Wade in the Water, by Tracy K. Smith

Review:

Wade in the Water - Tracy K. Smith

U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith’s Wade in the Water is her most recent collection and the first I’ve read. I think it makes an excellent introduction to her work and wouldn’t be a bad place to start if you’re new to contemporary poetry. She does not intimidate, nor does her language obfuscate.

The two middle sections engaged me most. The first mines the Civil War era past and makes use of erasure and historical and primary sources in a way that both gives the suffering of African Americans at the time specificity and voice while absolutely illuminating continued injustices in the present. The second also makes poetry out of found materials to focus on contemporary issues such as the environment and racist violence. However, the poems don’t attack; they feel like they come from a place of hope.

A book I’m sure I’ll come back to soon, after I read her other collections, of course. 🙂

Original post:
eevilalice.booklikes.com/post/1767692/wade-in-the-water-by-tracy-k-smith

Advertisements
Wade in the Water, by Tracy K. Smith

Map: Collected and Last Poems by Wislawa Szymborska

Review:

Map: Collected and Last Poems - Wisława Szymborska, Clare Cavanagh, Stanisław Barańczak

Map spans Polish Nobel laureate Szymborska’s work from the 1940s up until 2011. Her poetry is immediately engaging, often funny, and down-to-earth. She writes about the smallest subjects (a cat alone in its owner’s home) and the largest (mortality, time). She’d be an excellent poet to read if one is new to or intimidated by poetry.

The translation by Clare Cavanagh and Stanislaw Baranczak is impressive given that many of Szymborska’s poems play with words and language, though, not knowing Polish myself, I can only give my impressions. I only know that a personable, curious voice comes through.

Here’s a late poem (about this painting) whose beauty brought tears to my eyes:

Vermeer

So long as that woman from the Rijksmuseum

in painted quiet and concentration

keeps pouring milk day after day

from the pitcher to the bowl

the World hasn’t earned

the world’s end.

I can’t remember what prompted me to finally read Szymborska’s body of work beyond the occasional anthologized poem, but I’m glad I did. I asked for it last Christmas (I read poetry only in print and often ask for books of poems then; they can be expensive!), and I happened to flip to “Possibilities,” written as a list of preferences, which contains the following lines: “I prefer the absurdity of writing poems / to the absurdity of not writing poems.” Me too.

 

Original post:
eevilalice.booklikes.com/post/1765889/map-collected-and-last-poems-by-wislawa-szymborska

Map: Collected and Last Poems by Wislawa Szymborska

NaPoWriMo Final Update

I have officially completed the National/Global Poetry Writing Month challenge, having drafted my 30th and final poem of the month this morning.

30 POEMS.

I had to type that twice because the first time shocked me. I wrote 30 poems. In a month. That may not seem incredible, but it is for me. I’m notoriously unprolific. Doing this challenge has showed me that, yep, I’ve just been letting myself off the hook and that I can write more and more frequently. It’s also helped me fight my perfectionist tendencies, as I told myself I was drafting poems, to be revised later. Now I can go back, reread, and revise. I fought the impulse to reread during the challenge but admit I skimmed back through once or twice.

I also only sort of cheated once, within the last week, when what I wrote was more like notes towards a draft rather than an actual draft. I don’t feel (too) guilty about it.

Because 30 poems!

As for reading, I’m still slowly making my way through Szymborska’s collected poems (I’m somewhere in the ’70s). Next I will definitely delve into U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith’s work; I just heard her speak on NPR, and I can see we share similar views on poetry, its role, and how to approach poems. I’m also thinking it would be a good time to get reading poetry craft/theory again.

Wish me luck on my revisions! Hopefully I’ll get sending some of these babies out to journals. I’ll be happy to share links or publication notices if any are accepted.

Original post:
eevilalice.booklikes.com/post/1663354/napowrimo-final-update

NaPoWriMo Final Update

NaPoWriMo

So November (I think?) is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and I’ve just learned about and decided to participate in National (or Global) Poetry Writing Month (April is national poetry month in the U.S.) where the aim is to write a poem a day. Wish me luck! I am generally undisciplined and not very prolific as a poet. I figure even if I don’t end up writing one for every day, I’ll still write a bunch. It will be more new poems than I had on March 31st. I already wrote one today.

But how about also making it National Poem Reading Month? I try to always be reading poetry regularly, but most folks don’t. I’m still reading Szymborska’s collected and last poems. I’d be psyched to know others were reading a poem a day!

I’ll do my best to post some lines from what I’m reading. If there’s a national poetry month where you live, I’d welcome similar posts whenever that is.

Also, here is a link to an NPR interview with the current American Poet Laureate, Tracy K. Smith (whose poems I am excited to read for the first time this month), who discusses the value of poetry, especially in our rough global times.

Original post:
eevilalice.booklikes.com/post/1654319/napowrimo

NaPoWriMo

Magdalene, by Marie Howe [poetry]

Review:

Magdalene: Poems - Marie Howe

I began reading Marie Howe when I was an undergrad taking my first poetry workshops. At first, I wasn’t sure I liked her style, which is deceptively simple or plain. This was a contrast to many other poets I was introduced to at the same time, such as Mark Doty and Yusef Komunyakaa. But somewhere along the line, I fell in love with her aesthetic, and that first book of hers I read, What the Living Do, remains a favorite and a touchstone.

I now recognize and admire the delicate straightforwardness of Howe’s language, which packs as much power as any formal poem or one with more verbal jujitsu. Her lines can be long, with lots of room between them or stanzas. They feel quiet, contemplative, so when there’s a turn or revelation coming, it heightens the impact. I’m trying to explain her appeal, but part of it is that I can’t. Or I could if I analyzed it to death, and I prefer letting the magic linger.

The poems’ subjects range from desire to mental health, self-perception, spirituality, and motherhood. Though I don’t read the book like one overarching narrative, it does feel like there’s an arc; there’s a fullness to that arc that somehow replicates the sensation of completing a big, fat novel. You have an idea of a life.

Here’s a favorite:

“How the Story Started”

I was driven toward desire by desire.

believing that the fulfillment of that desire was an end.

There was no end.

 

Others might have looked into the future and seen

a shape inside the coming years —

a house, a child, a man who might be a help.

 

I saw his back bent over what he was working on,

the back of his neck, how he stood in his sneakers,

and wanted to eat him.

 

How could I see another person, I mean who he was–apart from me–

apart from that?

 

Original post:
eevilalice.booklikes.com/post/1551730/magdalene-by-marie-howe-poetry

Magdalene, by Marie Howe [poetry]

Why I Love Poetry

I was disheartened but not surprised poetry was left out of the “Why I Love” featured posts in February. Poetry, especially contemporary poetry, has a comparatively small readership, at least in America. As a poet, it sometimes seems that only fellow poets read poetry, which is a shame.

Before I explain why I love poetry, here are some reasons why it appears readers avoid it (feel free to skip!):

1. Poetry tends not to be taught in school as consistently as prose, at least in the U.S. When it is, it’s often works that are at least 50 years old, if not centuries. I went to a good public school, and in addition to Shakespeare’s sonnets, we may occasionally have read the likes of Robert Frost, Dylan Thomas, and Emily Dickinson. Fine poets, but not contemporary and not representative enough. As a result, students think all poetry must rhyme or be in form and sounds antiquated.

2. Poetry has a reputation for being “difficult.” This is related to the reason above in that students erroneously learn to see poems as puzzles to be solved. Poems are not math problems (one more reason I love them). There is no mystical key you must stumble upon to “unlock” a poem. Poems are like living beings when encountered in that space between the words on the page (or in the air if heard) and what happens in your mind and body. When poems are approached as if they are puzzles, it’s like treating them as dead things, or like Prufrock in T.S. Eliot’s poem, when he is “fix[ed]…in a formulated phrase…sprawling on a pin…pinned and wriggling on the wall.” If a reader is fixated on “solving” it, he/she will miss the poem’s beauty.

3. We’re living in a time when the arts and humanities are undervalued. In the U.S., funding for the National Endowment for the Arts has been gutted in Trump’s budget proposal, even though it’s a minuscule slice of the federal pie. Even in Obama’s presidency, the emphasis was on training and education for the science and technology fields. I have a PhD in English and still have been unable to find a full-time teaching position as the recession hit a few years before I graduated. As universities’ budgets are cut, so are the literary journals they help fund. Essentially, there are fewer places to publish and read poetry.

So here’s WHY I LOVE POETRY, and you should too!

1. Every line of a poem (or sentence/phrase in a prose poem) can be a surprise, can change everything, including the reader. Prose forms and drama build tension and suspense through plot; poetry doesn’t need that. That combination of surprise and recognition that happens when you read a good poem is like having an epiphany over and over with each line, with no dilution of its revelation, or like hearing a favorite comedian deliver a punchline. My favorite example of a poem that embodies this sort of surprise is Rilke’s “Archaic Torso of Apollo.”

2. Sound and language for their own sake. Even if you have no idea what a poem is “about,” you can enjoy the way it plays with language and sound. This is why nonsense poems like Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky” are still a delight. Also a reminder that poems are meant to be heard.

3. Diversity: of form, source (writer, culture, time), purpose. Every culture with which I am familiar has its own poetry (or poetries). Before prose, there was poetry. Before we wrote anything down, there was poetry. So whatever you’re in the mood for, there’s a poem for it, whether it’s something political, personal, social; narrative or lyric; formal or free; angry, joyful, sad, funny.

Here’s my favorite site to browse poems: poetryfoundation.org. You can browse by occasion, poet, movement, time period, place, etc.

Here are some contemporary poet recs. (Also feel free to browse my poetry tag(s).)

Anne Carson

Billy Collins

Mark Doty

Rita Dove

Daisy Fried

Louise Gluck

Matthea Harvey

Robert Hass

Seamus Heaney

Zbigniew Herbert

Juan Felipe Herrera

Marie Howe

Ko Un

Yusef Komunyakaa

Jamaal May

Harryette Mullen

Adrienne Rich

Tomas Transtromer

David Wojahn

Adam Zagajewski

 

Original post:
eevilalice.booklikes.com/post/1545644/why-i-love-poetry

Why I Love Poetry