The ante-penultimate poet on our reading list is Barbara Hamby. Married to fellow poet David Kirby, Hamby was born in New Orleans (just down the block from here, you could say) and raised in Hawaii. I thoroughly enjoyed All Night Lingo Tango (2009). It’s fresh and alive and spunky, as well as full of references a movie buff would swoon over. Now I’m no movie buff, but I recognize the names and can appreciate what she’s doing here. Continue reading
Oh, and some of my poet-friends (Christina Rothenbeck, Allison Campbell, and Susan Elliot) and I will also be reading. It’ll be good fun! Promise!
Location: Barnes & Noble, Gulfport MS. Time: 4-6pm. Angela Ball and Rebecca Morgan Frank will also be signing books, and there’s time for a Q&A so come talk to us about poetry!
All purchases at the reading — using Book Fair ID 11324464 — will benefit the Red Cross. Come join us and help us celebrate National Poetry Month! (With the same code, you can also make your online purchases at BN.com/bookfairs benefit the Red Cross, if you can’t make it to Gulfport.)
The poem “Monday” begins like this: “The birds are in their trees, / the toast is in the toaster, / and the poets are at their windows” (47). The idea of the work of a poet, if not the poet him/herself, as both pointless and essential is a trope that weaves its way through Collins’ Aimless Love — New and Selected Poems. And Collins finds that there is much to see through the windows (though he seems to use it less / go outside more than James Schuyler, who ‘windowframes’ many of his poems.) Continue reading
Once you start reading allegiance, it’s like francine j. harris has indeed pulled the pin out of her mouth. Her poetic persona is like a live grenade. The collection is compelling, interesting, and above all pretty consistently spunky. The voice that speaks from her poems is strong, whether she writes about her high school, the grit and dirt and poverty of Chicago, or religion.
David Lehman wears hats. Several. Metaphorically and literally. I’ve already mentioned David Lehman’s Last Avant-Garde (his book about the New York School poets) a few times in my posts on Ashbery, Koch, O’Hara and Schuyler, and you may have come across his name in connection with the Best American Poetry series, which he edits, but he’s also a poet, so let’s spend some time on his poetry.
His New and Selected is organized in reverse chronological order, with the new poems first, followed by selections of his more recent poems, followed by selected older poems. The book spans several decades: it goes back all the way to the 60s.
There is a lot of diversity in the poems, but as with any good collection, there are also patterns. Recurrent themes (in order of appearance or recognition during my reading experience) are Ithaca, Judaism, Freud, WW2, philosophy, adultery, and the trope of spies or agents. In true New York School tradition, Lehman includes some lists, names of personal acquaintances as well as stars and starlets of pop-culture, literature, and other high-culture.
You know how it goes — you see a book you really, really want to read, you get it, and then real life happens. Like coursework, lesson prep, grading, paper-writing, and all the rest. And the book sits there, quietly, on the shelf, and you try to ignore the fact that you still haven’t read it. Well, fortunately this book — Mary Ruefle’s Madness, Rack, and Honey, wasn’t just on my “want to read” list but also appeared, as if by magic, on a required reading list for a class this semester. Hooray! This means I can read it without feeling guilty for spending time on something not study-related. Continue reading
I post about good books here all the time, but what about the REST of all the books out there? In the interest of fairness and general merriment, here are some truly unfortunate book covers. Enjoy! Continue reading
Justin Torres’s We The Animals is a slender volume and a perfect example of quality being unrelated to quantity. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this (his first) novel, and a reviewer’s comment that the book feels like a sets of old school home movies certainly rings true for me. The book takes us along as the young protagonist and his brothers grow up around each other with little influence of their parents. Some scenes are intensely beautiful and strange — the boys, dressed in raincoats, smash tomatoes with a hammer because they’d seen people on TV doing it and “having the time of their lives.” The boys want to have the time of their lives, they want to live. They run out of tomatoes and carry on with lotion bottles. When their overwhelmed mother finally appears, takes in the mess and explains (to the exasperation of the boys) that this is what they looked like then she gave birth to them, she has only one desire: “Make me born,” she asks of her young sons, a gesture of despair and hope at the same time. Continue reading
Reading through Schuyler’s Collected Poems feels like reading through a diary or through a stack of personal letters, kept neatly in order. When roses are described as being full of buds in one poem, the next or one soon after will mention the first one bursting into bloom. Spring poems are followed by summer, then fall, then winter poems, only to circle back around. A recurring phenomenon is the personification of the months of the year. Here’s an example from “The Crystal Lithium:”
January, laid out on a bed of ice disgorging / February, shaped like a flounder, and March with her steel bead pocketbook, / And April, goofy and under-dressed and with a loud laugh, and May / Who will of course be voted Miss Best Liked (she expects it), / And June, with a toothpaste smile, fresh from her flea bath, and gross July, / Flexing herself, and steamy August, with thighs and eyes to match, and September / Diving into blue October, dour November, and deadly dull December which now / And then with a surprised blank look produces from its hand the ace of trumps
The fourth major player in our survey of New York School poets is James Schuyler. He’s a bit of an odd one out: “Helen Vendler contends that notwithstanding ‘superficial resemblances in form,’ Schuyler is essentially different from the other New York School poets. ‘Schuyler is not radically allegorical, like Ashbery, but literal; he is not a social poet, like O’Hara, but a poet of loneliness; he is not comical and narrative, like Koch, but wistful and atmospheric.’” (from David Lehman, The Last Avant-Garde, p.277)
While condensing the work of any poet or artist down to one or two adjectives is always a dangerous enterprise (Who likes to fall victim to generalization? Nobody, I say.), Vendler’s observation does make clear the odd position Schuyler finds himself in. The other New York School poets read and enjoyed his work, much like he read theirs, and they gave each other feedback and socialized and collaborated, but from the outside, Schuyler was a late bloomer. Continue reading