The Academy of American Poets sent me my 2014 membership card. Have I mentioned I love membership cards. They’re so clubby. Like having a card for the neighborhood pool. The Academy is really excited about their new card design. I mean it’s okay. Kind of hard to read and it uses the same Arial-like font everyone seems to be using these days. Some marketing firm must be recommending this font to everyone. It’s the new Georgia O’Keeffe museum font, too. It seems so uncreative for these creative organizations. The Academy also tells me that my membership card symbolizes my (underlined) extraordinary commitment. I’ve only been a member for year so this seems a bit much. Three pages later, they just want me to renew early. Like nine months early. All this is interesting but I just want my next copy of American Poet which I haven’t seen in a while.
I caught up on my American Poetry Review, the Jan/Feb 2014 issue which had some good things per usual. Many good poems in this issue: William Kistler, Nate Pritts (who does the H_NGM_N online journal). I don’t always like juxtapositioned, accumulated nonsense poems but I did like Taria Faizullah’s, especially “Confabulation.” She had punching last lines. I also liked the vague poem “Things by Their Name…” by Circe Maia. And Jason Schneiderman’s “White Boy” and Caroline Pittman’s “Not Everything is a Metaphor” and Matthew Lippman’s “Blowhole.”
There’s a small essay by Robert Pinsky about coming back to a poem years later, compressing it and making it more explicit and how this felt like a translation project. Mira Rosenthal has a good review/essay on some new books of translation. She talks about the connection between a reader and a poem from another language and trying to feel out the translator’s approach as a reader. There’s an interview with Ellen Bass. Joy Ladin also walks the thin line between poems of sense, non-sense and silliness and questions where nonsense poetry breaks down for readers. There’s an informtive essay revisiting William Blake and an amazing, amazing essay by Stephen Burt on the simile and the work the word“like” does, an essay that is so meandering and comprehensive. It effectively breaks down the technology of the simile and extrapolates this how poetry works at all by assuming certain similarities (likes) between reader and writer.
I recently bought FLATT Magazine for a Cher interview (FLATT is a philanthropic arts organization that “celebrates creative entrepreneurs and contemporary philanthropic ideas”) and the somewhat substantial magazine is filled with art, photos and interviews and, surprise, some poetry. This issue had two poets. The poems were not quite clichéd but not fully original either. “Poetic Narrative” by Marc Straus (with artwork by Bruce Robbins) was my favorite of the two represented. His were lyrics with a lot of juxtapositioned, random lines. But there was still an undercurrent of a story about a father. These poems reminded me of William Carlos Williams because they were written from a doctor’s point of view.
The poems also contained a lot of scene-setting, some interesting lines like “Rivers drowned in each others’ mouths” and class issues touched upon in “He went to the suburb where/they judge your lawn” and American critique: “He said that 90 inch drapes were 89 inches long. /That one inch made America rich.” The other poet Jason Armstrong Beck was included with a poem called “Dust Storm” mostly a visual study. Beautiful magazine had there were typos that drove me nuts.
Books I’m Reading
Not much to post this week because I’m deep in the middle of three books which were recently delivered to me:
My Emily Dickinson by Susan Howe: I heard about this book in my ModPo MOOC class last year. Since the book was billed as a new format of arts criticism, I bought it more as a reference for a pop-culture study of Cher I’m working on. Maybe this structure will be useful to see. It’s very fragmentary, like you would expect from a Language poet book. It’s interesting and beautiful in its own way but I’m not sure it appeals to my own style and obsessive need to sort and organize a subject. But that's more about me.
Nine Gates by Jane Hirshfield: This book was recommended in one of my classes last year with Barbara Rockman. It started out slow as molasses. In fact, I found it hard to concentrate on the first essay about concentration! But I’m really loving it now that I’ve found my way into its rhythms. Loving the essay on translations at the moment.
The Hungry Ear, Poems of Food & Drink edited by Kevin Young: I love poems. I love to eat. So how could I not love a collection of poems about food? This book was a Christmas present to myself this year.
New Addresses by Kenneth Koch: This is my first eBook of poetry! I received a Kindle Paperwhite for Christmas from Monsieur Bang Bang. I just finished three research books using this thing for my Cattle Trail project. Looking forward to the first book of poetry.
Will dutifully report back on my findings.