Barry Schwabsky

Post image for “Quirky Things That Happen to Me”: More Notes on Recent Poetry Publications

I never set out to be a critic of poetry, and still refuse the label. Actually writing poems is already thankless enough.

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Language as Maternal

by Barry Schwabsky on January 18, 2015

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George Oppen published his first book, Discrete Series, in 1934; his second, The Materials, emerged 28 years later, in 1962. But even Oppen and Bunting were raring to go in comparison to Wong May, whose third collection of poems, Superstitions, came out in 1978.

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Glow-in-the-Dark Jigsaw Pieces

by Barry Schwabsky on August 2, 2014

Arthur Sze,

I have a habit, when reading a good book of poetry, of looking for the places where the poet seems to be reflecting on his or her own sense of what poetry is. Arthur Sze, one of my favorite poets, writes, “If I sprinkle iron filings onto a sheet / / of paper, I make visible the magnetic lines / of the moment.”

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Post image for “Reckless sympathy, scorn”: Paul Violi’s Last Poems

Paul Violi’s poetry has rarely been taken as seriously as it should be. Probably that’s because he never took the spirit of seriousness as seriously as many people do, especially when it comes to poetry. His erudition never wears an academic gown.

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Post image for A Story of Sentences: Nanni Balestrini’s Ever-Changing Novel

Tristano, the most recently translated book by the Italian poet and novelist Nanni Balestrini may come as a surprise to those who know him through his two previously translated works of fiction, The Unseen and Sandokan.

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Post image for “Eye-Voices, a Choir”: New Translations of Paul Celan

The Romanian-born, German-speaking Paul Celan is one of the most translated poets in recent decades, and we’re still not through with him.

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Why I’m Not Reading Louise Glück

by Barry Schwabsky on October 12, 2013

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Do you pick a destination in order to have a reason to take a walk, or do you take a walk in order to get to a place you have in mind? Sometimes one, sometimes the other. Are the words a poet uses essentially a means to convey a thought or feeling he or she has in mind, or is the poem’s subject chosen mainly as a way of helping generate the poem’s language? Sometimes one, sometimes the other. But I confess to being more attracted to the second kind of poetry — or maybe it’s fairer to say I prefer reading poetry as if it were written that way.

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Post image for Scrambled Sonnets, Prosthetic Limbs, and Little Bitter Teeth: Notes on Some Recent Poetry Publications

Ezra Pound said poetry was news that stays news. I thought that in gathering some notes on poetry I’ve read this year I’d bring a bit of news and only after doing so realized to what extent those notes would indicate how today’s poetry can be entwined with medieval Moorish Spain or fourteenth century Tuscany or Elizabethan London or sixteenth century Japan. Sometimes, apparently, poetry can also be ancientries made new again.

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Post image for Mobility Issues: On John Ashbery’s Recent Poetry

If you’re interested in John Ashbery—and why wouldn’t you be?—you probably read the profile on him that was recently published in the New York Observer. The best part, the part that had the most to say about his poetry, came about a third of the way into it, with the writer, Michael H. Miller, describing his visit to Ashbery’s Chelsea apartment.

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The Obscenities Are in Quotes

by Barry Schwabsky on December 22, 2012

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Whatever became of the New York School? There was a first generation, the last avant-garde according to some (but not so last that there couldn’t be a second generation and a third, and …) as whatever it was that defined the school as a school, beyond the simple fact of friendship, dissolved into the common air of the culture — which is just where it belongs. Wit, urbanity, formal exuberance, a willingness to (as Frank O’Hara famously put it) “just go on your nerve,” a dandyish pose of being more casual and less serious than you really are as an antidote to the unearned solemnity that so often seems endemic to poetry, an affinity for quotidian surrealism and lumpen absurdity and “life-giving vulgarity” (O’Hara again, of course) — these could never be the doctrine of any one school or enclosed by any particular municipality. They are simply things that keep the art of poetry refreshed, allowing it to breathe again after its periodic ascents to those lofty reaches where language inevitably becomes abstract, impersonal, and (too often) lugubrious.

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