Category Archives: Poetry

2019 #SeptWomenPoets Book Giveaway!

Poet Shara Lessley launched the #SeptWomenPoets hashtag (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook) as a way to create an online book club where readers share selections and covers from books by women poets. The challenge has encouraged readers to showcase and discuss some of their favorite poems and poets across social media. Here are some University of Wisconsin Press collections we encourage you to consider for your #SeptWomenPoets TBR pile:

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We are giving away a set of debut collections by two of the talented female poets published in the Wisconsin Poetry Series edited by Ronald Wallace and Sean Bishop (entry form and guidelines below).

One winner will receive an advance copy of these forthcoming titles:

Enter your email address in the form below before October 4th for a chance to win!

An Interview with Poet Rae Armantrout

As National Poetry Month draws to a close, we present three interviews with living poets, originally published in Contemporary Literature journal. The interviews are freely available to access until May 1.

Our final poet is Rae Armantrout, a central figure of the Language poetry movement of the 1970s and 1980s who was nevertheless somewhat separate from that collectivity, crafting her own flavor of poetry that over time has remained “distinctive and distinctively fresh, particularly in its allegiance to a honed version of lyric that brings to mind the poetry of Emily Dickinson or George Oppen, and in its attention to the degradations—and the surprises—of American speech that permeate our consciousness and infiltrate even our dreams,” according to interviewer Lynn Keller. The conversation presented here touches on everything from physics to religion to ghosts to feminism. Armantrout discusses her cancer diagnosis and how it has impacted the practice and content of her writing, leading her to write poems more quickly and to dwell on mortality (though she says, “I’ve always had an attraction to the dark stuff anyway. I used to say I was channeling Kali. (Not so funny now.)”). When Keller asks Armantrout about the religious imagery in her recent work, she replies that though she’s not religious, she sees a parallel between religious practice and the act of creating a poem or other artwork:

Who are we talking to when we write? I don’t really think, in my case, that I’m talking to a specific audience; I think I’m talking to myself, but when I’m talking to myself, who am I talking to? It feels very much like when I was a child and I prayed, so it’s not that I actually believe there is an entity called God who hears what I say, but there is this desire to somehow perfect utterance. But make it perfect for whom, you know? I think in a way we are making something for the gods that we don’t believe in.

Read the full interview here, and then go read Armantrout’s poems!


And check out our other poetry month offerings:

An interview with Marge Piercy

An interview with Myung Mi Kim

An Interview with Poet Myung Mi Kim

As National Poetry Month draws to a close, we’re presenting three interviews with living poets, originally published in Contemporary Literature journal. The interviews are freely available to access until May 1.

Our second poet is Myung Mi Kim, in conversation with Lynn Keller. Kim, a Korean-American, refers to herself as “as a poet arrived at an uncanny familiarity with another language—or more precisely, as a poet transcribing the interstices of the abbreviated, the oddly conjoined, the amalgamated—recognizing that language occurs under continual construction.” As Keller puts it, in Kim’s hands, language

is subject to fracture and disruption, excision and rearrangement. It functions not as a means of gaining an illusory stability but rather as a register of the often jarring instability of human experience in time, and of the stumblings, the incoherencies, the polyphonic complexity of the immigrant’s experience in and between several cultures.

The wide-ranging discussion presented here touches on the poet’s process, childbirth and family, documentary poetry, poetic forms that privilege visual impact, the pastoral, geological time, the slipperiness of nostalgia, the generative power of silence, migration, and loss and mourning. Kim and Keller’s conversation bounces among so many different topics in part because Kim’s vision of poetry is so expansive and all-encompassing. As she describes it, “Poetry invites a practice of language/perception that embraces mutability, undecidability, the motion underneath and around what’s codified in conventions of language, grammar, syntax, semantics, and so forth. Poetry produces new ways of participating in perception, thinking, historical being and becoming.”

Read the full interview here, and then go read Kim’s poems!


And if you missed yesterday’s post, check out an interview with poet Marge Piercy.

An Interview with Poet Marge Piercy

As National Poetry Month draws to a close, we will be presenting three interviews with living poets, originally published in Contemporary Literature journal. The interviews are freely available to access until May 1.

Our first offering features poet, novelist, and memoirist Marge Piercy. Interviewer Bonnie Lyons describes Piercy’s poetry in this way:

Valuing usefulness highly, Piercy writes poems that are accessible to ordinary readers without sacrificing rich imagery and subtle sound effects. Her poetry embodies her belief in the importance of attention in her precise word choice and acute perception. Tikkun olam, Hebrew for “healing the world,” is central to her poetry, which works to awaken her readers’ passionate recognition of all that could and should be changed through human effort.

To date, Marge Piercy has written nineteen volumes of poetry, seventeen novels, and a memoir. When asked how she navigates multiple genres, she characterizes herself as “a poet who also writes novels.” She describes the benefits of her chosen genre:

You can write poetry when you are dying. The Plains Indians would try to have a final utterance. You can write poetry in a prison cell—you can scrawl it on the walls. You can memorize your poems. You can carry them around with you. A novel is a far more artificial construction, and it takes huge amounts of time to write one. If you were fighting as a guerrilla, you couldn’t write a novel, but you could write poetry. A novel is far less portable.

Lyons and Piercy discuss the writer’s long history of social and political activism. Piercy articulates how she has created a balance between activism and writing—two fields of activity that are often felt to be in conflict with one another. Piercy explains,

When I was a full-time organizer, I basically gave up sleeping to write. In my life since then, because I have been able to reach people through my writing, I feel much less of a conflict. In fact, it’s all of a piece with me. I don’t divide things up that way. I don’t make a value judgment that one type of poetry is more important than another—neither my poems about Judaism, or poems about love, or poems about the war in Iraq or the environment.

The interview also touches on the usefulness of poetry, the importance of reading in order to write, poetry as an act of attention similar to a religious practice, making a living as a writer, Piercy’s reputation as an “anti-academic” poet and how poetry can thrive outside of academe, and writing about sex, aging, and the body.

Read the full interview here, and then go read Piercy’s poems!

Announcing the 2019 Wisconsin Poetry Prize Winners

The University of Wisconsin Press is thrilled to announce the winners of our annual poetry prizes! The three winning collections, along with two other honorable mention collections, will be published over the next year as part of the Wisconsin Poetry Series, edited by Ron Wallace and Sean Bishop.

 

Molly Spencer author photo

Molly Spencer.

Molly Spencer is the recipient of the Brittingham Prize for the collection If the house. Spencer is a poetry editor at The Rumpus and teaches at the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. She holds an MFA from the Rainier Writing Workshop. Judge Carl Phillips says, “The eponymous house of If the house is at once literal and figurative. There’s the impulse toward an idea of domesticity that begins here with finding a house within which to shape a life, or try to. . . . Memory, too, is a house here—and in these poems, to make of memory a home becomes an act just as brave and honest—and all the lovelier for both—as the poems themselves.”

 

Sarah Kortemeier author photo

Sarah Kortemeier. Photo by: Jennifer McStotts

Sarah Kortemeier has been awarded the Felix Pollak Prize for the collection Ganbatte. Kortemeier is the library director at the University of Arizona Poetry Center and holds an MFA in Poetry and MA in Library and Information Science from the University of Arizona. According to Phillips, “The poems of Ganbatte use language to give us what photography can’t, always, a sense of the interior, of the sensibility of place and of what has happened there—story and history, Hansel and Gretel and the Holocaust and Hiroshima.”

 

Bruce Snider author photo

Bruce Snider. Photo by: Todd Follett

Bruce Snider is the winner of the Four Lakes Prize for his forthcoming collection, Fruit. One of his previous collections, The Year We Studied Women, was the winner of the 2003 Felix Pollak Prize. Snider is an associate professor at the University of San Francisco and earned his MFA in poetry and playwriting from the University of Texas at Austin. His poetry and nonfiction have appeared in American Poetry Review, Poetry, VQR, Iowa Review, Ploughshares, Gettysburg Review, Pleiades, Southern Review and Best American Poetry 2012.

 

John Brehm author photo

John Brehm. Photo by: Tracy Pitts

John Brehm’s collection No Day at the Beach will be published as part of the Wisconsin Poetry Series. Brehm teaches at the Oregon Literary Arts and Mountain Writers Series in Portland, Oregon and the Lighthouse Writers Workshop in Denver, Colorado. He is the author of Sea of Faith, which won the 2004 Brittingham Prize, and Help is on the Way, which won the 2012 Four Lakes Prize. Andrea Hollander says of John Brehm’s forthcoming collection, “Evident throughout these irresistible, often self-deprecating poems (‘It’s no day at the beach / being me’) are Brehm’s persuasive wonderings, his engaging explorations, his vital need to know. Open the book anywhere and you won’t want to put it down.”

 

Ambalila Hemsell. Photo by: Lizzie Tilles

Ambalila Hemsell’s poetry collection, Queen in Blue, will also be published in the coming year. Hemsell is a writer, educator, and musician who holds an MFA from the Helen Zell Writers’ Program at the University of Michigan. Laura Kasischke praises Hemsell’s Queen in Blue, saying, “She has created a poetry that pulls back the curtain. . . . not knowing this curtain blocked a view of something that, once glimpsed, will change us. She gives us that glimpse. She changes us. A reader could ask no more of any collection of poems.”

 

Submissions for the 2020 awards cycle will be open from July 15 to September 15 of this year. The judge for the upcoming awards will be Natasha Tretheway, whose collection Native Guard won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in poetry. She was named the nineteenth Poet Laureate of the United States in 2012, a position she held through 2014.

Winners of the 2018 poetry prizes—D. M. Aderibigbe, Michelle Brittan Rosado, and Betsy Sholl—will read their work at the upcoming AWP Conference and Bookfair on Thursday, March 28 at 4PM at Produce Row Café, 204 SE Oak St., Portland, Oregon.

 

About the University of Wisconsin Press
The University of Wisconsin Press, one of the research and service centers housed within the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, is a not-for-profit publisher of books and journals. With nearly 1,500 titles in print, its mission embodies the Wisconsin Idea by publishing work of distinction that serves the people of Wisconsin and the world.

For more information on the Wisconsin Poetry Prizes, please visit https://uwpress.wisc.edu/series/wi-poetry.html