On Poetry

March 27, 2013

21st Century Butterfly, 19th Century Net: Fourteen Years in Haiku 5

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The poem itself is not the point of writing poetry. Instead, I forged this new definition. Daily haiku writing is a practice of attentiveness, the major byproduct of which is a seventeen-syllable poem.

February 19, 2013

Occupy Parnassus!: Kirill Medvedev’s ‘It’s No Good’ 1

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Occupy Wall Street may have had real consequences for our national economic debate, but its vision of a just society again seems hazy, as if glimpsed from the far side of sleep. We need some outside force to jolt us back awake. Kirill Medvedev, meet your audience.

January 25, 2013

Try Not to Shield Your Eyes: On Mathew Henderson’s The Lease 5

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Thias collection’s full of little details, turns of phrase that you just know other writers are going to try and steal.

January 24, 2013

Topographies of Desire: The Millions Interviews Megan Kaminski 2

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One of my good friends is a very successful novelist. I was with her when she was approached by another (male) writer who was attempting to deride her work: “Aren’t all your books about the same thing?” My friend asked him what he meant by that. He replied without missing a beat — “Well, aren’t they all about women?”

November 14, 2012

Playing Telephone with Emily Dickinson and Paul Legault 1

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Legault transports Dickinson into mostly fortune-cookie length snippets of contemporary English, a dialect spoken widely in urban pockets like Brooklyn, where increasing numbers of the highly educated and literary classes live, procreate, keep each other amused, and make their own cheese.

May 3, 2012

The Poetry of Mental Unhealth: Philip Larkin 10

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Readers have a perfect right to regard Philip Larkin, as I do not, as a complete shit. But if they consider his personal failings indistinguishable from his poetry, I think the loss is theirs.

May 2, 2012

Post-40 Bloomer: Spencer Reece, The Poet’s Tale 5

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We needed such a story. The romance, the sense of “close call.” We need these stories to counter the inevitability of obscurity; we need stories that kindle our sense of hope, and possibility. In truth, I wouldn’t blame fans or journalists for altering or exaggerating the story. I understand why we need it to be as dramatic as possible.

April 12, 2012

Dream a Little Dream of Me: John Berryman 9

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Among the adjectives Vendler applies to Henry are “regressive, petulant, hysterical, childish, cunning, hypersexual, boastful, frightened, shameless, and revengeful.” Also, “complaining, greedy, lustful, and polymorphously perverse.” Did we miss anything? How about self-pitying, irresponsible, envious, and grandiose?

December 28, 2011

Race and American Poetry: Dove v. Vendler 34

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Vendler asks us to think of value in terms of a hypothetical and permanent future, one that will have unvarying and therefore conclusive notions of what was good and bad in our writing. It’s an exasperating argument, since it asks us to defer to the critic’s mystical conjuring of our far off progeny, a population that will, of course, have the same values as the critic herself.

November 25, 2011

A Wanderer in Poem Forest 0

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My grandfather died two weeks ago, in his bed, by the sea in Maine. Two days earlier, perhaps with a little help from his morphine, he looked out his bay window and said: “I am going to run across that water.”