On Poetry

April 3, 2014

Liner Notes: A Poetry Playlist 3

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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 1

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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

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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.

November 7, 2013

How to Be Alone: The Millions Interviews Tanya Davis 0

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No matter how people approach loneliness or solitude or community, we all do. We’re not that different from each other. The way we experience it is different, but we all experience love, pain, loneliness.

October 17, 2013

Clean New Music: On Seamus Heaney 2

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I needed Heaney’s voice to know what a voice could sound like, and through Heaney I discovered my own voice. I learned to listen to the timbre of its echoes.

August 8, 2013

Doses of Medicine: The Words and Wisdom of Louise Glück 3

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Glück’s work has always “spoken” to me more than many poets because she examines the concerns I have about being in the world: loneliness and being alone, searching for happiness, and desiring to have my feelings validated, though they often aren’t.

July 1, 2013

Frank O’Hara’s Lessons for Being Gay 5

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In this moment of giving thanks and talking about what the new gay future looks like, I’d like to propose a toast to a man we owe more to than we have ever admitted.

May 6, 2013

So That If I Died It Mattered 31

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When asked to explain my choices, I’ve said, “Art is how you explain what it feels like to be alive in the 21st century. I am an emotional historian.” But that’s really my answer to, “Why should we all make art?” My why is more personal.

April 26, 2013

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Poets 3

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I once had a real-life encounter with a poet at four a.m. in a Las Vegas Denny’s. He leaned over the back of his booth, made some awkward introduction, and began reciting lines from a wrinkled paper about the haunting sound wind makes or some nonsense.

This encounter gave me an acute poet-phobia that lasted for years.

April 11, 2013

The Poet Who Died for Our Sins: On Charles Baudelaire 6

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Faced with such misery, a little spiritual compromise doesn’t look like such a bad thing. That Baudelaire was incapable of such compromise was his undoing and our good fortune. Like a blasphemous Jesus, he took on our worst sins — pride, sloth, envy, lechery — and turned them into art.