Seasonal Affective Disorder: Winter in Wallace Stevens’s “Farewell to Florida”

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Having consoled myself in damp pubs in London, creaked across frozen lakes in the deep freeze of Minnesota, and coughed my way through Philadelphian afternoons that could never decide between rain or sleet, I can tell you: there are many different kinds of cold. It’s something Wallace Stevens knew well. His poem, “The Snow Man,” is probably the most famous winter poem in modern poetry, laying before us a “distant glitter” and, within it, the full presence of winter’s unique nothingness. It’s a philosophically acute poem, five even tercets laid on the “same bare place” of Stevens’s singular thought. Many believe it captures winter in its absolute essence.

But Stevens wrote about winter in many exceptional poems. Today I want to talk about a quite different winter piece (really a seasonal/climate comparison), the opening poem of Ideas of Order, “Farewell to Florida.” It is far more expansive; it eschews austerity for something richer. It’s Stevens in a more playful mode, five sections of ten-line stanzas with a relatively straightforward conceit: leaving Key West and heading back to a wintry north. . .

Read the feature at Michigan Quarterly Review

Book Review: “Justice,” by TOMAŽ ŠALAMUN

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Tomaž Šalamun was one of those rare artists who got to live — at least a little bit — in his own legacy. When he died at the very end of 2014, poets — American poets, especially — were quick to gather in a circle around this legacy, writing words of praise and admiration that were not simply eulogies but reassertions of Šalamun’s crucial role in the experimentalist impulse that has so gripped American poetry in the past two decades.

But Šalamun didn’t just live in his own legacy — he worked in it. . .

Read the review at Bookslut

Literary Promises: A Look at Last Year’s Books as a List of New Year’s Resolutions

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My year was rich, and I hope yours was, too. It was full of joys and frustrations, thrombosis and the evenest sleeps, massive blizzards with fragmenting winds, rains that blurred the boundaries between body and air, and the exasperations of humidity rising off the tennis courts in the park near my home. I listened to the otherworldlygargling calls of ‘ua’u in the young but stelliferous dark of Haleakala, let the shutter out on my Nikon to see those same stars in the sapphire depth of Wisconsin’s skies, and I spent an inordinate amount of time staring out at the Chicago river from the exhibit hall in the Sheraton Grand Chicago, where I also learned how to sell books on the run. I learned how to make kimchi and that my brother-in-law knows how to replace rotors and brakes. I went to California twice.

Read the feature at Michigan Quarterly Review

Affable Beasts: An Interview with Michael Thomas Taren on Tomaž Šalamun

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It is a thrilling thing, for many of us, to consider a new book by Tomaž Šalamun. Now, nearly an exact year after Šalamun’s death, we have Justice, the first posthumous work. It is Šalamun at his very best, full of energy, always after different approaches, exploding his vision into a celestial pantheon of different realities. A few months ago in these pages I shared some thoughts, and, especially, favorite lines of Šalamun’s past works. This month I had the pleasure of chatting with Šalamun’s translator and collaborator, poet Michael Thomas Taren, about this first posthumous collection, working with Šalamun, and the unique endeavor of translation as a creative enterprise. His effervescent illuminations offer the perfect precursor to the new poems, available soon from Black Ocean.

Read the interview at Michigan Quarterly Review

Book Review: “The Father of the Arrow is the Thought,” by Christopher Deweese

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Don’t be confused by the title of Christopher Deweese’s The Father of the Arrow is the Thought—taken from a line by Paul Klee, it suggests poems that might be characterized by a singular trajectory, a martial swiftness that lands us with a wobbling after-strike in our target. And a cursory glance at the poems pretty much supports this—all of them take the form of relatively skinny columns that shoot with a severe straightness down the page. Indeed, we are going somewhere, and pretty fast. But a look at the rest of that Paul Klee quote gives us something which complicates this sense of motion: “How do I expand my reach? Over this river? This lake? That mountain?”

Read the review at NewPages

Book Review: “Tells of the Crackling,” by Hoa Nguyen

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I have always found Hoa Nguyen’s poems surprisingly comfortable to inhabit, considering the challenges they can offer, and Tells of the Crackling, a lovely little hand-stitched chapbook from Ugly Duckling Presse, is no different. Spare, elliptical—not exactly breezy, but roomy—these poems are a bit like walking over a brick path gone uneven from the undergrowth, fresh and tentative vegetal shoots sending trajectories of thought this way and that. Indeed, there is a dual “crackling” of both spring and autumn that characterize the poems, a light and almost sickly feel, a mind not quite right, the sound of tea being made in the background. . .

Read the review at NewPages

Book Review: “My Multiverse,” by Kathleen Halme

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Kathleen Halme’s My Multiverse opens with a marvelous set-piece, a multi-part cycle (that comprises the entirety of the first section of the six-sectioned book) titled “City of Roses” that begins with that tender invitational, “Dear,” and from there pans its camera over the big and small, visiting with different characters and embracing the ambience of different scenes all within the same city, Halme’s own Portland, Oregon. It’s a gesture in line with the great urban works, likeUlysses, which endeavor to sketch the cultural, emotional, and physical anatomy of a city: “Blocks and blocks of ornate iron-front buildings. / Shanghai traps and tunnels. / Iron horse rings to which someone / has hitched tiny plastic palominos.”. . .

Read the review at NewPages