Posted inArt

The Poet-Magus of the Lower East Side

Imagine the following scenario: You and your wife live on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. You start a greeting card company, Ink Weed Arts, in 1951, just after the two of you get married. You are a poet and she is a dancer who works as a hand and foot model in advertising. The two of you want to offer an alternative to the insipid messages of Hallmark Cards.

Posted inArt

Why I’m Not Reading Louise Glück

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.

Posted inArt

An Interview with the First Poet Laureate of MoMA

Kenneth Goldsmith and I sat down at our computers in constantly changing parts of the world, and we talked about his recent poet laureateship at the Museum of Modern Art. For the position, he delivered a special lecture and organized a series that invited contemporary poets to read in galleries to museum visitors. The events ranged from one person reading intimately in a gallery to the entire fourth floor being taken over by writers.

Posted inArt

Poetry and Italian on the Streets of the East Village

New York bristles with energy, and what makes it continually captivating for me is that this spirit comes so much from the people and acts of creation that can be just stumbled upon in the street. Last week in the East Village, at the corner of First Avenue and 7th Street, I saw an enthusiastic crowd chanting along to what seemed to be a lesson in Italian but was actually a component of a book party for Annie Rachele Lanzillotto.

Posted inPoetry

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.

Posted inBooks

Moments of Female Adolescence, Illuminated Online and in Print

In a culture that discounts the contributions of teenage girls yet rips them at will, co-opting their keen fashion sense into one that is marketable and desirable, Illuminati Girl Gang (IGG), a print and online journal of girl culture featuring work by kids who are mostly under the age of 25, comes as a welcome contribution to retaining the authenticity of adolescent expression.

Posted inPoetry

Lady Lazarus: Sylvia Plath’s Contested Afterlife

On February 11th it will be fifty years since Sylvia Plath’s death, an occasion marked by a predictable slew of new books, anniversary editions, and the revival of decades-long feuds over Plath’s contested legacy. In the Guardian, Olwyn Hughes (Ted Hughes’ sister and the supreme gatekeeper of the Plath estate) and Plath’s friend Elizabeth Sigmund keep up appearances as old foes and, to those of us without a dog in the fight, representatives of two opposing Plath camps: Olwyn as the protector of her brother (“Sylvia wasn’t the innocent victim … she was vicious and I think a bit crazy”) and Elizabeth as the tireless defendant of her poet-friend.

Posted inPoetry

On the Poems of John Godfrey

There are poets who wander around a city — from purposeful to aimlessly — and write about their experience. Charles Baudelaire trudged down the new broad avenues of Paris, alone among the window shoppers. While working at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, Frank O’Hara liked to walk around midtown on his lunch hour. David Schubert and Paul Blackburn descended the concrete stairs and rode the subway to Coney Island and other stops along the way.

Posted inPoetry

At Play in the Fields of Language: The Poetry of Cathy Park Hong (Part Two)

Engine Empire (2012) is divided into three discrete sections or, perhaps more accurately, three self-sustaining worlds, each with its own invented languages.

In each section Hong utilizes radical forms and devices — a list, an abededarian, a lipogram — to propel her poems out of the lyric torpor so many other poets embrace. The language is volatile, undergoing metamorphosis and extreme pressure. Tremors of discomfort suffuse throughout the music of Hong’s poems.