Interview with Kristen Tracy: Interspecies Conflict

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One of two epigraphs for Kristen Tracy’s debut collection of poetry, Half-Hazard (94 pages; Graywolf Press), advises that, “when a bear attacks, the victim who fights back is likely to fare better than the one who plays dead.” Although this is useful information to have in case of a rogue bear attack, it’s not as helpful when considering how to read the stunning assortment of poems included in the book. Readers might be better served if, rather than attempting to fight the sweeping flow of Tracy’s fantastic lines and vivid imagery, they “play dead” and allow it to wash over […]

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‘Invisible Relations’ by Jenny Xie, ZYZZYVA No. 111, Winter Issue

by Jenny Xie

Jenny Xie is the author of the poetry collection Nowhere to Arrive (Northwestern University Press). Her latest collection, Eye Level (Graywolf Press), won the 2017 Walt Whitman Award, and is currently a finalist for the 2018 Pen Open Book Award. Her poem below, titled “Invisible Relations,” appears in ZYZZYVA No. 111. There are no simple stories, because language forces distances. The days gummy and without drink. And a question stammers in the mind for weeks, one key aquiver on the piano. In the course of a day, your head will point in all the cardinal directions. It is good to […]

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‘Landscape with Doe Eating Where She Does Not Belong’ by Daniel Neff, ZYZZYVA No. 113, Fall Issue

by Daniel Neff

Daniel Neff’s poetry has appeared in Ninth Letter and Pittsburgh Poetry Review, among other publications. He is the winner of the Academy of American Poets Prize. His poem “Landscape with Doe Eating Where She Does Not Belong” is appears in ZYZZYVA No. 113. You can read the poem in its entirety below:  1. A garden is a landfill without the garbage. Garbage is consciousness without the humans. If there are no humans and no consciousness, where are we? The premise is flawed: gardens and landfills both have garbage, but a difference in definition of terms. My garden is a landfill and yet the […]

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

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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 […]

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

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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 […]

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

by Cynthia White

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 […]

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

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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 […]

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

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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 […]

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

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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 […]

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‘Secular and Inconsolable’ by Noah Blaustein

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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 pound of […]

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

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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. […]

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

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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 […]

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