred candles and relate tales of loved ones who have passed on. After each tale, a candle is snuffed out and when the final tale is told, those gathered in the circle await a visitation of a spirit. Watada imagines himself gathered around this circle, relating stories of loved ones, invoking the spirit of the game while staying true to traditional poetic techniques.

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Superior Packets by Susie Timmons

Superior Packets by Susie Timmons

“We are the Spanish Harps, / We certainly hope you like us. / We are the Spanish Harps, / Vwing, Vwing, Vwing.” So ends the first poem in the first book of Susie Timmons’ three-book collection Superior Packets, out this April from Wave Books. The poem is a short, bizarre, gleeful salute from an unGoogleable and possibly fictional entity, and its sing-song echoes of The Beatles (“We’re Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, / We hope you will enjoy the show”) launch me into a world where language seems to have a pulse—writing as writhing, where every line strains to peel off the page and head out to live a life of its own.

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Everyone I Love Is a Stranger to Someone by Annelyse Gelman

Everyone I Love Is a Stranger to Someone by Annelyse Gelman

The poetry of the disenfranchised is not an uncommon subject: Every day we are inundated with words by people who speak from ignored lands. There is a clichéd concept of writing that I hate: That you must write from a place of great sadness or grief in order for it to be good, accessible, and available to people. I think that’s reductionist; surely many great things have been written about the process of mourning, but what of joy? I’m thinking here of Frank O’Hara, “But what of joy, that comes in darkness embossed by silvery images.” Or perhaps, “We shall have everything we want and there will be no more dying.” There is no disputing the fact that we live in a world full of treachery. But what about the poetry of people who dare to love and desire despite all of the grievous occasions in the world? And even greater still, the poetry that explores the ways in which these two contrasting emotions touch upon each other? It is my great belief that joy and sadness are one in the same, that you can’t have one without the other. Or perhaps exploring that concept even further: one begets the other or at least enhances the other.

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American Poet: A Novel by Jeff Vande Zande

American Poet: A Novel by Jeff Vande Zande

Jeff Vande Zande’s novel, American Poet: A Novel, reads like a love song (or a sonnet perhaps) to Michigan and the town of Saginaw specifically. Initially however, it feels more like a sorrowful dirge, reflecting on the broken dreams and creative stagnation of Denver Hoptner, a young, budding poet.

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M x T by Sina Queyras

M x T by Sina Queyras

If anyone can write a Cindy Sherman still, Sina Queyras can (Teethmarks). If anyone can write water, Sina can. If anyone can invoke Peter Frampton in one room and Virginia Woolf on the opposite page, Sina can (Lemon Hound). Childhood in her hand becomes the bird that knows how to fly away, and the bird that knows how to circle, and the bird who knows where to land. And when (Autobiography of Childhood).

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