Tag Archives: Poetry

All That Woe Out There: Rob Fitterman’s ‘No, Wait. Yep. Definitely Still Hate Myself.’

“I am a genius of sadness,” reads a line from Robert Fitterman’s book-length poem, No, Wait. Yep. Definitely Still Hate Myself. (Ugly Duckling Presse, 80 pages). “I am a prism / through which sadness could be / Divided into its infinite spectrums.” It’s as good a description as any of the book’s central premise: the appropriation of public articulations of loneliness and angst from blog posts, song lyrics, and ads, and the collaging of these excerpts, without context, in a relentless, eighty-page masterwork of Weltschmerz. Invariably first-person and homogenously histrionic, quotations give rise to an emergent “I” that is at …Continue reading

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What It Means to Be Alive and Dying at the Same Time: Jack Mueller’s ‘Amor Fati’

Amor Fati, a thick volume of new and selected poems from Beat affiliate and once San Francisco fixture Jack Mueller, truly lives up to its name (Lithic Press; 177 pages). “Love of fate,” as the title translates, appears in these pages in many forms: as contemplative acceptance, surly fatalism, awed joy. One moment pondering the nature of death, the next exuberantly describing a bird, Mueller vacillates between optimism and resignation as he moves between the registers of philosophical abstraction and concrete observation. Distinctly the work of an older writer, Amor Fati tackles almost exclusively cosmic questions—about mortality, love, and our …Continue reading

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We Want What Language Won’t Do: Dean Rader’s ‘Landscape Portrait Figure Form’

There’s a little room adjacent to the Djerassi Gallery of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in which, during the Paul Klee at SFMOMA exhibit in 2011, several of Klee’s small drawings and sketches hung. While the main gallery—spread with bright, prismatic paintings on large canvases—was overwhelming, the little annex was quieter and still, its pictures more thoughtful and muted. It was a place to ponder and absorb the dazzling content and heady theory of Klee’s works, a place for the emergent patterns of thought and art to coalesce and make themselves known. Dean Rader’s new chapbook, Landscape Portrait …Continue reading

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The Remnants of the Dead Stir Minor Resurrections: Emilia Philips’ ‘Signaletics’

“Don’t ask where the teeth are / you exchanged for coins as a child,” advises Emilia Phillips in the opening poem of Signaletics, her first full-length poetry collection (University of Akron Press, 72 pages). But Phillips goes on to do exactly that: to root out the relics of childhood, and to recover systematically the physical residues of the estranged and the deceased. While the poems of Signaletics vary stylistically from dense prose sequences to neat series of couplets or tercets (including a sonnet), all address the material narratives we inscribe on our surroundings—with our fingerprints and possessions, lipstick stains and …Continue reading

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Taking a Necessary Polar Plunge: Katy Didden’s ‘The Glacier’s Wake’

Katy Didden’s first book of poetry, The Glacier’s Wake (Pleiades Press; 74 pages), is a densely packed, lyric collection by a scientifically minded poet. “You’re the kind who stands still / in front of awful things and squints / as though you could see into / the god chambers of every atom in every / drop of water,” writes Didden in “Pleasure Milker.” It’s one of the opening poems in the collection (which won the Lena-Miles Weaver Todd Poetry Prize) and a useful primer to Didden’s poetic mode. At her best, Didden’s poetic voice relates to the reader as a …Continue reading

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Evoking the Physical and Tangible of Art and Life: Éireann Lorsung’s ‘Her Book’

Her book (Milkweed; 76 pages), the latest poetry collection from Éireann Lorsung, is a surprising and eloquent look into a highly physical, sensuous world. In particular, Lorsung is concerned with the delineation of the (female) self as it relates to its surroundings, both natural and constructed. Through many small moments that are exactingly crystalized, she builds a powerful, wider vision of a woman’s life. The first part of Her book, “Fifteen poems for Kiki Smith,” revolves around artist Kiki Smith, lingering on Smith’s treatment of the female body (in which she subverts the blatant sexuality traditionally surrounding the female form …Continue reading

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Poems Encounter the Absences in a Family’s Long History: Q&A with Tess Taylor

Tess Taylor’s first book of poetry, The Forage House (Red Hen Press; 88 pages), is a far-ranging exploration of a family’s role in the United States’s past. Called “brave and compelling” by U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey, Taylor’s collection mediates the historical record that too often embellishes or deletes the legacy of slavery. Framed as a first-person lyrical attempt to understand family history, The Forage House contains no easy solutions to the problems of inherited guilt. Rather, Taylor’s poems outline emotional experience within archival reality, achieving a personal historicity that poet Timothy Donnelly calls “scrupulous and artful.” We talked with …Continue reading

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Out of Notebooks

W.S. Di Piero, who lives in San Francisco, is the author of several acclaimed books of poetry (his most recent being Nitro Nights (Copper Canyon)) and is the recipient of many awards and honors, including the 2012 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize from the Poetry Foundation of Chicago.

Di Piero’s poetry has appeared in ZYZZYVA’s Fall 2011 and Spring 2012 issues. (His poem in the Spring issue, “There Were Such Things,” received a 2013 Pushcart Prize.) And now his nonfiction can be read in ZYZZYVA’s Spring/Summer issue. “Out of Notebooks” is an essay of sorts, a collection of thoughts and observations, ranging from subjects such as physical pain to the nature of poetry, and taking as its settings places such as a BART car or a museum room. The following is an excerpt.

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L.C. Smith and Bros., Makers of Fine Guns and Typewriters, Advertise

Alexandra Teague is assistant professor of poetry at the University of Idaho and the author of Mortal Geography (Persea), which won the 2009 Lexi Rudnitsky Prize and the 2010 California Book Award for poetry. Two of her poems appear in the Spring/Summer issue of ZYZZYVA.

The poems come from her manuscript in progress, The Wise and Foolish Builders, which, Teague says, “branches out from the story of Sarah Winchester, Victorian heiress to the rifle fortune, and the six-acre house she build in San Jose, California.” The poem “L.C. Smith and Bros., Makers of Fine Guns and Typewriters, Advertise” takes its verses from the sort of advertising copy employed by various companies of the era (e.g., Remington) to sell their typewriters and firearms. The following is the poem in full.

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Two Half-Lives That Make Up a Single Identity : Zubair Ahmed’s ‘City of Rivers’

Zubair Ahmed’s first poetry collection City of Rivers (McSweeney’s, 96 pages) captures the reader’s heart from its first line to its last. These poems are reminders of poetry’s power to leave us breathless after immersing us in truths, both wonderful and painful. Ahmed, who was born and raised in Bangladesh and moved to the United States in 2005, explores memory and identity with a sincere voice steeped in genuine experience. These are dense poems, carrying the story of an individual, of a family, and of Bangladesh itself. City of Rivers opens with “Measuring the Strength of a Sparrow’s Thigh” and …Continue reading

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The Poetry of Apples, Maple Syrup, Blackberries, and Sandwiches: ‘The Hungry Ear,’ edited by Kevin Young

The need for food and drink is universal. The preparation and partaking of meals mark events ordinary and extraordinary. Because of this, food has naturally found itself a subject of poetry for as long as can be remembered. Celebrating the many facets of food and drink, poet Kevin Young, author of seven books of poetry and editor of six previous anthologies, has compiled The Hungry Ear: Poems of Food & Drink (Bloomsbury, 336 pages). In his introduction, Young writes, “Love, satisfaction, trouble, death, pleasure, work, sex, memory, celebration, hunger, desire, loss, laughter, even salvation: to all these things food can …Continue reading

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The Sasquatch Poems

In ZYZZYVA’s Summer 1996 issue, there appeared a long poem on an unusual topic by Sherman Alexie, whose work had already appeared in Issues No. 26 and 39. (His eighth book, the novel “Indian Killers,” would be published by Grove/Atlantic that fall.)

Despite its seemingly jokey title, “The Sasquatch Poems” is anything but. Humorous, yes, but also a sharp consideration of the cultural presumptions behind the dismissal of the Pacific Northwest’s creature of legend. As the poem’s speaker suggests, “Indians can only be proven superstitious/ if non-Indians are proved to be without superstition.”

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