Tag Archives: poet

“The Long Views Are Terrific”: Some Words for Bill Berkson

I was sad when I heard Bill Berkson died in June. I knew he’d been ill but didn’t know the details. But he always seemed to be the picture of a gentleman poet—by that, I don’t mean the stuffy, overly courtly, bow-tie beclad figure of an academic measuring his words in coffee spoons, of course. Or even exuding the quieter scent of class, though Bill clearly knew his way around the world of high society: His mother, Eleanor Lambert, was regarded as the doyenne of fashion publicity, and his father, Seymour Berkson, had been a high-ranking Hearst executive and for …Continue reading

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The ‘Adverse Gift’ Leading to a Full Life: ‘The Child Poet’ by Homero Aridjis

Homero Aridjis is renowned for his poetry throughout Latin America, his work having received the praise of such titanic contemporaries as Octavio Paz, Juan Rulfo, and Luis Buñuel, But Aridjis is also known for being one of Latin America’s most distinguished and conscientious environmental activists. In 1985, he founded the Group of 100, gathering together artists and academics to promote environmental justice in Latin America and leading to such accomplishments as legal protection for migratory monarch butterfly communities, gray whale sanctuaries for gray whales, and a reduction in Mexico City’s air pollution. Aridjis served as Mexico’s ambassador to Netherlands, Switzerland, …Continue reading

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‘Letter to Galway From Tahoe’ by Heather Altfeld: ZYZZYVA No. 105, Winter Issue

Heather Altfeld’s first book, “The Disappearing Theatre,” won the 2015 Poets at Work Prize, judged by Stephen Dunn. Her poems have appeared in Narrative Magazine, Green Mountains Review, Poetry Northwest, Okey-Panky, among other publications, and in ZYZZYVA No. 92 and 99. Her poem “Letter to Galway from Tahoe” is in ZYZZVA No. 105.

Addressed to the late great poet Galway Kinnell, who directed the poetry program at the Squaw Valley Community of Writers, the speaker of the poem finds herself seeking the ear of Kinnell, who has died only months ago. “I turn to you because I think you were one of the ones a little like me,// for whom terror and beauty were like the green languages of birds/ we longed to interpret, and felt, if we could not do so,/ that we had failed.” The following is the poem in its entirety.

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Blind Faith in the Power of Beauty: ‘The Prize’ by Jill Bialosky

For Edward Darby, the meaning of life can be found in the curve of a well-crafted watch, in an antique table’s warm weight, or in the balancing stroke of paint on a chaotic canvas. The protagonist of Jill Bialosky’s new novel, The Prize (Counterpoint; 325 pages), lives his life according to the principle of cultivating beautiful things. Edward believes structure, attention to detail, and erudite emotion will bring him happiness. He looks to art to reveal the importance of ordinary life, but also as a means to transcend it. Over the course of the novel, the lacquer of Edward’s curated …Continue reading

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Old Souls and Deep Sadness: ‘In Another Country’ by David Constantine

Readers of British author David Constantine’s In Another Country (Biblioasis; 277 pages) may identify in his stories certain hoary elements of style and material that have been all but abandoned by contemporary U.S. writers seeking to depict modern life in all its fragmented complexity. Absent are the ingratiating narrative voice, the frenetic observation, the satirical punches to the gut dealt to unworthy characters. Constantine’s characters have souls, and do such un-ironic things as write long letters to one another, which they send via mail. The stories are simply plotted, harrowing, and enduringly powerful; the prose is uncompromisingly lyrical yet rarely …Continue reading

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Self-Portrait of the Author in ‘the Rush of Life’: Gary Soto’s ‘What Poets Are Like’

For some reason—the imperative-sounding title, perhaps?—it’s easy to imagine a would-be poet leafing through What Poets Are Like: Up and Down With the Writing Life (Sasquatch Books; 236 pages), in expectation of a how-to guide. Such ventures will be somewhat disappointed, at least at first. Gary Soto’s collection of short, autobiographical essays are highly particular and personal, specific to Soto himself. And Soto’s wry, occasionally self-deprecating sense of humor means that, far from extolling the virtues of leading a writer’s life, many of the pieces contained in this collection point out its travails, its small indignities for anyone less of …Continue reading

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A Poet Survives China’s Prison: Liao Yiwu’s ‘For a Song and a Hundred Songs’

Violently quashed protests, wrongful imprisonment, book banning, torture—these acts have become almost expected within the context of political rebellion and its suppression. The painful, familiar components of modern repression are given new perspective, however, in Liao Yiwu’s memoir and new book, For A Song And A Hundred Songs: A Poet’s Journey Through a Chinese Prison (New Harvest Press; 404 pages), translated by Wenguang Huang. In his book, Yiwu, a Chinese poet, tells the story of his time in prison following the Tiananmen Square protests of June 4, 1989. Though not a protestor or even, as he admits, particularly interested “in …Continue reading

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Transcendence as Religious Experience: Q&A with Christopher Buckley

Christopher Buckley is a poet, creative nonfiction writer, and editor. Throughout his long career, he has been a Guggenheim Fellow in Poetry and the recipient of four Pushcart Prizes, two NEA grants in poetry, and a Fulbright Award in Creative Writing. His nineteenth book of poetry—Varieties of Religious Experience (Stephen F. Austin State University Press)—will be published next month. Varieties is a sincere exploration of meaning, in life and in all things. These poems ask questions about an individual’s place in the universe and about the existence of the universe itself. Written in language humble and wise, Varieties reflects on …Continue reading

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Do You Like It?

To Kay Ryan, former U.S. poet laureate, the gradual evolution of a poet is a strange and scaly one, full of bewilderment. It’s possible, even likely, in Ryan’s mind, that a person destined for the “ferocious religion” of poetry staves off the eventuality for a long time.

In her essay “Do You Like It?,” published in ZYZZYVA’s Winter 1998 issue, Ryan reflects on the unforeseen moment she decided to become a writer. The poet tested her dedication to the craft over the course of a 4,000-mile bicycle trip. Then, an epiphany: “All at once I no longer had to try to appreciate my experience or try to understand; I played with the phrase the peace that passeth understanding like turning a silver coin in my fingers. And with the peace-beyond-the-struggle-to-understand came an unprecedented freedom and power to think.”

The following is Kay Ryan’s essay, in full.

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Eye

Jesse Nathan is an editor at McSweeney’s and a doctoral student in English literature at Stanford University. He is also the author of a poetry chapbook, Dinner (Or, a Deranged Event Staged in a Theoretical Mansion in Which Time and History Have Been Grossly Dismembered and What We Know as the Laws of Physics Wildly Subverted, Conducted as an Inquiry into the Genius of Madness and the Art of the Faux Pas, and Having as a First Course to be Served to a Cast of Sixteen Eccentrics A Dish of Carrot Cabbage Salad Meant to Tickle Every Palate).

“Eye” is one of two poems by Nathan in the Fall 2012 issue of ZYZZYVA. An ode of sorts, it begins “Voice low, father, you are/ hurting aloud from the book of your life on this earth.” The images and ideas flowing from there prove arresting and surprising.

Jesse Nathan will be one of the readers at ZYZZYVA’s Fall Issue event at City Lights Bookstore at 5 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 30.

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Savior Gal

There once was a baby born in a shoe, wedge, open toe open heel, Florida balmy breezes, monsoons, then a single wide white trashed trailer, inauspicious plastic laundry basket her manger in that backwater Bethlehem. She grew out of place fast, had the twins, bought a rip-off Gucci bag in Times Square, raised her kids in its deep pockets, leather and fringe, no bondage buckles, ‘til they were grown and unemployable. They slept days, trolled the nasty nights, kept their St. Christopher medals, she’d given, hidden. She couldn’t find her post trauma Viet vet in the dark in the handbag, …Continue reading

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My Father in Russia

Portland, Ore., poet Matthew Dickman won the 2008 APR/Honickman First Book Prize and the 2009 Stafford/Hall Award for Poetry (Oregon Book Awards) for his first poetry collection, “All-American Poem” (American Poetry Review). His second book of poems, “Maykovsky’s Revolver,” will be published by W.W. Norton & Co. in 2012.

The Spring 2011 issue of ZYZZYVA (you can buy a copy here) features three new poems from him, including “My Father in Russia,” an ecstatically comic vision of the new East (and of the West, for that matter). He’ll be reading with his fellow Portland writer and Spring 2011 contributor Erika Recordon at the Rumpus in San Francisco on Monday, April 11.

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