Tag Archives: Poetry

‘Hotel Bar’ by Ruth Madievsky, ZYZZYVA No. 106, Spring/Summer

ZYZZYVSpring2016coverRuth Madievsky is the author of the collection Emergency Brake (Tavern Books). She is also a  doctoral student at the University of Southern California’s School of Pharmacy, and a research assistant in an HIV clinic in Los Angeles.

Two of her latest poems appear in Issue No. 106: “Wind” and “Hotel Bar.” (Madievsky has been published in ZYZZYVA before. Her poem “Poem for Spring” appeared in No. 103.) Her work, as described by Maggie Millner in an interview with Madievsky, forces “a dialogue between her romantic and clinical inclinations and suggesting the body’s dangerous propensity for betrayal.” “Hotel Bar” could be seen as an example of that. Here it is in its entirety. You can read that poem and “Wind,” too, in Issue No. 106, which you can order here.

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A Profile of Kay Ryan by John Freeman: ZYZZYVA No. 106, Spring/Summer

ZYZZYVSpring2016coverJohn Freeman is the author of How to Read a Novelist (FSG), the editor of the literary journal Freeman’s, and a contributing editor to ZYZZYVA. He is also a poet whose work has been published in The New Yorker and ZYZZYVA, and is currently working on a book about American poetry.

His feature on former U.S. poet laureate and longtime Bay Area resident Kay Ryan—set at a restaurant in the Presidio on a warm San Francisco day—launches a new component of ZYZZYVA: author profiles and conversations. (In our next issue, we’ll be publishing a conversation on memoir between Andrew Foster Altschul and Geoffrey and Tobias Wolff.) The following is an excerpt from Freeman’s profile. You can read it in its entirety in Issue No. 106, which you can order here.

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Healing the Phantom Pains Through Poetry: Q&A with Noelle Kocot

I turn to the poems of Noelle Kocot for the same reason I entered corn mazes as a kid: both are pleasurably unpredictable, and both transform everyday places into thrilling twilight zones. Though Kocot’s writing has covered a great deal of formal and conceptual terrain over the course of her seven books, her work has remained whip-smart and darkly playful, consistently carrying off great feats of imagination while orbiting an urgent emotional truth. These hallmarks are present in the restless quatrains of her Levis Poetry Prize-winning first collection, in the unflinching elegies for her late husband in Sunny Wednesday, and, …Continue reading

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Forms of Self-Interrogation: Q&A with ‘Emergency Brake’ Author Ruth Madievsky

In Ruth Madievsky’s Emergency Brake, a body is never just a body. Rather, it is a looted ship, a lit match, a bedtime story, a lamp. In other moments, the body is known only by what it contains: a rope, a salted pretzel, “the sound of a penny thrown in a blender.” Madievsky’s poems put domestic objects to work, personifying and reframing embodied experience like puppets with the poet’s hands inside. And in her fiery first collection, published by Tavern Books as a Wrolstad Contemporary Poetry Series selection, her talent for analogy is on full display. In addition to a …Continue reading

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Legendary Frontier Days Told for These Times: ‘Paul Bunyan’ by Larry Beckett

Poet and songwriter Larry Beckett has been embarked on a quixotic project, retelling the legend of the famed, semi-fictional logger Paul Bunyan (not to mention his “blue-eyed ox,’’ Babe) in ways that capture the barbaric yawp of olden times in a voice that speaks to our current culture, and implicitly, paralysis of spirit. Bypassing empty debates about the pros and cons of “American exceptionalism,” Beckett flat out launches into the introduction of this hero of a thousand faces: Out of the wild North woods, in the thick of the timber And through the twirling of the winter of the blue …Continue reading

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ZYZZYVA Interview Series: Dean Rader

Dean Rader (whose poetry has been published in ZYZZYVA Issues No. 93 , 98 & 101) is the author of several books, including the poetry collections Works & Days (winner of the 2010 T.S. Eliot Poetry Prize), Landscape Portrait Figure Form, which was named by the Barnes & Noble Review as one of the Best Poetry Books of 2013, and the forthcoming Self-Portrait as Wikipedia Entry, to be published in 2016 by Copper Canyon Press. ZYZZYVA Managing Editor Oscar Villalon talked to Rader about what makes for a “successful” poem, how his work has come to be shaped, the attraction …Continue reading

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The ‘Swamp-Rat Rimbaud’: ‘What About This: Collected Poems of Frank Stanford’

What About This, the title of the massive new edition of the Collected Poems of Frank Stanford (747 pages, Copperhead Press) announces, a cover picture of the late poet (dubbed the “swamp-rat Rimbaud’’ by Lorenzo Thomas) glaring at you. Well, what about it? First things first: If the romantic ideal of the poet is to live fast, love hard, and leave a good-looking corpse, Stanford did all of the above, and then some. It’s impossible to ignore the biography. Born August 1, 1948, in Richton, Mississippi, Stanford shot himself, after reportedly being confronted about multiple infidelities by his wife, Ginny, …Continue reading

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The lush lives of vandals and debauchers: ‘Four-Legged Girl’ by Diane Seuss

The dedication page of Diane Seuss’s Four-Legged Girl (88 pages; Graywolf Press) reads: “For my people: the living and the dead.” But in this hypnagogic third collection, the margin between the living and the dead is “glory holed,” penetrated, and ultimately renounced. Seuss’s singular eye sees bodies everywhere, and her psychedelic syntax animates them. Spirea is “the color of entrails;” poppies sport a “testicular fur;” a blouse on the clothesline makes the speaker feel “as if [she]’d been skinned alive.” In these elegies, insensate matter becomes living human flesh. But the humans with whom Seuss is concerned are always already …Continue reading

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Offspring of the Thought, Flesh of Its Flesh: ‘For the Lost Cathedral’ by Bruce Bond

A feature of Bruce Bond’s immense talent is his poetic economy. What he is able to articulate or suggest in a few lines requires paragraphs of exposition, a feature he shares with other truly great poets. At a recent reading, Bond briefly discussed his training as a musician, and thus a partial explanation for the elusiveness of his poetry was provided. They have a rhythm and musical sonority that propels many of them, investing their already laden words with a further force. In his latest collection, For the Lost Cathedral (84 pages; LSU Press), the poems run a gamut of …Continue reading

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Upending What We Understand So as to Get to Wonder: ‘Erratic Facts’ by Kay Ryan

“The things we know / cannot be applied,” begins a poem in Kay Ryan’s new poetry collection, Erratic Facts (Grove Press, 64 pages), the first release since her Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Best of It: New and Selected Poems. The former U.S. poet laureate returns with her signature narrow, rhyming poems to awaken and astonish us, to tilt us toward the underbelly of everyday observations. In the epilogue of Erratic Facts, Ryan notes: erratic: (n) Geol.  A boulder or the like carried by glacial ice and deposited some distance form its place of origin This idea of displacement—a separation of …Continue reading

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The Denial of What We Can Least Deny: ‘My Feelings’ by Nick Flynn

“Who / can tell me where I will fall next, where / the thorn will enter?” asks Nick Flynn in “Beads of Sweat,” a poem in his fourth poetry collection, My Feelings (Graywolf Press, 89 pages), which was released this summer. Placed early on in a six-part meditation on fatherhood, pain, and loss, the poem recalls the feeling of unknowability, the same feeling that even Moses encountered when he stared into the burning bush. “Up there he heard / a voice, When I speak you will know from where it comes / & you will turn into it.” Throughout My …Continue reading

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Racism Transformed into a Given: ‘Citizen: An American Lyric’ by Claudia Rankine

Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric (160 pages; Graywolf) explores the subtleties of racism and prejudice that seem all too prevalent in an oft-claimed post-racial United States. Rankine delves into the macrosociology of racism by examining prejudice in sports, economics, and pop-culture, and melds her pinpoint analysis with individual experiences of alienation and otherness at restaurant tables, front porches, and boardrooms. Citizen observes racism from a myriad of angles, employing a clever and effective combination of second person perspective with the speaker’s internal monologue, and fusing various lyric and reportorial forms with classic painting and contemporary multimedia art. In constructing …Continue reading

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