Like many others enduring this distended moment of political and cultural turmoil, I have wondered and worried about its psychic effects, its wear and tear on our personal and social consciousness. I feel the impulse to delete my social media accounts, or even more desperately, to abscond myself to the forests and mountains and wait it out. I’ve also been peering at how this constant tension is shaping or contorting our poets and poetry. Political engagement is one thing — our protest poems, or poems of witness, or poems asserting a historically repressed voice. But beyond (or in addition to) these expressions is a certain disposition, a weariness or wariness, which I’m keen to understand.
As this era grinds on, the interconnected anxieties over politics, terrorism, institutional violence, race, the environment, the economy, and so on — essentially the amorphous blob of the contemporary in all its self-contained turbulence — increasingly presents a test of our resilience. And it’s the rise of resilience — of bearing, almost bodily, all this uncertainty — that I see in much poetry, as evidenced and exemplified in two recent collections, Richard Greenfield’s Subterranean and Jericho Brown’s The Tradition. . . .
Read the review at Ron Slate’s On the Seawall.
I’m excited to have my poem “The View” up with the Iowa Review, who include it in a poem-a-day feature they are doing for National Poetry Month. Read the poem here!
It’s difficult not to grin, smirk, purse your lips, or generally screw up your face when reading Peter Mishler’s poems in his debut book, Fludde. It isn’t just the peculiarity of these pieces but the command with which Mishler executes it, taking readers in something like a swift punt along strange but otherwise unassuming canals. Dean Young chose the book for the Kathryn A. Morton Prize from Sarabande, and the choice from this judge makes sense: these are, like so many of Young’s poems, lucidly surreal, achieved through sharp sentence-making, precise vocabulary, and the acute, almost blown-up detail such techniques afford. . .
Read the review at The Kenyon Review.
I was privileged to talk with Katie Klocksin and Michael Slosek about my poem “The Present.” We had an hour-long conversation that Klocksin expertly edited down to four minutes, making a nice package of the poem and a few of my thoughts about its origin and the ways we think about time and history. Check it out here: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/podcasts/147422/the-present
I have dreams, and when I do, I don’t really recognize myself in them. Or rather, I don’t recognize selfness. The self, I think, is abstracted in dream. The dream is the self exercised simply as a kind of form, a kind of play. I want to pose this to you directly. I’ll tell you that I am trapped in a building and the only way out is composition, my composing the world until it matches a verisimilitude, the sorts of things we remember reading and watching and walking around in. Familiarity is a kind of mastery, and it is at this point we must raise the question of being free.
Freedom is a small point distant but otherwise distinctly in sight in Diana Hamilton’s The Awful Truth, an odd, if you will, text by an exacting poet and writer and published in a handsome, unassuming volume from Golias Books. In it the beginning of freedom is dream. The very, very beginning. . . .
Read the review at Michigan Quarterly Review
I want to think about distance and Jane Gregory’s new book of poems, Yeah No (The Song Cave, 2018). Or something more like gapping. A space between concepts charged with those concepts’ distance, what holds discourse together (and molecules, and planets). I think, reading these poems, that the poems express the space between the world and the thought, that between the thought and the person, the person and the feeling.
I think the poems enact a beginning, one that is already foreclosed in an end, and within that circularity or polarity, we find a self enfolding in articulation. But I can only think toward these thoughts, and that feels about right, that the poems themselves can only think toward them. I hope you will receive this as notes toward that thinking, that thinking toward these thoughts.
Read the full notes at Michigan Quarterly Review
The story of Georg and Grete Trakl is a haunting one — a brother and sister living in the shadow of horrific war, sharing a life in poetry and music, but also sharing disastrous drug and alcohol addictions. They had an extremely close relationship, the extent of which no one firmly knows, but they no doubt cared for and protected each other until their untimely deaths — Georg by overdose and Grete, three years later, by suicide — before either had turned thirty.
It’s a story that Caitlin Bailey powerfully imagines in her debut collection, Solve for Desire (Milkweed Editions, 2017), which she dedicates to Grete. Assuming Grete’s voice through a series of richly textured lyric poems, Bailey explores an all-consuming desire that forever holds its subject captive. In the cold but safe interiors of these poems, persona and the personal are blurred, and history finds expression between individuals seeking each other across unimaginable distances.
Read the interview at Michigan Quarterly Review.
“One could only begin simply by looking,” Kevin O’Rourke writes to welcome us into his new memoir: As If Seen at an Angle (Tinderbox Editions, 2017). Comprised of tightly woven essays on art, medicine, death, and grief, his new book is at once funny but heartbreaking, lyric but precise. It explores a fascinating range of topics — from Clyfford Still’s famously acerbic personality to the YouTube channel for the Benson Family Funeral Home in Chicago; from the untimely death of The Beastie Boys’ Adam Yauch to the history of German wunderkammer; from “The Pink House” where the author used to party in college to his father’s suicide and his mother’s subsequent grief and lost battle with cancer. Parsing the fogs of distant memories, flying over landscapes, zooming in on the details of artworks, and scouring all kinds of dictionaries and databases, O’Rourke weaves together a rich web of artistic, scientific, and personal inquiries.
Read the interview at Michigan Quarterly Review.
I have five poems in the most recent (42.2, Winter 2017) issue of the Spoon River Poetry Review.
Shane McCrae is one of the hardest working poets in America. Not only has his output been prodigious over the past few years, but all of his books have worked, separately and together, to articulate richly nuanced understandings of race and racism as they operate at the crucial intersection of public history and personal experience. His fifth collection, In the Language of My Captor, a finalist for the National Book Award, takes this ongoing project into a new, dramatically realized mode, employing the constituent dramatic elements of scene, voice, and audience.
Read the review at the Boston Review.