Since Tomaž Šalamun’s death at the end of last year, I have been living with his poetry, walking around with it, running my hands back and forth across its lines, coming to find in its voice a friend, even though I never took a class with him, never spoke a word to him, and hardly even know about his life.
He is the kind of poet who has this effect. Many tributes were erected when he passed. . . .
I cannot offer here what others already have, but I can follow in Merrill’s footsteps and say that for a poet of such breadth, of such aggressive exploration, experimentation, absurdism—for a poet who will always surprise, and often haunt with dark themes—he is also one who leaves me feeling deeply welcomed. His intellect is warmed through with spirit and good will, a sense that kindness is the most important of all, because it can endure.
Šalamun leaves us the most incredible gift—many collections yet to be translated into English. I look forward to the first of these, Justice, due in October from Black Ocean.
In the meantime, I want to offer, as humbly as I can, this love list of lines, moments (all drawn from The Four Questions of Melancholy, which spans his work from 1966–1995) that have been with me these past nine months. . .
Read the feature at Michigan Quarterly Review
I love difficult poetry. It challenges reading itself as an endeavor and, thereby, meaning-making, imagination, voice, mood, psyche, even politics. And it can do so in an astonishing diversity of ways. One might, in fact, offer a typology of difficult poetry. Maybe a poem sends you over and over to the library, like Pound’s Cantos. Maybe it evades with an arrhythmia of syntax, like Berryman’s Dream Songs. Maybe it sloughs its lines off with seemingly little regard for a coherent sentiment, a voice of impulse and erasure, something like what John Ashbery does. Or maybe it simply overwhelms with language, with sound and light, like the poems of the wonderful contemporary poet, Joyelle McSweeney. The point is, difficult poems aren’t simply difficult; they are difficult in different kinds of ways.
And I’d like to argue that the poems in Thomas Hummel’s Letters & Buildings are difficult in one of the best kinds of ways, one that can elucidate why we ought ever to twist our faces over challenging lines.
Read the review essay at The Hairsplitter
Carrie Olivia Adams is a poet as much of the line as what’s in-between them, and her newest book, Operating Theater, is no exception. A haunting drama of the liminality of the body, this dialogue-driven play-poem asks over and over one profound question:what is inside? Steeped in Victorian surgical manuals and medical X-rays, the voices here explore the tension between the mind and the body, between subject and other, asking how we can know, and from knowing, live together, in a house, or in a city.
I had a chance to ask Carrie a few questions about this book (and film her reading from a brief section). . .
Read the interview at Michigan Quarterly Review
“The body as sculpture,” Testament—G. C. Waldrep’s book-length poem—begins, and with it we feel the steadying gesture that prefaces any great feat—fingers at one’s temples, eyes closed, the breath held. He goes on:
The body as sculpture. (Pageant, labyrinth.)
Wrapped like Central Park or Marin
in Christo’s silk, wiving into a future
of minerals and taffeta, hypocausts and gorse.
We have computers to calculate the rocket’s
rate of descent, its pure metaphor.
And we see right away what sort of virtuosity—one hundred and thirty pages of it—lies before us. . .
Read the review at NewPages