BOOKS, Books, books
I was happy to discover Matthew Zapruder’s Why Poetry at my local library, and have spent several happy weeks with it. The chronicle of how he evolved as a poet was interesting, but mostly I appreciated how he was able to articulate so much of what I’ve been thinking about poetry, but didn’t quite know how communicate. Wow, that sounds very self-centered, but maybe it is. It is what it is. Here are a few of my favorite passages from the book:
There really was no such thing as ‘poetic language.’ The words in poems are for the most part the same as those we find everywhere else. The energy of poetry comes primarily from the reanimation and reactivation of the language that we recognize and know.” (p.9)
“I began to discover why poems look the way they do on the page…A poem, literally, makes a space to move through. To read a poem is to move through that constructed space of ideas and thinking…As we think along, we start to make connections, and have experiences and feelings we might not have otherwise had without the poem.” (p.57)
“One of the greatest pleasures of reading poetry is to feel words mean what they usually do in every day life, and also start to move into a more charged, activated, even symbolic realm.” (p. 164)
“In a poem, language remains itself yet is also made to feel different, even sacred, like a spell. How this happens is the mystery of each poem, and maybe its deepest meaning.” (p. 166)
That last quote really made me think of Terrance Hayes’ collection Wind In a Box, and more specifically the poem “The Blue Seuss”. You can find text and audio here. But also please buy the book. It’s one of my favorites.
More than once, he mentions Brenda Hillman’s Death Tractates, (as does Hass–not surprisingly– in A Little Book on Form). I remember reading some sort of mini-review from him about this book several years ago, and wanted to pick it up then. [Here’s the 2014 Rumpus “Last Book of Poems I Loved” article if you’re interested]. I know I had it in my Amazon cart at some point, but somehow didn’t get to the actual purchase. Remedying that soon.
I tackled Hass’ Form book alongside the Zapruder one. They make a fantastic pair. First of all, Hass’ “little book” is not ‘little’ in any sense, not in length and not in intellectual weight. It is less textbooky than say An Exaltation of Forms (which incidentally I was introduced to by a youtube video featuring Terrance Hayes.)
Hass’ book has wonderful sections on sonnets and odes, but the last few chapters–“Collage, Abstraction, Oulipo and Procedural Poetics”; “Mixed Forms”: and “Prose Poem” were worth the price of the book. Before I die, I will have to audit at least one of his Berkeley classes.
When I go, I will also crash Lyn Hejinian’s “Slow Seeing/Slow Reading (English 190) class, which Lit Hub teased recently in their “Classes 25 Famous Writers Teach” piece.
Via that post, I also found out that Vievee Francis, one of my poetry heroes, teaches “Engaging in Hybridity: Race, Gender, Genre” at Dartmouth. I am at this very moment scooping up much of her reading list, especially Kwame Dawes’ Duppy Conqueror, which how have I not read that already?
Also, I am hoping the ARC gods at Copper Canyon, will bestow a copy of Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s upcoming Oceania on me before I lose my mind waiting. Maybe if I send a muster of peacocks up to the author at Ole Miss, she will help smooth the way.
This year, I am scheduling a few readings and really appreciated Robin Houghton’s timely post on Tackling Poetry Readings.
In other news, I applied for a Native Arts& Cultures grant. They were super helpful in the application process. Receiving the grant would help me launch a better funded #readNDN campaign, revive this blog and allow me to finish a WIP collection of poems that I’m calling Fish Psalms.
Psalms as a form have always intrigued me. The Hebrew ones are essentially lyric poems set to music, in other words, a type of song language. The Tlingit word for ‘poetry’ is roughly translated “song language” (at shí yoo xh’atángi). Additionally, the Tlingit (other Native Americans, the Irish and Acadians) have much in common with the Hebrew people, down to the complicated clan system, a tight focus on landscape common to the displaced, and a reliance on the larger community in times of trial. These groups are all deeply spiritual, each in their own way, and are all groups that inform my work by heritage or adoption.
I am also drawn to psalms for another reason. Poet Alicia Ostriker put it best when she stated that “the emotions of Psalms surge and collapse like breaking waves”. I want FISH PSALMS to tap the full range of human emotion and to mimick natural cycles of water, evening to morning, creation to death, etc., as the Hebrew ones do.
By the end of the week, I hope to finish a short story that is on the surface about a lost dog, but underneath about the ever-present class struggles in the Deep South. I am 2 scenes away from being done. Currently calling it “Denny Albers’ Dog.
Besides taking new photos for the blog, twitter and the grant application (see a few below),
I tried to translate the success of my oil pastel portraits to acrylics by trying out sheets of 10x 12 canvas paper and reinterpreting photos from the historic New Orleans collection. This seems to be the right mix of materials and subjects. FINALLY.