On Poetry

October 29, 2015

Rival Muses: on Jonathan Bate’s ‘Ted Hughes: The Unauthorized Life’ 3


With an archive of blistering personal data at his disposal, but Hughes’s very human survivors more or less at his mercy, Bate faced a crushing ethical dilemma. The work that followed seems perpetually caught between the thrill of scandal and compulsion to soften the blow by selectively presenting Hughes’s most incendiary work as “symbolic.”

October 15, 2015

Conspiring with the Dead: On the Power of Reading Poetry Aloud 2


In poetry’s respiratory patterns, frozen in verse forms that enable us to breathe in concert with their authors, we may discover evidence of a shared humanity.

July 29, 2014

“Story with a Real Beast and a Little Blood”: on Rose McLarney’s Its Day Being Gone 0


Appalachian literature plays an elegaic refrain. It is a literature of dislocation and transition and survival.

July 21, 2014

Americans Love Poetry, But Not Poetry Books 7


Although the audience for poetry is vast, despite the very hard and creative work being done by publishers, this wider audience hasn’t yet crossed the bridge from reading poetry into buying poetry books.

July 18, 2014

The Saddest Poem Ever Written 13


Novels have hurt me. Stories have punctured my skeptical skin. Essays have made me rethink the world. But a melancholic poem shatters me.

July 9, 2014

Performance Anxiety: When Poets Read Aloud 14


Why do some poets perform as though they had just come to in a bad dream?

June 13, 2014

Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline: The New Jersey Poems of Timothy Walsh 0


When the World Was Rear-Wheel Drive understands that loss is imminent and inevitable, and that the things we have lost are beyond retrieval. That’s what makes it so painful, and so lovely.

April 3, 2014

Liner Notes: A Poetry Playlist 4


Poetry and music share a word of process — composition — and are linked by negotiations of melody, harmony, rhythm, proportion, and discord. Here is a poetry playlist: 10 poets offer their composition soundtracks.

April 1, 2014

Afghanistan’s Secret Feminism, Through Verse 3


In a corner of the world far from the western imagination, poetry may stand for something vibrant, illicit, honest, and subversive.

March 27, 2014

Filling the Silences: Race, Poetry, and the Digital-Media Megaphone 2


For most white Americans born outside the South, the Civil Rights Movement is the stuff of history books — fascinating, but abstract. For people like Taylor and myself, whose families were profoundly shaped by the civil rights struggle before we were born, that turbulent era is acutely personal, and at the same time distant and exotic.