I will have much more to say here very soon, but for 2020 I am traveling full-time across America. I’ve been describing the trip to friends as a giant pretzel. My hope is to record my experiences in the cities and wildernesses of this big, diverse country through routine posts (weekly? biweekly?), with a lot of photographs and hopefully some poems. It may very well become a kind of photographic haibun. My wife and I have been lovingly calling this trip our sabbat, but you’ll probably find it under the tag #2020.
So excited to have my poem, “Thin Continuance,” up at Poetry Northwest! Check it out here: https://www.poetrynw.org/ryo-yamaguchi-thin-continuance/
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