Tag Archives: Poetry

Poets Not (Always) Disimproving: ‘We Begin in Gladness’ by Craig Morgan Teicher

We rarely have the opportunity to observe a poet’s writing process, even though we may occasionally see earlier drafts that serve as evidence of it. But Craig Morgan Teicher gives us the next best thing: his new book examines poets’ creative processes over the courses of their careers. Part guidebook for emerging poets and part homage to a wide range of major poets, Teicher’s We Begin in Gladness: How Poets Progress (164 pages; Graywolf) is one of the most enjoyable books about poetry I have encountered. His obvious love of poetry infuses the book with the “grace, certainty, power, and …Continue reading

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New, Unique, and Alive: ‘Like’ by A.E. Stallings

Reading A.E. Stallings’ new book of poetry, Like (137 pages; FSG), my first impression was a furious delight at the way she invigorates the old forms and makes them sing. No one else I know can breathe such life into rhyme, can elevate the mundane to the mythic, the prosaic to the transcendent. The diction is often deliciously at odds with the form—contemporary slang set off against the myth of Pandora, for example: He’d said she was a punishment from Zeus, And that virginity made for a sour dowry Depreciating as soon as you drove it off the lot. The …Continue reading

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‘Where Things Stand’ by Cynthia White: ZYZZYVA No. 109, Spring Issue

Cynthia White is a poet in Santa Cruz. Her work has appeared in Poet Lore, Nimrod, and Catamaran. You’ll find three of her poems in ZYZZYVA Issue No. 109. In celebration of the Thanksgiving season, we present her poem “Where Things Stand” in its entirety:   I, in the doorway, reporting on the dawn, you with your coffee. A small bird is disturbing the quince, its name forgotten. You, lost to a book. The children stand on their own, distant, brilliant stars. Wild iris in a jar stand on the table, the table steadfast on cherry legs. Chairs stand empty, generous. We could be a couple in …Continue reading

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Walking a Loose Rope: ‘Sidebend World’ by Charles Harper Webb

Charles Harper Webb’s Sidebend World (78 pages; University of Pittsburgh Press) contains some genuinely lovely and worthwhile poems. At his best, Webb is funny and self-effacingly honest, delivering poems that are intimate and warm. Unfortunately, other poems in the book often border on careless—that is, they rely on weak associations or seem half-halfheartedly crafted. Worse, however, some poems contain stereotypical portrayals of others and humor that some will likely find offensive. First, let’s consider the positive aspects of Sidebend World. My favorite poem in the book, “Turtle Hunt,” is one that I could return to time and time again. The …Continue reading

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Emerging from the Fog: ‘America, We Call Your Name: Poems of Resistance and Resilience’

The first image we encounter in America, We Call Your Name: Poetry of Resistance and Resilience (203 pages; Sixteen Rivers Press) is that of Lady Liberty in the midst of a grey fog; it’s unclear as to whether she is receding or emerging. The editors have stated that the impetus for this anthology was a desire to help unify the country after the 2016 Presidential Election. The Trump Administration symbolizes the oppression that these poets are resisting; the collection acknowledges that the election woke up many people who had grown politically complacent. For this anthology, Sixteen Rivers Press, a shared …Continue reading

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Flight Patterns: Q&A with ‘Amelia Earhart’ Author Larry Beckett

Polymath poet Larry Beckett is flying high in Amelia Earhart (72 pages; Finishing Line Press), his latest addition to a cycle of epic tributes to the likes of P.T. Barnum, Paul Bunyan, and now Earhart, and with an upcoming volume on Wyatt Earp to round off a rubric on the “American Cycle.’’ The Portland writer is still best known for his collaborations with the late Tim Buckley, including the oft-covered classic “Song to the Siren,’’ but the long-ago death of his boyhood friend has not stopped him from cultivating his muse with fresh imaginings of seemingly unlikely subjects. Here, he …Continue reading

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‘Secular and Inconsolable’ by Noah Blaustein

My goal was to wake with nothing in my head –– it’s nice to begin a day having already achieved. Sunlight on the dead grass of the ski slope. A lone runner works his way up the fire road, a dull throb in my ankle where it twisted on the edge of getting younger, of celebrating my luck in still being able to run. Ralph, my friend, has been trying to convince me for years that the life of an adult is boring but I’ve never aspired to the life of an adult. My wife holds up a diaper, “A …Continue reading

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A Harmony Called Survival: Q&A with ‘The Carrying’ Author Ada Limón

One of my first memories of Ada Limón involves a party in Brooklyn nearly 15 years ago. Ada was across the room, in a beautiful blue coat. A mutual friend introduced us, whispering as she did that “her poems are even lovelier than her coat is.” Within months, I knew this to be true. I am lucky to know Ada: We moved in similar circles in New York in our twenties, and left about the same time. I came home to California, and she moved to Kentucky, while still keeping her ties to Sonoma, her hometown, active with regular trips. …Continue reading

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Merging into a Singular Voice: ‘They Said,’ edited by Simone Muench and Dean Rader

They Said: A Multi-Genre Anthology of Contemporary Collaborative Writing (535 pages; Black Lawrence Press), edited by Simone Muench and Dean Rader, is an ambitious, immersive collection that challenges readers and writers alike. Breaking out of traditional ideas of authorship, the book gathers hundreds of pieces of multi-author writing that span multiple genres and formats. At the end of each work is a blurb written by the authors that describes their unique writing process. In the spirit of the collection, we decided to collaboratively read and review the work in the form of a conversation. Claire Ogilvie: What stood out most …Continue reading

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‘Just Us’ by Paul Wilner

The Rape Guy approaches the podium, with practiced confidence, Jimmy Stewart smiles. He knows the ropes, been through this drill before. He lives around the corner from my brother-in-law, who says he doesn’t know him but his wife is “delightful.’’ I’m delighted. Aren’t you? Who wouldn’t be? Just a drunken grope and grab, lurch and lock, his Irish Catholic pal always ready to turn up the noise, set the stage. Dominis vobiscum, the Latin Mass is still the best. Closeted libido, directed who knows where, Three in the room. Three’s a crowd, three’s company. Company man. It’s all good. Ask …Continue reading

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Relevant and Relatable: ‘American Journal: Fifty Poems for Our Time’ by Tracy K. Smith

American Journal: Fifty Poems for Our Time (120 pages; Graywolf) delivers on its promise of introducing readers to some of our most important contemporary American poets, both well-known and emerging. Moreover, the writers featured in it are a reflection of the diversity of the United States, which is what one would hope for in a collection curated by the current U. S. poet laureate, Tracy K. Smith. In addition to featuring a racially diverse group of writers, there are poems by old and young, female and male, and straight and gay poets (although queerness is not a theme that is …Continue reading

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Secretly Wishing for Impossible Futures: ‘Her Mouth as Souvenir’ by Heather June Gibbons

Her Mouth as Souvenir (88 pages; University of Utah Press), winner of the 2017 Agha Shahid Ali Prize in Poetry, is a breathtaking and lyrical debut collection from Heather June Gibbons. Gibbons’ voice is a strong one, as she leads the reader through well-crafted and captivatingly honest free verse. Pressingly urgent and timely, Her Mouth as Souvenir is a study of action in the face of anxiety. The poems’ context includes larger societal trends, such as the technologizing world that presents “a strange kind of convenience, / to access at the tap of a fingertip / so much information without …Continue reading

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