Tag 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!

Contemporary Literature Journal Seeks Articles and Interviews

Call for Papers and Interviews

Contemporary LiteratureContemporary Literature seeks scholarly essays on post-World War II literature written in English which offer scope, supply a new dimension to conventional approaches, or transform customary ways of reading writers. Additionally, CL welcomes interviews that focus on an author’s writing, pursue and elaborate a line of questioning and response, and provide insight into central aspects of the writer’s significance. Past interviews have featured writers such as Dorothy AllisonRae Armantrout, Edwidge Danticat, Rachael KushnerBen LernerViet Thanh Nguyen, Afaa Michael Weaver, and Charles Yu.

See the journal’s submission guidelines for more information. Questions may be directed to the editorial office at CL@english.wisc.edu.

About CL: Contemporary Literature publishes scholarly essays on contemporary writing in English, interviews with established and emerging authors, and reviews of recent critical books in the field. The journal welcomes articles on multiple genres, including poetry, the novel, drama, creative nonfiction, new media and digital literature, and graphic narrative. CL published the first articles on Thomas Pynchon and Susan Howe and the first interviews with Margaret Drabble and Don DeLillo; it also helped to introduce Kazuo Ishiguro, Eavan Boland, and J. M. Coetzee to American readers. As a forum for discussing issues animating the range of contemporary literary studies, CL features the full diversity of critical practices. The editors seek articles that frame their analysis of texts within larger literary historical, theoretical, or cultural debates.

To learn more, subscribe to the journal, browse the latest table of contents, or sign up for new issue email alerts.

On Poetry of Place, the In-Between, and Tenderness

Today we welcome a post by award-winning poet Michelle Brittan Rosado, author of Why Can’t It Be Tenderness, part of our Wisconsin Poetry Series. In this essay, she explains how the spaces in her life have influenced her poetry.

“The poet of place,” according to James Galvin, “situates himself in place in order to lose himself in it. Poetry of place is actually a poetry of displacement and self-annihilation.” Overlooking the masculine pronouns, I do think this can be true of poetry of place, that it can be a way to dissolve the self into an anonymous landscape. But I also think such poetry can be a map to find ourselves, a space in which to reassemble the annihilated and recover the displaced.

Many of the poems in my collection, Why Can’t It Be Tenderness, were written with particular landscapes in mind. One of these is the Vacaville-Dixon Greenbelt, a thousand acres of agricultural land protected from development, just outside of the Northern California town where I was raised. As an only child in the backseat of my parents’ car, I’d watch through the window the even lines of crops flanking the interstate: towering sunflowers, mature almond trees, dense strawberries close to the ground. The distance between my hometown of Vacaville and neighboring Dixon seemed never-ending, but out of that childhood boredom and restlessness came an eventual appreciation for spaces in between, both literal and figurative, and what could grow there.

Vacaville is, socially and politically, a unique mix where the liberal San Francisco Bay Area blends into the more conservative Central Valley, the agrarian way of life is adjacent to the gates of the Air Force base, and first- and second-generation immigrants have put down roots alongside established families. This is the heterogeneous context in which I began writing, and was the inspiration for the poem “Pastoral with Restless Searchlight.” This backdrop would also lead me to write more consciously about the in-betweenness of adolescence as well as the two halves of my family history. On my fathers’ side, I’m descended from California settlers, and on my mother’s side, my extended family lives mainly in Sarawak, a state in East Malaysia on the island of Borneo. Both the landscape surrounding Vacaville and the more distant Pacific Ocean instilled in me a fascination for what simultaneously separates and joins people: the greenbelt of land between one town and another, the world’s largest swath of water between two sides of a family.

The word threshold can be used to describe the space we pass through to arrive at one space from another, though a threshold seems like a much quicker passage than the landscapes of my youth. It is usually associated with a doorstep, a slim panel of wood at the foot of a door’s frame that we step over to enter a room. It suggests an instant change of scenery, an immediate transportation. But as John O’Donohue points out, the etymology of the word can be traced to the act of threshing, of separating the grain from a husk. It is work, a process of engaging with the land, of being an active participant in change, of producing something useful that can nourish us. Having witnessed the seasons pass along with the blooming and harvests and dying vines from the roadside, that sense of work has entered my approach to writing poems and utilizing the materials at hand.

Poetry for me has been a celebration of the in-between—which is where tenderness can be found, too. “Tender” has its roots in the Latin word tendre: to stretch, hold forth. When I began writing poems, I think I encountered the space of the page like it was a physical place, an endless belt of green, something beyond the window I could almost touch. Poetry has since carried me through uncertainty and knitted together what is broken apart. How merciful that language, land, and water have the ability to carry us when we have left what we know but have not yet arrived to where we are going.

 

Michelle Brittan Rosado is the author of Theory on Falling into a Reef, which won the inaugural Rick Campbell Chapbook Prize. Born in San Francisco, she holds an MFA in Creative Writing from California State University, Fresno, and is currently a PhD candidate in Creative Writing & Literature at the University of Southern California. Her poems have appeared in the New YorkerAlaska Quarterly ReviewIndiana ReviewPoet Lore, and elsewhere. Find out more at http://www.michellebrittanrosado.com/

My Writing Teachers, This is for You!

Today’s guest-blogger is D.M. Aderibigbe, author of How the End First Showed, part of our Wisconsin Poetry Series. In this post he discusses how his teachers helped him get to where he is today in his career as a poet.

Of all human endeavor, mentorship is the most underrated. Here is the thing: I finished the first draft of what became How the End First Showed, while completing my undergraduate studies at the University of Lagos. I sent it in for a contest and came out as one of three finalists. Add that to the fact that the poems in the manuscript already appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Colorado Review, Notre Dame Review, Poet Lore, and RHINO, among others. As such I thought I knew everything I needed to know about poetry—at least my poetry. So much so that when I was hugging my grandmother at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos, about to board a Marrakesh-bound plane en route to Boston to begin my MFA, all that occupied my mind were new poems. “I won’t touch anything from this manuscript.” I said to myself.

Then came the famous Room 222. Then came workshop after workshop. Then came the lessons. From Robert Pinsky, Karl Kirchwey and Maggie Dietz (my MFA teachers), I learned that when it comes to oneself, honesty is always farther than we think. From them, I learned that the destination is as important as the route. From them, I learned that nothing is impossible to let go.

These words gradually took over my mind like true love. I decided to step into the past. So when I sat to edit the manuscript again, I parted with several parts of me. It was hard. I hesitated. I cut. I re-added. Then cut. I tell you one thing: if it wasn’t for what my teachers taught me, I never would have been able to do this. Never.

Back to my first ever literature class in high school. As a matter of fact, my first ever class in senior high. The topic for the day was literary appreciation. My teacher, Uncle Titus wanted to tell us the major difference between poetry and prose. He picked up a chalk, drew something that looked like a bungalow on the blackboard. Then he drew something that looked like a road.  “If you are prose, you go straight,” he said. “But if it’s poetry, you’ll go round and round and round, until you arrive.” He made  what look like a circle with the chalk. To prove his point, he asked us to read two poems: David Rubadiri’s “An African Thunderstorm” and “ A.E. Housman’s “Is My Team Ploughing.” He asked us what we thought each poem was trying to say. As you might guess, no two people got the same reading. Not even close. “That’s what poetry is,” he said. “It has the ability to provide numerous roads for many people to arrive at a particular home.” And that home means different thing to different people,” he added.

 

D. M. Aderibigbe is a PhD student at Florida State University. He is the author of a chapbook, In Praise of Our Absent Father, selected for the New Generation African Poets Series of the African Poetry Book Fund. Born and raised in Nigeria, he earned his MFA in poetry from Boston University. His poems have appeared in the African American ReviewThe NationNinth LetterPoetry ReviewPrairie SchoonerRattle, and elsewhere.

#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:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We are giving away a bundle of recent collections by some of the talented female poets published in the Wisconsin Poetry Series edited by Ronald Wallace, including an advance copy of a book publishing later this fall (entry form and guidelines below).

One winner will receive a copy of:

Enter your email address in the form below before September 30th for a chance to win!

Poet Alan Feldman: On Volunteer Teaching

Our guest blogger is Alan Feldman, whose newest poetry collection, The Golden Coin, is published today.

My mother died at 61, my father at 93. Since I didn’t know whose genes I got, I retired early. After thirty-seven years of teaching creative writing, I thought maybe I would give out eye drops in third-world countries. I expected to write poems about this, of course.

What happened, instead, was that I began teaching a free weekly drop-in workshop at the Framingham public library where I live in Massachusetts and, in the summer, at the Wellfleet library on Cape Cod. I started teaching with fellow poet Tony Hoagland, who wanted to give something back to the Cape community where he lived. But then I couldn’t seem to stop.

Volunteering weekly generally increases happiness at a rate that economists have calculated at between 176 to 256 dollars an hour. Indeed, for me, the payoff of teaching for free has been profound. No grades. No curriculum. I teach whatever I’ve been working on. I tell students whatever they need to hear, without worrying, as I used to, about their morale. And, most important, every week I think up an in-class writing exercise. I write it first to be sure it can work, and then we all try it out in class.

Indeed, for me, the payoff of teaching for free has been profound.

I’ve always had good luck in writing poems on the spot. Perhaps I get this way of working from a long study I did of Frank O’Hara. He wrote his poems quickly and (unlike me) rarely revised. We can document that he wrote “Sleeping on the Wing” in twenty minutes. I tell my students not to be afraid to make fools of themselves (though, of course, I never force anyone to read aloud).

As Allen Ginsberg put it, “the parts that embarrass you the most are usually the most interesting poetically, the most naked of all, the rawest, the goofiest, the strangest and most eccentric and, at the same time, most representative, most universal.” But, on the other hand, the presence of other people in the room works on people’s minds as well. As Pablo Neruda tells us, “a poet’s gifts spring from brotherhood, and the poet offers his art in recognition of that debt.”

My in-class assignments are generally suggestions (with examples from all cultures and periods) about how to construct a poem: Write a poem in which you mention very small objects and very large ones; write a poem where you describe a process in great detail; write a poem that’s one long sentence; write a poem that lists all the things you loved about a really painful experience, and so on.

Since I started offering my workshop I’ve completed two books: The Golden Coin (2018) and Immortality, which received the 2016 Massachusetts Book Award. In both books about a third of the poems come from assignments I gave to my workshop, and some of these were written in class, including “In November,” which appeared in Best American Poetry 2011, and “Love Poem” which was selected by Ted Kooser for his nationally syndicated newspaper column, “American Life in Poetry.” As well, I received a certificate (in Gothic calligraphy!) from my state legislature. My students have been rewarded too. Rosalind Pace, for example, won a coveted Massachusetts Artist Fellowships at age 77. And Judith Askew’s book, On the Loose, won the first poetry competition of the Cultural Council of Cape Cod.

I feel richly rewarded. But, as Stanley Kunitz wrote in old age, “I am not done with my changes.” I might still give out eye drops.

Alan Feldman is a poet whose many books and chapbooks include A Sail to Great Island and Immortality, winner of the Massachusetts Book Award. His work has appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, the New YorkerPoetry, and Best American Poetry. He is professor emeritus of English at Framingham State University in Massachusetts.

Wisconsin Poetry Series
Ronald Wallace, Series Editor

 

 

New Books and New Paperbacks, November 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

November 7, 2017 NEW IN PAPERBACK

Winner, Michael J. Durkan Prize for Books on Language and Culture, American Conference for Irish Studies
PACKY JIM: Folklore and Worldview on the Irish Border
Ray Cashman

“Accessible to a broad audience. . . . A delight to read on many different levels and constitutes a valuable addition to the scholarship on the individual and tradition.”—Journal of Folklore Research

Growing up on a secluded smuggling route along the border of Northern Ireland and the Republic, Packy Jim McGrath regularly heard the news, songs, and stories of men and women who stopped to pass the time until cover of darkness. In his early years, he says, he was all ears—but now it is his turn to talk.

“Octogenarian bachelor Packy Jim McGrath of Lettercran, County Donegal, emerges here as both typical and singular, a barometer of continuity and change. Ray Cashman’s sharp and sympathetic observation delivers a classic ethnography that stakes a major claim for folkloristic studies as cutting-edge humanities research.”—Lillis Ó Laoire, author of On a Rock in the Middle of the Ocean: Songs and Singers in Tory Island

November 14, 2017
SIX TURKISH FILMMAKERS
Laurence Raw

“Surprising and innovative. Raw integrates historical research with literary references and personal reflections, using the work of contemporary Turkish filmmakers to discuss pressing issues of identity and transcultural understanding.”—Iain Robert Smith, King’s College London

In analysis of and personal interviews with Derviş Zaim, Zeki Demirkubuz, Semih Kaplanoğlu, Çağan Irmak, Tolga Örnek, and Palme d’Or winner Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Raw draws connections with Turkish theater, art, sculpture, literature, poetry, philosophy, and international cinema. A native of England and a twenty-five-year resident of Turkey, Raw interleaves his film discussion with thoughtful commentary on nationalism, gender, personal identity, and cultural pluralism.

Wisconsin Film Studies Series
Patrick McGilligan, Series Editor

 

November 21, 2017
SEASON OF THE SECOND THOUGHT
Lynn Powell

“Not just written, but wrought. Powell’s new poems deftly combine keen observation with perfect pitch, and their rich chiaroscuro renders them vibrant and painterly as the Dutch masters they often reference. The current running through her lines leaves me shivering with excitement and gratitude.”
—R. T. Smith, author of In the Night Orchard

Season of the Second Thought begins in a deep blue mood, longing to find words for what feels beyond saying. Lynn Powell’s poems journey through the seasons, quarreling with the muse, reckoning with loss, questioning the heart and its “pedigree of Pentecost,” and seeking out paintings in order to see inside the self. With their crisp observations and iridescent language, these poems accumulate the bounty of an examined life. These lines emerge from darkness into a shimmering equilibrium—witty, lush, and hard-won.

Wisconsin Poetry Series
Ronald Wallace, Series Editor

 

November 28, 2017
THE WARS INSIDE CHILE’S BARRACKS: Remembering Military Service under Pinochet
Leith Passmore

“With crisp prose and superb scholarship, Leith Passmore provides a groundbreaking exploration of the lives and memories of military conscripts under, and after, the seventeen-year rule of General Pinochet, South America’s most famous violator of human rights in living memory.”
—Paul W. Drake, author of Between Tyranny and Anarchy

“Few books are able to capture, as this one does, the full complexity of the Pinochet dictatorship’s horror. Passmore leads us, in magisterial fashion, into one of its darkest corners: the tortured memories of thousands of former conscripts transformed simultaneously into perpetrators and victims of the dictatorial nightmare.”
—Verónica Valdivia, author of El golpe después del golpe: Leigh vs Pinochet (1960–1980)

Critical Human Rights
Steve J. Stern and Scott Straus, Series Editors