Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Four Way Books at AWP 2008

This Thursday to Saturday, come and find Four Way Books at the AWP Conference 2008 where they'll be offering significant discounts on our titles, where you'll be able to hear their authors read, and where you can get your books signed by some of them. They're celebrating their 15th anniversary, and almost all of their back catalogue will be available for purchase!

AWP Discount: $10 per book (less than 2/3 of cover price). Buy three or more and get them for $8 a book!

(Even if you're not registered for the conference, the Book Fair is open to the public on Saturday February 2nd.)

You'll find Four Way Books at:

TABLES 42 and 43
Rhinelander Gallery, 2nd Floor

Author Signings

Friday 2:00-3:00
Daniel Tobin & C. Dale Young

Friday 3:00-4:00
April Ossmann & Jeffrey Harrison

Friday 4:00-5:00
Laurel Blossom & Kevin Prufer

15th Anniversary Reading

Saturday 1:30-2:45
(Regent Parlor Hilton, 2nd Floor)

Laurel Blossom
Jeffrey Harrison
April Ossmann
Kevin Prufer
Daniel Tobin
C. Dale Young

Four Way Books
P.O. Box 535 Village Station
New York, New York 10014

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Some AWP 2008 panels of interest

A lot of things going on this year at AWP. Many things I’ll not be able to get to, including events with Jean Valentine and Reginald Shepherd, among many others. But, I’ll be able to get to many as well. Here are some events that look promising, to which I’m hoping I might be able to make it.


10:30 a.m.-11:45 a.m.

Grand Ballroom
Hilton, 3rd Floor
R129. Ausable Press Presents the Poet's Notebook: Charles Simic & Bruce Weigl, a Reading and Conversation. (Chase Twichell, Charles Simic, Bruce Weigl) For some poets, note taking is an essential part of the daily work of making poems, and becomes a kind of ongoing companion labor intimately related to the work that is eventually made public. Two very different poets, Charles Simic and Bruce Weigl, will read from their private notebooks, and talk about the relationship between that writing and the finished poems, which they will also read.

1:30 p.m.-2:45 p.m.

Grand Ballroom
Hilton, 3rd Floor
R163. A Tribute to Russell Edson. (Russell Edson, Brian Clements, Robert Bly, Charles Simic, James Tate) Sentence: A Journal of Prose Poetics presents Robert Bly, Charles Simic, and James Tate discussing the work of Russell Edson, followed by a reading by Russell Edson.

4:30 p.m.-6:15 p.m.

Beekman & Sutton North
Hilton, 2nd Floor
R187. Copper Canyon's 35th Anniversary Reading: Six Poets New to the Press. (Matthew Zapruder, Lisa Olstein, Chris Martin, Ellen Bass, Chris Abani, Brenda Shaughnessy) Copper Canyon Press, one of the country's leading poetry publishers, is celebrating its 35th anniversary with a reading by six poets who have recently joined the Copper Canyon list.


10:30 a.m.-11:45 a.m.

Beekman & Sutton North
Hilton, 2nd Floor
F119. Graywolf Press Reading. (Tracy K. Smith, Mary Jo Bang, Ron Carlson, Matthea Harvey, Benjamin Percy, Terese Svoboda) This reading features the recent works of six dazzling writers of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, each of them published by Graywolf Press, one of the premier literary publishers in the country. Introduced by Graywolf publisher and director, Fiona McCrae.

12:00 p.m.-1:15 p.m.

Sutton Center
Hilton, 2nd Floor
F143. Alice James Books' 35th Anniversary Reading. (April Ossmann, Donald Revell, Mary Szybist, Brian Turner, Cole Swensen) Alice James Books is celebrating its 35th anniversary in 2008! To showcase the far-ranging variety of poetry on the AJB list, we've asked four of our poets to read in honor of the occasion. Readers represent different years and very different poetries. Please come help us celebrate this milestone with what promises to be an incredible reading.

1:30 p.m.-2:45 p.m.

Sutton Center
Hilton, 2nd Floor
F160. Lyric Postmodernisms. (Julie Carr, Bruce Beasely, Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge, Bin Ramke, Gillian Conoley, Carol Snow) This panel explores the intersections between lyric allure and experimental investigation in contemporary innovative poetries. What is it to poetically innovate and interrogate while still drawing upon and incorporating the lyric past and present? Panelists discuss their work, their influences, their aims, and their poetics in general, and read from the new anthology, Lyric Postmodernisms.

7:00 p.m.

Nassau Suite
Hilton, 2nd Floor
F199. A Reception Hosted by Omnidawn Publishing. Join us for this public reception to honor and to thank Omnidawn's poets and novelists. Brief readings by Chris Arigo, Justin Courter, Paul Hoover, Laura Moriarty, Bin Ramke, Donald Revell, Randall Silvis, Tyrone Williams. Free drink tickets provided at the door, compliments of Omnidawn.

8:30 p.m.

Grand Ballroom
Hilton, 3rd Floor
F207. The Academy of American Poets presents Rae Armantrout and Mark Strand. Sponsored by The Academy of American Poets. Readings by Mark Strand and Rae Armantrout. Introductions by Tree Swenson.


9:00 a.m.-10:15 a.m.

Mercury Ballroom
Hilton, 3rd Floor
S112. Ultra-talk Poetry. (David Kirby, Barbara Hamby, Rodney Jones, Mark Halliday, Adrian Blevins) The Spring 2007 issue of TriQuarterly, "The Ultra-talk Issue", was compiled by guest editors Barbara Hamby and David Kirby and consists of 104 poems by 64 poets, including Collins, Olds, Perillo, Hoagland, and Goldbarth. Ultra-talk poetry has been called "garrulous to an extreme, quite often self-reflexive, determinedly associative, and frequently humorous." Panelists will discuss the ultra-talk aesthetic using their own and others' poems from the TriQuarterly issue.

12:00 p.m.-1:15 p.m.

Grand Ballroom East
Hilton, 3rd Floor
S147. Poets in the Sheep Meadow Fold. (Stanley Moss, John Ashbery, Christopher Bakken, Yerra Sugarman, Suzanne Gardinier, Hermine Pinson) Celebrated poets from the catalogue of Sheep Meadow Press, including publisher Stanley Moss, will read from some of their recent works. Poets will include John Ashbery reading his translations of the great, recently deceased, French poet Pierre Martory, Christopher Bakken, Suzanne Gardinier, Hermine Pinson, and Yerra Sugarman

1:30 p.m.-2:45 p.m.

Regent Parlor
Hilton, 2nd Floor
S161. Four Way Books 15 Years. (Daniel Tobin, Laurel Blossom, April Ossmann, Jeffrey Harrison, C. Dale Young, Kevin Prufer) Four Way Books celebrates its fifteenth anniversary here at AWP and we are grateful and proud to present some of our recent poets. Short readings by Laurel Blossom, Tina Chang, Jeffrey Harrison, Kevin Prufer, Daniel Tobin, and C. Dale Young will give our audience a sampling of the exciting range of work the press has become known for over the years.

3:00 p.m.-4:15 p.m.

Grand Ballroom
Hilton, 3rd Floor
S182. The PSA Presents: A Reading and Interview with James Tate. Sponsored by The Poetry Society of America. A reading by poet James Tate, followed by a conversation hosted by Robert Casper.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Laura Jensen - Shelter

Laura Jensen’s third book of poetry, Shelter, is long out of print. Bad Boats is still available if you surf around long enough, and Memory was just reissued in 2006 from Carnegie Mellon. So, as part of my personal reclamation project, here’s a poem from Shelter, which I, thankfully, have a copy of.


It seems always two years ago
no matter which two years
I was a child
thinking I had grown.

Two years ago I was playing
solitaire in the frightening room.
At the center of each card
laid out on a brown table
was a pink ceramic lady.

Outdoors the snow
fell unpardonably.
What a child I was.

I could not speak intelligently
and found cards in the gutter.

And another memory.
My only time on the golf course
we whacked at balls.

I sat on the hill
watching the slope
slope down to the water.

I could not play golf automatically,
and having no other opportunity,
I never did. In the evening light,
no words for it—such a long slope—

to roll down it over
and over, the grass
long, thick, and cool.

What a child I was.
Other worlds were possible.
Other worlds were likely.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Mark Strand - New Selected Poems

Untitled, Mark Strand

Mark Strand’s New Selected Poems is out. Over the years his work has been about as important to me as anyone’s.

A few thoughts:

1. I don’t like the cover art much. I wish he would have used some of his own art. Something like the untitled piece above. Sunsets on the covers of selected poems, well, that’s a bit too much for my taste.

2. He’s a rather colorful person, isn't he? It seems everyone who has met him has a “Mark Strand” story. They are always memorable. Someday it would be fun to collect them into an anecdotal biography. Now THAT is an idea that would sell.

3. With our constant attention to first books and young writers, it’s important we not forget the value of these poems. Such as this one, from HIS first book, from 1964.

The Whole Story

—I’d rather you didn’t feel it necessary to tell him, “That’s a fire. And what’s more, we can’t do anything about it, because we’re on this train, see?”

How it should happen this way
I am not sure, but you
Are sitting next to me,
Minding your own business
When all of a sudden I see
A fire out the window.

I nudge you and say,
“That’s a fire. And what’s more,
We can’t do anything about it,
Because we’re on this train, see?”
You give me an odd look
As though I had said too much.

But for all you know I may
Have a passion for fires,
And travel by train to keep
From having to put them out.
It may be that trains
Can kindle a love of fire.

I might even suspect
That you are a fireman
In disguise. And then again
I might be wrong. Maybe
You are the one
Who loves a good fire. Who knows?

Perhaps you are elsewhere,
Deciding that with no place
To go you should not
Take a train. And I,
Seeing my own face in the window,
May have lied about the fire.


· Footage of Strand reading poems at the Erotikon Symposium, University of Chicago
· "Poetry in the World," essay by Mark Strand
· Modern American Poetry Web site biographical page on Mark Strand
· Strand's Academy Of American Poets page

Friday, January 25, 2008

Glück out, Armantrout in...

From AWP:

Due to a recently broken wrist, Louise Glück has cancelled her appearance atthe conference. AWP wishes her a swift recovery to stay, as Stephen Colbert would say, 'wrist-strong.'

Rae Armantrout will read with Mark Strand on Friday night at 8:30 in theGrand Ballroom of the Hilton New York. The reading is sponsored by the Academy of American Poets.

Rae Armantrout is a native Californian whose poems are masterful contradictions; according to Robert Creeley, her poems have ‘a quiet and enabling signature.’ He adds, ‘I don’t think there’s another poet writing who is so consummate in authority and yet so generous to her readers and company alike.’

Her poems are telegenically ‘regional,’ filled with bungalows, newscasters and swimming pools yet they ring with an immaterial clarity that quietly subsumes her readers and listeners in a radical and eerily funny vision. She was at the center of the first generation of Language Poets, the group in the US most often credited with introducing poetry to postmodernity. Since then Rae Armantrout has forged a growing international reputation—publishing eight remarkable books of poems, most recently Up to Speed (Wesleyan, 2004) and Veil: New and Selected Poems(Wesleyan, 2001), as well as countless poems anthologized (Best American Poetry 2002, and Postmodern American Poetry, a Norton Anthology, 1994) and gathered in diverse journals such as Conjunctions, Partisan Review, and the LA Times.

In 2000, A Wild Salience, a collection of critical writings on the work of Rae Armantrout, was published (Burning Deck). She has directed the New Writing Series at University of California, San Diego, (UCSD) since1989, and co-organized the Page Mother's Conference in 1999. She has taught writing at UCSD for almost two decades.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The NBCC List

The NBCC list is out:

Mary Jo Bang, Elegy, Graywolf
Matthea Harvey, Modern Life, Graywolf
Michael O'Brien, Sleeping and Waking, Flood
Tom Pickard, The Ballad of Jamie Allan, Flood
Tadeusz Rozewicz, New Poems, Archipelago

Which reminds me once again, that no matter how many books I read in a year, I’ll always miss a ton of them. Just this week, I got Matthea Harvey’s Modern Life (among others), but I don’t really have a sense of it yet. This leaves me thinking, what if I had to make up the NBCC list? What would I have chosen? Keeping in mind the close friend clause (this year a big clause as many of my friends came out with very good books), I think I’d go with this list:

Mary Jo Bang, Elegy (Graywolf)
John Ashbery, A Worldly Country (ecco)
Martha Ronk, VERTIGO (Coffee House)
Paige Ackerson-Kiely, In No One’s Land (Ahsahta)

But that’s only four, for the fifth, I’d have to choose one of these:

G.C. Waldrep, Disclamor (BOA)
Michael Dumanis, My Soviet Union (Massachusetts)
Charles Wright, Littlefoot (FSG)
Rae Armantrout, Next Life (Wesleyan)
Graham Foust, Necessary Stranger (Flood Editions)

Oh, I don’t know. Never mind. I’m just glad not to have to make a list of five.

Maybe this (as it’s always dangerous to praise highly first books, it has a tendency to slap the poets around too much):

Mary Jo Bang, Elegy (Graywolf)
John Ashbery, A Worldly Country (ecco)
Martha Ronk, VERTIGO (Coffee House)
Cate Marvin, Fragment of the Head of a Queen (Sarabande)
Rae Armantrout, Next Life (Wesleyan)

That looks pretty good.

But then so does this:

Mary Jo Bang, Elegy (Graywolf)
Paige Ackerson-Kiely, In No One’s Land (Ahsahta)
G.C. Waldrep, Disclamor (BOA)
Michael Dumanis, My Soviet Union (Massachusetts)
Graham Foust, Necessary Stranger (Flood Editions)

All I know is, no matter what, Mary Jo Bang’s Elegy is on the list. It’s a wonderful book.

Tao Lin - you are a little bit happier than i am

Tao Lin

I’m always the last to find out about some things, it seems. And this time, that’s Tao Lin. So I’m making up for lost time this week, down with some flu thing, and Lin’s you are a little bit happier than i am. What to say about this book? It reads like the autobiography of everyone born in the 1980s. It reads fast and veers, and almost means something, then demands that it means nothing. It tries and it doesn’t try very hard. It goes on somewhere between pettiness and terror, like “Howl” morphed into “Whatever.” But with a real person underneath it all, wanting and not wanting to be there, who couldn’t care less and is craving for attention. And that, finally, is what makes this such an interesting book.

“Tao Lin writes from moods that less radical writers would let pass—from laziness, from vacancy, from boredom. And it turns out that his report from these places is moving and necessary, not to mention frequently hilarious.”
—Miranda July

A Tao Lin bio note:
TAO LIN's writing has appeared in the Mississippi Review, the Cincinnati Review, Punk Planet, Bear Parade, Other Voices, Nerve, and Noon. He is the winner of the One Story short story contest and New York University's undergraduate creative writing prize, and is the author of a poetry collection, you are a little bit happier than i am, which won the Action Books prize. His blog is called reader of depressing books (
Go here for an interview: Tao Lin:

Tao Lin: I like people also. I also hate people with an intense but ultimately redemptive passion of ten thousand hamster friends. I hope you understand what I mean. Ha Jin wouldn't. I've enjoyed this interview so far. I like talking about Ha Jin.

I think my blend of emotion and language was inspired by Ha Jin. One of my favorite writers is Ha Jin. I've read his novel War Trash almost one and a half times. It's really nice. I mean it looks nice. It has a good cover.

From you are a little bit happier than i am:

some of my happiest moments in life occur on AOL messenger

i will create a new category
on my instant messenger buddy list

i will call it
‘people i like who don’t like me back’

and i will move your screen name into that group
and i will invite you to my house and show you

and you will say, ‘if i didn’t like you why did i come over’
and you will look at my face
and i will have an honest answer for your question
i will tell you that you came over to be polite

and after a while you will go home
and you won’t call
and i won’t either
and after a while i won’t like you anymore
and after a while we’ll forget each other
and after a while you will be beautiful and alone inside your coffin
and i’ll be cold and alone inside my coffin

Appreciate Me For Everything Good I Have Done In The Past

When you die, the world changes
into a funhouse. The funhouse is far away. It collapses
at the speed of light.

I just made that up.

I live in a high-density urban area.

I am hard-working,
detail-oriented, an excellent multi-tasker.
My demeanor in social situations
can be described as ‘low-level panic attack.’
I am honest, tactful, and ironic.
I enjoy screaming. I think it’s funny when people scream.

I think the Nobel Prize is funny.

“I am going to email a shitload of people tonight.” I think that’s funny.

I feel angry. No I don’t. I am bored.
I don’t understand how a number can be negative. One apple
looks like one apple. What does negative-one apple look like?

The world is stupid.

The world I exist in
is really stupid.

I can prove it

at night. In the park, at night,
I can prove anything.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Walter Benjamin - On Art

In the appreciation of a work of art or an art form, consideration of the receiver never proves fruitful.... Art posits man’s physical and spiritual existence, but in none of its works is it concerned with his response. No poem is intended for the reader, no symphony for the listener...What does a work “say” ? What does it communicate? It tells very little to those who understand it. Its essential quality is not statement or the imparting of information.

Walter Benjamin

Pilot Poetry - AWP Book Fair - Table 91 Gramercy

Sophie Klahr, _____VERSUS RECOVERY

An announcement from Dean Gorman & Betsy Wheeler, co-editors of Pilot Poetry:

Mary Ruefle's comic book, GO HOME AND GO TO BED! is now available.

To purchase this book, you can go to the Pilot Books catalog.

Or, if you’d rather, you can order a Season Two Subscription and receive Mary Ruefle’s comic, along with Sophie Klahr's _____VERSUS RECOVERY (available now) and Joshua Marie Wilkinson's BOOK OF FLASHLIGHTS, CLOVER & MILK (available soon) for $25 (which includes shipping).

If you’d rather buy these in person, Pilot Poetry is going to be at the AWP book fair, Table 91 in the Gramercy Room.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Bobby Flay - Mesa Grill

I like food. And, thanks to a friend, I have a reservation at Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill in NYC for February first.

Below are the menu options. Right now, I’m leaning toward the taquitos, chile relleno, and profiteroles.

Just sharing!


with Her Own Special Dressing + Crispy Tortillas


with Toasted Cumin Crema + 3 Relishes of Tomato-Serrano,
Avocado-Tomatillo and Grilled Red Onion


with Jerk Chicken, Red Cabbage Slaw
+ Mango Habanero Sauce


with Roasted Garlic Mango Sauce +
Cilantro Mashed Potatoes



filled with Acorn Squash, Goat Cheese, Sage
+ a Fig-Cascabel Chile Sauce


with Roasted Pineapple-Cascabel Chile Sauce
+ Caramelized Pineapple-Green Onion Salsa


with Hot Mexican Chocolate Sauce


with Sour Cream Ice Cream

Rebecca Aronson - Creature Creature

I have many books from 2007 that I haven’t mentioned yet, and I’m hoping to make up for lost time. So here goes. First up, Rebecca Aronson, from Creature Creature.

The Way to Vanish

We are restless and leave our beds to cool.
Rain, but streets so hot they steam,
sidewalks slick with mud where dust was.

Where we walk a trench grows.
Old friends tumble in,
swim in the murk, flipping delicate feet.
The rain must blind me some.

Orange mushrooms glow
viperous on the lawns. They frighten me.
The lawns, too, frighten me. Mosquitoes
swim from their beds

multiplying as the rain does. A seed
of magnificence:
I expect to split in two,
split again and again
and disperse in the privet hedge.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Five Reasons Why I Am Not John Gallaher

John Gallaher
John Gallaher
John Gallaher
John Gallaher (on left)
John Gallaher

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Tim Eitel - What would this look like as a poem?



Empty Area


Monday, January 14, 2008

Martha Ronk's Vertigo

Martha Ronk, VERTIGO

OK, so I’ve mentioned this book before, but I’m going to mention it again! I found it on my desk when I returned to my office this morning, and I decided to read a poem. It was lovely. So I’m posting it below.

About VERTIGO, from Publishers Weekly:

"An airy, evanescent tone and long, drifting sentences that blend memory with the present characterize Ronk's eighth book, selected by C.D. Wright for the National Poetry Series. Ronk (In a Landscape of Having to Repeat) masterfully operates at the intersection of meditative investigation and day-to-day domesticity."

“Cameras, he explained, came then to replace descriptive paragraphs”

If description could outpace effusions of feeling,
serif or sans serif, punctuated with dashes and in Amherst,
could one say it was a peculiar summer.
I tried to like what I’d always liked and tried to get there
sooner rather than later.
I’d forgotten I like orange until
on a scale of one to ten the petals ranged themselves
like swallows on the telephone wire
flying off at the sound of someone’s coming.
Something should have been a topic—
I had thought it out and left nothing to chance,
but the people kept arriving
never thinking to find the appropriate word for
what they were taking in and writing down.
One snapped a lily between finger and thumb
and one had hair like spilling rust.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Kevin Prufer - National Anthem

Kevin Prufer, National Anthem (Four Way Books, 2008)

Here it is! Beautiful, isn’t it?

Copies are just starting to circulate . . . you can get yours at AWP in NYC in just a couple weeks . . . and Kevin will be there, signing copies at Tables 42 & 43, on Friday, February 1st, from 4:00 – 5:00. As well, he’ll be reading from it, at this event:

Four Way Books 15th Anniversary Reading

Saturday 1:30-2:45
(Regent Parlor Hilton, 2nd Floor)

Laurel Blossom
Jeffrey Harrison
April Ossmann
Kevin Prufer
Daniel Tobin
C. Dale Young

Mark your calendars . . .

To hold you over, here’s a poem from National Anthem:

Army Tales

The boy who drowned in the bog, the boy caught in the rotors, the boy who laughed too loud—

The boy who swallowed the bee that stung the throat—

The ripcord worked, but the parachute fluttered weakly above and would not bloom—

He put his foot down in the foreign grass and heard a click, as of metal on metal. When he lifted that foot—

Sometimes it is a cold day and the clouds rain toxin over the boys on the base—

Sometimes, they don’t know they’re being watched, leaning against their packs, asleep like that—

One more, one more, he said. One more all around— And the assembled clapped for him, they clapped, he put his money down and smiled because they loved him—

Sometimes a boy thinks he is unloved, so he retires to a dark tent where he will not be disturbed—

Then, the cells wink out like lights on a tall office building in a strange city at dusk—

His friends said it was a sad day, it was very sad. They thought he’d been kidding, they told him not to laugh like that—

You pull the string and out it blooms—

And what was he doing off the base late at night? What was he doing on the open water, in the plane, driving so fast down unfamiliar roads? His mother—

Someone would tell her. Someone would write her a letter, thank God. There’s a template for that—

A guy who puts your name on the hard drive, a distant office, a simple program and printer—

You punch in the name and out it comes.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The Poetry Books of 2007

The Poetry Books of 2007

Well, the books of 2007 that I came across, anyway. Even with that, what can I say? It’s been such a BIG year for books of poetry. Looking to the huge stack next to my desk I see all the books I purchased this year, copyright 2007, in no particular order:

John Ashbery, A Worldly Country (ecco)
John Ashbery, Notes from the Air: Selected Later Poems (ecco)
Mary Jo Bang, Elegy (Graywolf)
Paige Ackerson-Kiely, In No One’s Land (Ahsahta)
Bin Ramke, tendril (Omnidawn)
G.C. Waldrep, Disclamor (BOA)
Michael Dumanis, My Soviet Union (Massachusetts)
Martha Ronk, VERTIGO (Coffee House)
Charles Wright, Littlefoot (FSG)
Cate Marvin, Fragment of the Head of a Queen (Sarabande)
Reginald Shepherd, Fata Morgana (Pittsburgh)
Rae Armantrout, Next Life (Wesleyan)
Zachary Schomburg, The Man Suit (Black Ocean)
Sarah Vap, American Spikenard (Iowa)
Sarah Vap, Dummy Fire (Saturnalia Books)
Graham Foust, Necessary Stranger (Flood Editions)
Rebecca Aronson, Creature, Creature (Main-Traveled Roads)
Joshua Kryah, Glean (Nightboat)
Donald Revell, A Thief of Strings (Alice James)
Hadara Bar-Nadav, A Glass of Milk to Kiss Goodnight (MARGIE)
Debra Di Blasi, The Jiri Chronicles (FC2) [it's not poetry, but close enough!]
Cole Swensen, The Glass Age (Alice James)
Ethan Paquin, My Thieves (SALT)
Albert Goldbarth, The Kitchen Sink: New & Selected Poems (Graywolf)
Henri Cole, Blackbird & Wolf (FSG)
Robert Hass, Time and Materials (ecco)
Mary Biddinger, Prairie Fever (Steel Toe Books)
Oliver De La Paz, Furious Lullaby (Southern Illinois)
Forrest Hamer, Rift (Four Way Books)
Nancy Kuhl, The Wife of the Left Hand (Shearsman Books)
C. Dale Young, The Second Person (Four Way Books)
Paul Guest, Notes for My Body Double (New Michigan)
Christian Hawkey, Citizen Of (Wave)
Dorothea Lasky, AWE. (Wave)
Christopher Arigo, In the Archives (Omnidawn)
Steve Fellner, Blind Date with Cavafy (Marsh Hawk)
Sam Witt, Sunflower Brother (Cleveland State)
Ellen Dudley, The Geographic Cure (Four Way Books)
Henrietta Goodman, Take What You Want (Alice James)
Linda Gregerson, Magnetic North (Houghton Mifflin)
Laure-Anne Bosselaar, A New Hunger (Ausable )
Terri Ford, Hams beneath the Firmament (Four Way Books)
Peter Gizzi, The Outernationale (Wesleyan)
Tony Tost, Complex Sleep (Iowa)
J. Allyn Rosser, Foiled Again (Ivan R. Dee)
Julie Carr, Equivocal (Alice James)
Max Winter, The Pictures (Tarpaulin Sky)
Lee Upton, Undid in the Land of Undone (New Issues)
Matthew Rohrer, Rise Up (Wave)
Heidi Lynn Staples, Dog Girl (Ahsahta)
David Mutschlecner, SIGN (Ahsahta)
Walter Bargen, West of West (Timberline)
Heather McHugh & David Lehman, eds, The Best American Poetry, 2007 . . .

This is by far the most books I’ve ever purchased from a single year. (Not to mention the books from pervious years that I just discovered, such as Mark Bibbins’ Sky Lounge and Paula Cisewski’s Upon Arrival.) Was I just paying closer attention, as a book of mine came out this year as well? Who knows. Needless to say, this is a BIG stack of books, and one that I’ll be working on, and thinking along with, for some time.

Anyway, this is just to say thank you to the writers and publishers who brought these books out. It really has been an amazing year of reading. Some of these books are so good it just makes me get all jealous and shivery. Which is a good way to be. So keep it up, everybody. Let’s do it again next year.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

A Roar for Powerful Words

A roar for powerful words meme is going around. Kate Harding tagged Paula Cisewski: I have been tagged, I shall tag. And so it makes its way here to me.

The assignment is this:

“list three things [you] believe are necessary for good, powerful writing.”

Paula and Kate have done well, listing these:

- Know what you do well, and what you don’t.
- If you “don’t write for other people,” then put it in a goddamned drawer and be done with it.
- Accept that you can’t please all of the people all of the time.
- Figure out who you are.
- Get over yourself.

As well, the meme started well, with these three:

- Innovation: I love writing that doesn't rely on tired, easy phrases.
- Truth: I need to sense that there is some truth in what is being written.
- Humanism: I need to feel that the writer has an idea about human nature, that as the author of work intended for human consumption, the writer has a grip on the mechanisms, sensitivities that strike a universal chord in all of us.

So what can I add to this list of sound thinking? These eight (and there are many more, as the meme has spread out) thoughts make for the kind of engagement with language that is necessary to keep close. These are good things to keep in mind when giving yourself authority to write.

But I’m envisioning myself reading a poem, and thinking to myself that any poet could violate all these and still write powerfully. Even to the level of “tired, easy phrases,” which can often become the force behind, say, a John Ashbery poem, where the phrase is made to stand on its head, to use a tired and easy phrase.

Writing well and writing powerfully are two facets of one thing: coming out with good art. To write well, which we all want to do, these eight ideas are crucial. To write powerfully, though, I think one could take a step behind what it means to write well, and do something else, that’s very difficult for me to put into a trio of things. So, to support what’s been said, and to try to address “power” directly, here goes:

1. Believe the unbelievable. Stevens called it the “Necessary Fiction,” and I adore the motivation. You must sign on fully to something you know to be false and believe it as true. It’s a wonderful way to allow for the kinds of movements art makes. Does Dorthea Tanning really believe the world looks like that when she paints it that way? Yes. And no. And YES. Perhaps this is just to say “trust your metaphors as real,” or “Truth: the final frontier.”

2. Know that everything is always wrong. All art fails. It is all ephemera. It is useless. It does not rise into the world to become the world. But then again, maybe it does. And maybe it will this time, in this next poem, the one you’re about to write. There is a crack in everything. The crack (to paraphrase Leonard Cohen) is how the light gets in. So you must find the crack, and know, inevitably, there will be a crack in what you produce as well. Attack it.

3. Do something else. Love something else almost as much as writing about it. But know the writer’s first commitment is to the writing. The artist’s job is to make art. Owning that, but almost leaving it is important to me. When I’m reading a poem, I like to feel that more is going on than good writing, or cleverness. It’s the vision thing. The vision of a world brought back through the writing of that world. The conceptual possibility of language to see the world differently than experience sees the world. This difference is possibility.

I’m not certain that these are helpful or interesting. Directives always make me nervous. I keep envisioning the opposite as a possibility.

And I’ll tag these five poets. Maybe they can fix this all back up: Zachary Schomburg, Mathias Svalina, Christopher Salerno, Paul Guest, and Mary Biddinger.

Zachary Schomburg - The Lovely Arc
Mathias Svalina - Yes, Starlings! Yes!
Christopher Salerno
Paul Guest - Almost I Rushed Home to Tell You This
Mary Biddinger - the word cage

Monday, January 07, 2008

Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge - Permanent Home

Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge’s work can be elusive in ways similar to Michael Palmer’s, and that’s a very good thing, as Michael Palmer has always been one of my elusive favorites. (There are divergences, of course. But that's for another time.) Berssenbrugge’s poems, for me, are beautifully frustrating in their sense/nonsense making, as they move through the flatness of percepts. And the open question is always there for the reader, of how to “take” these thesis-like statements. What to make of them. When I know I will have some time, I like to pick up NEST, and go along in the possibility of going.

If you don’t know much about her work, here is a good place to start:

I’ve still to get I Love Artists, which came out in 2006, but in the meanwhile, here are the final sections of “Permanent Home” from NEST, to take us into the week.


The water tank sits on a frame of used wood, like a packing crate.

I look through it to an extinct volcano.

The panorama is true figuratively, as space, and literally in a glass wall where clouds appear like flowers, and the back-lit silhouette of a horse passes by.

A file of evergreens secures the cliff amid debris from a crew building, as at the edge of a sea.

Oranges, dumplings, boiled eggs take on the opaque energy of a stranger.

Knowledge as lintel, bond-beam (model signs) holds the world at a distance.

A master-image, like bone, condenses from an indistinct point-to-point feeling of self with which construction began.

My house returns from outside, as if my spirit had been blocking my path, when I wasn't going anywhere in particular.


Materials and freedom combine, so materials aren’t subjective.

The material of space is like having a skeleton to gain a vantage point on seamless distance, as in a composition.

It’s a style of accumulating materials that does not become a solid thing, anymore.

Accommodating a view by being able to be seen through is perceptual, not abstract, like space painted white.

Give a house the form of an event.

Relate it to something there, a form of compassion.

Your point of view is: it’s solid already, so there’s warmth.

In this primitive situation, pure form translates that former empire of space as wilderness.

Chinese space breaks free from the view in front of me, while my house continues rotating on earth.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Uh Oh - AWP 2008 (We don't need no stinkin' badges!)

Um, will someone please explain the email I just got from AWP? I am more than a little worried. It seems I might have a table at AWP, but not be able to actually sit at it . . .


From AWP:


We're sorry, but due to overwhelming interest in AWP's 2008 Conference & Bookfair, we will not be selling registration passes on-site in New York. No more passes will be sold. More than 7,000 individuals are registered for our 2008 Conference & Bookfair, making it our largest gathering ever. Security will monitor the Bookfair and Conference events, and only pre-registered individuals possessing a registration badge will be admitted into Conference events and the Bookfair. Thank you for your support.


So am I going to AWP or not? Are the students who are supposed to be manning the Laurel Review table going or not? We have flights and hotel rooms. But, um, not registration badges.

This might be a bit of a problem.

I suppose we can sit in the lobby and wave?

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Happy New Year - Gillian Welsh & Oliver de la Paz

This, by Gillian Welsh is available from her website, signed, for $45.00. It seems a proper way to welcome 2008, doesn't it?

Here's another, by Oliver de la Paz, from Furious Lullaby:

Penitence Essay

A blue flame arrows
its way through the globe of my eye.

Perhaps I was "pain" or had a broken knuckle,
a bloodied nose on the playground.
I've begged for it, but
I'll beg longer. I've been there.

I've seen winter childhoods
on the merry-go-round.
The holy light from the school,
jagged as the steam from the heat exhaust
quivers like tacky sentences
slivered between teeth.

It's cold. I beg you. It's cold.