Finding Our Nature in the Surrounding Wilderness: Eric Pankey’s ‘Trace’

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Eric Pankey’s new poetry collection, Trace (Milkweed, 68 pages), is an intense journey of powerful language to the edge of the wilderness. Even as his poems invoke a sense of earthly calm, the threat of danger looms throughout these poems, grabbing our attention and holding it throughout. Much of Trace is set in the natural world, offering a somber examination of the ways in which humans occupy the space. Nature here is constant, balancing the frenetic sphere of humans, a realm in which homes are burning down and people are leaving, crying, or simply trying to find themselves. Often, Pankey […]

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Eye

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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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The Sasquatch Poems

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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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Self Portrait as Wikipedia Entry

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Dean Rader is a professor in the English department at the University of San Francisco and author of Works & Days (Truman State University Press), which won the 2010 T.S. Eliot Poetry Prize. His forthcoming book is Engaged Resistance: American Indian Art, Literature, and Film from Alcatraz to NMAI (University of Texas Press).

“Self Portrait as Wikipedia Entry” is one of his two poems in ZYZZYVA‘s Winter issue. The piece, in print, appears with sections of underlined words, denoting what would be a hyperlink if read on a screen. We reproduce the poem here with the actual links.

Rader will be reading tomorrow night at 7 p.m. with Herbert Gold, another Winter issue contributor, at City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco, as part of a ZYZZYVA/Granta event.

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Savior Gal

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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, […]

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On the Subject of Truth (with a Captital T): Q&A with Troy Jollimore

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In ordinary conversation, the terms “poet” and “philosopher” tend to be applied arbitrarily to people with artistic and intellectual capabilities. But in the case of author and philosophy professor Troy Jollimore, they’re not hyperbolic descriptions but hard facts. Jollimore rose to literary prominence in 2006 when the National Book Critics Circle named his first book of poems, Tom Thomson in Purgatory, the recipient of one of its annual awards. Since then, his second poetry collection, At Lake Scugog, has appeared, and his poems have been published in Ploughshares, The New Yorker, and other journals. Concerned with both the hypothetical and […]

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O SHIRTWALKERS!

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Can you surrey? Can you picnic? Surrey down to a stoned soul picnic… And from the sky come the Lord and the lightning. -from the song “Stoned Soul Picnic” by The 5th Dimension They hit the streets, those Single gents spilling out of the cleaners All partnered up & promenodding Escorting their dainties. O You Shirtwalkers! Drop her, she’s just a thin wire of feigned domesticity Nothing but a clothes hanger. The press and starch of your city life Is blanding your manly. Don’t you see me passing? I want to slap my hands against your plackets & Pop your […]

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Starting Over

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I can’t not keep coming back to this place that’s not a place, its pepper trees, olive trees, lilac, narcissus, jasmine, here with me and mock orange and eucalyptus and working words that fill in others, an earthquake-enlivened rose bush, pollarded plane trees and sycamores, and cypress flat-topped by sea wind. Here are Interstate concrete, desert dust, hardpan, here are cobblestones and woven bricky streets, Death Valley’s salt flats, here are red granite domes that cool at night and groan. They are here. The imagination rushes toward the world in fear of forgetting anything: witness and invent, it says, and […]

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Second Wind

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The white of the ocean’s foam-froth is said to contain all colors, while the sea’s green-blue depths are composed of the colors our ancestors could not bear. Or could not bear to let go: the story varies with the source. And the shadow that lies on the sea is cast by no flying or orbiting thing, but by the ocean floor where it blocks the light from the sun at the heart of the earth. These things, however they might terrify, are nonetheless true. I will hold you through the shivers and terrors. I will kiss the unholy curve of […]

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Houdini at 40

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Handcuffed and head down in the tank two and a half minutes behind the black velvet curtain, deadbolts across the opening and nothing but the sound of water filling my ears, I discover myself on the verge of a possible mistake.  This is to say I meant for Anatole to leave me bound this time round; the longer the lapping occurs in my head, the closer I come to the governance of happiness.  I am truly singing in here, not drowning but singing, and if only you could hear me strumming in this little ocean of sleep, you would know […]

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Between Possibilities: Stephen Dunn’s ‘Here and Now’

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Whenever a poet as preeminent as Stephen Dunn releases a new corpus of material, the potential for failure can’t help but manifest itself. Some might fear that the book, having come from an author who has already attained a pinnacle of critical achievement (Dunn won the Pulitzer Prize in 2001 for Different Hours), will turn out to be a footnote compared to the works that preceded it. Still others might stifle an otherwise solid book with narrow expectations or preconceptions. Yet Dunn’s most recent publication, Here and Now (Norton; 112 pages), is anything but stillborn, an object all its own—rather […]

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This Evening From Far Away

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Dean Young is the critically-acclaimed author of several books of poetry, including Skid (2002), a finalist for the Lenore Marshall Prize, and Elegy on Toy Piano (2005), a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. He’s been awarded Guggenheim and NEA fellowships, and has taught at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and is the William Livingston Chair of Poetry at the University of Texas in Austin. And he’s recently had a heart transplant.

At 7 p.m. tonight at the University of California at Berkeley, his peers and his admirers from the Bay Area and farther out will be reading from their work and Dean Young’s at a public fund-raiser. Admission is free, but chances will abound to donate funds for his staggering health care costs.

The following poem is one of many small joys from his new book of poetry, Fall Higher (Copper Canyon Press). Come on out, commune with the literary community, and enjoy more of his wondrous verse.

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