Wind In a Box offers up a well organized collection of poems in sections devoted to personal history, blues variations, prose poems and attempts at Wind In a Box offers up a well organized collection of poems in sections devoted to personal history, blues variations, prose poems and attempts at getting to the core of defining one's lineage.
What I liked most was the evident conclusion that the poet was a work in progress, that the blues will haunt in various shades forever, no matter how one tries to define it. And that trying to define oneself includes responding to pop culture, reminding ourselves of the past, and continually asking the same question until the right answer arises. (I was going to quote something here but I can't find the passage.)
We clawed free the moss and brambles, the colonies of crab-weed, the thorns patrolling the stems and I liked it then: the mute duty that tightened my parents' backs as if they meant to work the devil from his den.
And to anyone approaching, our laughter Must have sounded like the laughter of crows, those birds That leave everything beneath them trampled and broken open
There's more. Lot's more. But I don't want to ruin it for the prospective reader.
I first encountered Terrance Hayes's work by through some of the literary podcasts I listen to. Quite a few of them featured him reading his poetry ("Blue Terrance" [If you subtract the minor losses...]) is a favorite. And some were interviews with the author, from which I learned that he went to college to study painting and was encouraged to write poetry. Pittsburg is infused into these poems, but so is the blues music. And so is the long and complicated history of the African-American diaspora.
Because of the audio introduction, searched around town for on of his books but had to resort to special ordering it from my local bookstore.
This is his third book. If you are into what's happening at the talented end of contemporary poetry, do read this book....more
The bookstore I browse through on Main Street of my small town is decent for it's size. And though the poetry section takes up a good portion of it, IThe bookstore I browse through on Main Street of my small town is decent for it's size. And though the poetry section takes up a good portion of it, I still always find myself wanting MORE. It's central Vermont, so there are shelves of the New England poets, the modern writers who are taught in these parts. Very little of color or the world outside of our national borders. Even worse, though, is a lack of representation of the rest of American poetry, the blue-collar, middle class versifiers. I'm sure this is common in most bookstores. And I know how lucky I am to have more than a few shelves to peruse. Nothing against the shops themselves.
So after weeks of browsing through the poetry offerings, I was surprised to find Linda Pastan there between Garrison Keiller and Walt Whitman. I read a couple of random poems, all of which knocked my socks off. Or rather, the lyrical and emotional intensity of the poems I'd read had me holding my breath, for fear of disturbing the cocoon of the poetic worlds before they finished revealing themselves. How could I not finish a poem that started:
In the walled garden where my illusions grow, the lilac, watered, blooms all winter, and innocence grows like moss on the north side of every tree.
("In the Walled Garden")
The images arose like ivy and the musical mythic voice pulled me into the secluded world of her imagination. How could I not trust a poet who then Socratically answered the title question of "Why Are Your Poems So Dark?" with a few of her own?
Isn't the moon dark too, most of the time?
And doesn't the white page seem unfinished
Lastly, the clincher for me buying this book was "Things I Didn't Know I Loved", written after a poem by Nazim Hikmet. Mostly for nostalgic reasons I guess. I discovered Hikmet's poem in high school. I can't recall which book it was anthologized in. But it was one of those rare poems I needed to photocopy and stick in my back pocket, wherever I went. I probably have it with me still, in a moldering box in the basement. It doesn't matter. The point is that poem fed me for so long, at a time when I needed it.
Now in my hands was a book by someone who might have known what that meant or was like.
There are a couple ways I read a poetry book--straight through (most likely, as the author intended it) or randomly (usually fine for collections). The random moment at the bookstore v. the straight reading at home proved quite different.
In pieces, this book contains small gems of insight into the compromises of living the average life, of writing and leaving the past behind. Collected, the book tells of a woman with a lineage she's lost touch with meditating on the obligations of age and persistence of death. As a whole, Pastan writes about writing and looking back. Instead of a collection of poetic moments(as I thought I might be getting), I got a life, reflected upon. Disappointed yet satisfied, as I might possibly find myself one day, looking back.
And that is the other thing. I see in this book a mirror of my future poetic life (or one to model from). There will be that looking-back time in my life, when it comes, when all those trying times have been written and published, when my voice has been heard and the need to call out has subdued. After the awards and citations, where will I be? Perhaps living my life as a book, already written. I could be satisfied with Linda Pastan's version of poetics and passions all grown up.
This is either fact or prophecy-- my one life no more than a spool
Eh. Um. I love this series so much, and this is the only one to which my response was, "whatever..." I still haven't read all the poems in the book--tEh. Um. I love this series so much, and this is the only one to which my response was, "whatever..." I still haven't read all the poems in the book--they are just so uninteresting! Poems barely knocked my socks off, which past editions proved this series capable of doing. What makes the big difference?
Perhaps I don't like the editor's views/tastes/leanings in poetry. Not having read any of her work, I'd say it's an uneducated guess.
This year was the only year I did not submit work for the publication in their open competition, which by the way, is the cheapest and easiest way to obtain a book. Is this why I'm unimpressed?
Perhaps becuase I had to wait so long and work so hard to obtain a copy (the bookstore I ordered from took at least two months, by which time I got it off Amazon) despite their moving the distribution to Samovar, that I felt the work in it didn't pay off.
I usually love reading best of collections, especially of writers I'd not known of before, but this collection lacked the ferocity of feeling and level of care the other two seemed to offer. But my friend Jee Leong Koh is included in it, and that makes me happy. His poem was excellent, but then, I'd already read it before.
fyi: "emerging" means not having had a book published yet....more
Patrick Donnelley’s first collection offers up handfuls of prayer to those alone on the subway, bound to hospital beds, those with AIDS, and those th Patrick Donnelley’s first collection offers up handfuls of prayer to those alone on the subway, bound to hospital beds, those with AIDS, and those that have passed through his heart on their exit from this world. His lyric is bittersweet and full-bodied, forgiving and well paced. Here is the voice of a man captivated by beauty’s pain and resilience. He has turned it into eloquent, restrained poetry. ...more
This is one of my favorite all-time poetry anthologies. I picked it up at a discount bookstore in San Francisco, back when I was still a reader searchThis is one of my favorite all-time poetry anthologies. I picked it up at a discount bookstore in San Francisco, back when I was still a reader searching for the right books. And I swear, back when I was reading mostly fiction and memoir, and my depression was making nonsense of my writing, this book brought me back around to the redemption of poety, both as reader and writer, and I will be forever grateful.
Edited by Robert Bly, James Hillman, and Michael Meade, the anthology is divided into sections like "The Naive Male", "The House of Fathers and Titans" and "Mother and Great Mother", making a rather thorough compendium of the great stages of manhood (as I only imagine them to be). Each editor takes turn writing an introduction to the sections and poems of illumination, joy, and heartbreak follow.
This book benefits greatly from the decision to include female poets in here too. Sharon Olds, Anna Akhmatova and Nikki Giovanni, to name a few. Also poets of other backgrounds: Rumi, Li-Young Lee, Vallejo, Lorca, Etheridge Kinght, etc.
In all, it is a well-conceived, well-executed book. Uplifiting and satisfying, and something to turn to now and again. ...more