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Diann Blakely's Reviews
> Satin Cash: Poems
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Satin Cash: Poems
Lisa Russ Spaar
Nov 01, 2011
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Jan 19, 2012 07:58PM
When I began a series on Southern poets, I wished to make it as nonregional as possible, to work through collaboration, and to select under-known--at the time--figures. What better person with whom to begin than a double Library of Virginia winner, Lisa Russ Spaar, first for her most recent collection, SATIN CASH (Persea Books) and, more recently, the Weinstein Prize?
Indeed, the Library of Virginia and I were hardly the first to take note of Spaar. An online publication which cheers me everytime I see it in my Inbox, POETRY DAILY, selflessly and tirelessly helmed by Charlottesvillians Diane Boller and Don Selby, asked various poets, as part of the celebration of NPM, to select a favorite poem and write a commentary. In PY 2009, my two favorites were by Sarah Kennedy (who teaches just down the road at Mary Baldwin College) and Spaar, whose piece centered on one of the most beautiful passages in Shakespeare. So gorgeous in itself, and written with such integrity, exactness, and concision that excerpting seems an impossibility, Spaar’s song to Caliban, and to Shakespeare himself, remain available:
, and then there's Ron Slate's ON THE SEAWALL review--
with typical astuteness, which is why he was my nominee this year for the NBCC Balakian Award.
Spaar, who has a new volume forthcoming later this year, moved to Charlottesville as a first-year student at the University of Virginia in 1974, subsequently earned a Master of Fine Arts at UVA in 1982. After earning her MFA, she taught at James Madison University and at the University of North Texas, but she returned to Charlottesville in 1989 and has been teaching at UVA since 1993. In addition to the Library of Virginia Prizes, she has been awarded the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship and an Outstanding Faculty Award from the State Council of Higher Education. The latter seems particularly well deserved, and evidence of Spaar’s commitment to what increasingly seem to me the two halves of a poet’s vocation: service to one’s own art as well as service to the larger world of poetry itself. Or, to circle back to the beginning, it’s not enough simply to write songs, as Dave Matthews or David Berman or Stephen Malkmus would be the first to say: songs become living, fully fleshed works of art only when sung, whether in a studio or on a stage. In Spaar’s case, the latter half of her vocation is manifest in some of the poetry programs she’s started at UVA, chief among them the Area Program in Poetry Writing, an undergraduate area concentration in the Department of English that allows talented students to focus their studies in poetics and in the making of poems, now in its tenth year. She also founded an undergraduate poetry and fiction reading series, now in its 17th year, and is faculty sponsor of several student literary magazines and UVArt & Poetry in Motion, a program that puts student art and poetry on campus buses. Spaar has been involved in several interdisciplinary projects, including a team-taught print-making and poetry writing workshop.
I asked Spaar how she managed to write, teach, and do both--not to mention being a wife and mother--so well that she received some of the country's top prizes in both fields.
How do you see SATIN CASH, I continued, in relation to the rest of your oeuvre, which includes four books of original poems and two anthologies, one devoted to London and one to insomniacs like the two of us--or at least wannabes who write poems on the subject?
Where do you see yourself as headed now?
There are some additions to be made here, several so embarrassing that I enlisted my husband's help, but also posted on my personal :
Stanley Booth: "'Listen to this,'" said Diann. Then she read, and read, and read again, a commentary on 'Caliban's Song' from THE TEMPEST. I didn't miss a word. 'This woman is a genius.' She said. And I agreed."
Lisa Spaar wins poetry prize | The Cavalier Daily
Lisa Spaar, professor of creative writing, was awarded the annual Carole Weinstein Prize in Poetry at the 14th annual Library of Virginia Literary Awards...
October 20, 2011 at 6:40pm
Cynthia Atkins likes this.
Arts & Academe - The Chronicle of Higher Education
The poet, essayist, and reviewer Diann Blakely...
October 21, 2011 at 11:41pm · Like ·
Stanley Booth: "From this month's "Real Life Top Ten," by Greil Marcus in THE BELIEVER: (7/8) Diann Blakely, "Dead Shrimp Blues," with comment by Lisa Russ Spaar, The Chronicle of Higher Education (July 15). For years, Blakely has written what she calls 'duets' with Robert Johnson: her poems visiting his songs, his songs breathing in her poems. Here she has Tennessee Williams and Maggie from CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF cross paths with the blues singer in Clarksdale, Mississippi, so she can address him directly, circling around the imagery in one of at least two Johnson songs built around a metaphor for impotence. She writes like a window-peeper: 'I'll undress / Down to my humid white-girl slip.' Spaar follows the way Blakely's words curl around Johnson's until it can seem as if Johnson's are curling around hers; she rescues the phrase 'posted out' from the murk of Johnson's song so you can hear it crack in Blakely's."
October 21, 2011 at 11:44pm · Like · 1
Stanley Booth: "I am somewhat concerned at the thought of my wife darting around in a slip and peeking into people's windows. This is the South. People are shot dead or kilt with shovels for such behavior down here. But I know Diann, and if this is what is required for her to finish this book, that is precisely what she will do and I won't be able to stop her. Any advice on this subject would be welcome."
October 21, 2011 at 11:45pm · Like
Stanley Booth: "Diann, however, says that she is "utterly humiliated' by having referred to this year's Weinstein Award winner as a 'lesser-known' poet. So I know I have a small margin of safety here: she will not go prowling about half-dressed at night because 1) it is too cold; and 2) she is under the bed again."
October 21, 2011 at 11:46pm · Like
Lisa Russ Spaar's Five Favorite Poetry Books
October 23, 2011 at 7:10pm · Like ·
Diann Blakely: "If anyone wonders why I am so proud to be the niece, in a manner of speaking, of W. A. G., one must look only to his witty and secretly chastising item on Spaar's "Dead Shrimp Blues" commentary, here is a small example--
greil marcus | Search | The Times
According to Greil Marcus, Van Morrison “may have the richest...the Heart — atte...
November 5, 2011 at 1:21pm · Like · 1 ·
Diann Blakely "--though it must be emphasized that when I was first the astonished object of his dazzling, intellectually charismatic attention, the same time frame that saw his 'Real Life Rock Top Ten' at SALON (
Real Life Rock Top 10
November 5, 2011 at 1:24pm · Like · 1 ·
Diann Blakely "he had no idea TCF and I were a couple and we were not sure ourselves; moreover, he had no idea we were married until perhaps two years ago. "Why didn't you tell him?" asked TCF (
November 5, 2011 at 1:26pm · Like · 1 ·
Diann Blakely: "and (
) and I, knowing nothing about men, replied, "We correspond about books, movies, films, and Alabama, since W.A.G.'s mother's family is from the Black Belt, where my thought-to-be-insane-anti-slavery family members migrated to establish the manumission plantation that the Confederate Army destroyed. You simply never came up."
Diann Blakely: "I learned quickly that this was not the right thing to say, but what do I know? I am a girl and grew up in a house of women. I know nothing about men, and in truth, neither does TCF. He is more in touch with his female side than I am with my own. This is why I have to write out the checks for various bills each month and do the taxes. We live like Gretel and Gretel."
November 5, 2011 at 1:30pm · Like
Diann Blakely "--and as for W. A. G., the author also of the introduction to TCF's new British edition of THE TRUE ADVENTURES OF THE ROLLING STONES, of course everyone knows of his many and varied accomplishments, but why not start here?--
Greil Marcus - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
"The Emerson of writing on American vernacular culture, as TCF is the Thoreau, I mean primarily here to celebrate Spaar herself. 'Love it,' wrote W.A.G of her full-fathom-five commentary, which humbled me to my knees. 'May I tell her?' His pointed reply indicated I shouldn't bother him with such questions, but I proceeded on a tirade about privacy and emphasized that I wouldn't pass along even two words of praise with explicit permission.
There's also another figure to add: David Lehman, a member of my noir ménage à quàtre. The answer to THE BIG QUESTION? He knows:
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