• Lunch Poems

    Frank O’Hara

    I thought maybe I had never read anything by Frank O’Hara, but while reading this I recognized a few, in particular the one about Lana Turner…. O’Hara writes with an utter lack of nostalgia; these poems are situated clearly in a the now, even though various references clearly date them to an earlier era — somewhere I heard this described as the “eternal present.”more

  • Dandarians

    Lee Ann Roripaugh

    I like the elements of color and light throughout these. And especially the insomnial “Sleepless Graffiti” (#2 below) and “Ten Nights’ Dreams.”

    Way past closing time, and you want to walk in the dark with disheveled hair, moonlight juke-boxing its twangy lobotomy through your head. Stroll through the empty small-town downtown — where traffic lights blink their metronomical yellow. Past the historic courthouse. Past the Elk’s Club. Past Green Acres Hair Shack and down by the Pump-n-Stuff, where wild turkeys congregate at night, carousing around the gasoline islands until sunrise and swilling rain straight from the sky.

    Maybe you’ll drunk-dial the fog and dance in its mist: tango, fandango, bolero. Vaporous swirl and dip.

    Maybe you’ll steal a boat, ride it downriver — all the way to

  • The Descent of Alette

    Alice Notley

    I’ve tried and failed to get into two other Alice Notley books but was handed this one and told to “ignore the quotes,” in reference to how the rhythm is delineated by quotation marks. On my first try, I just couldn’t ignore them, and reading felt like listening to someone talking anxiously and hyperventilating. But on my second try I was able to focus and follow Alette into the depths of decaying subway stations on a mission to destroy the tyrant, a representation of masculine supremacy.

    Even though it’s a rather long poem and initially feels daunting, it’s easy to become immersed after a time, since there is physical movement and progression through the four parts, as Alette journeys from...more

  • Don’t Let Me Be Lonely

    Claudia Rankine

    Life is a form of hope?
    If you are hopeful.
    Maybe hope is the same as breath — part of
    What it means to be human and alive.
    Or maybe hoping is the same as waiting.
    It can be futile.
    Waiting for what?
    For a life to begin.
    I am here.
    And I am still lonely.

  • Dept. of Speculation

    Jenny Offill

    This slim novel could easily be read in a day, but I happened to read part of it on a Saturday and the rest on a Sunday morning, when I woke up far earlier than usual. It was the perfect thing for a quiet morning, the sky still lightening to day. While I’m sure some people would try to call this a lyric essay, as championed in Reality Hunger, Jenny Offill isn’t a fan of the term, which she talks about in her interview on The Bat Segundo Show. Unlike The Self Unstable, this has a stronger narrative while still reading a lot like poetry. Offill mentions in that interview how she probably reads more poetry than...more

  • The Self Unstable

    Elisa Gabbert

    Late last year Teju Cole described this as “the most intelligent and most intriguing thing” he’d read in some time. A lyric essay, a memoir of aphorisms: you could get creative in how to describe this, but it reads most like poetry to me. On the surface perhaps the pages are brief and the words seem slight, but after reading through once and digging back in a few days later, I found the layers abundant. It seems like a book best gone through a few times for maximum effect.

    On her blog, Gabbert collected some thoughts on the concept of the lyric essay, from David Shields’s book Reality Hunger, including this comment from Ben Marcus: “In fiction, lyricism...more

  • Across the Land and the Water

    W.G. Sebald

    Translator Iain Galbraith’s introduction is one of the best parts of this book, as it includes “an example … of the difficulty of translating Sebald’s poetry”:

    Many of the poems in this volume—which opens with a train journey—reenact travel “across” various kinds of land and water (even if the latter is only the fluid of dreams). Indeed, several, as the writer’s archive reveals, were actually written “on the road,” penned on hotel stationery, menus, the backs of theatre programs, in cities that Sebald visited.

    He goes on to talk about a poem titled “Somewhere” that involves a small town called Türkenfeld, which is an area Sebald would have passed through often, yet:

    … it is well for a translator to be aware that

  • The Dream of a Common Language

    Adrienne Rich

    When Adrienne Rich died earlier this year, I felt compelled to pick up something of hers, since I couldn’t recall reading much of her work before, though I felt familiar with her in principle. It took me a while to actually get to reading this since I haven’t been reading much poetry lately, and it often feels like a too drastic switching of mental gears when you are out of practice. But then this was so pleasing to read (after the initial gear switch) that I had some regret for hesitating.

    The technology of silence
    The rituals, etiquette

    the blurring of terms
    silence not absence

    of words or music or even
    raw sounds

    Silence can be a plan

  • As Ever

    Joanne Kyger

    This collection has been hanging out on my bedside table for months, read in little pieces until finally this week I decided it would not be renewed again. I picked it up in the midst of the Desecheo Notebook (circa 1971), a semi-diary. In some ways her poetry can at times chronicle specific time periods and feel very similar to her published journals, Strange Big Moon, which I failed to get through earlier this year. But this collection spans so many decades that it doesn’t get so bogged down in the every day. I love her sense of humor and physical shapes of her lines.

    Lynn doesn’t want to miss the full moon tonight

  • Plainwater

    Anne Carson

    After Anne Carson won me over at her Nox reading, I finally put this collection of poetry and essays on hold. It seems like several people have noted it as their favorite volume of hers. Right now I was drawn more to her essays than the various sections of verse, especially the two pilgrammages within “The Anthropology of Water.” But there was also this afterword to “Canicula di Anna”:

    After a story is told there are some moments of silence. Then words begin again. Because you would always like to know a little more. Not exactly more story. Not necessarily, on the other hand, an exegesis. Just something to go on with. After all, stories end but you have to