I was looking at the latest (May 2013) poetry trading card from Fact-Simile Editions and was reminded of something Dean Young said in The Art of Recklessness: Poetry as Assertive Force and Contradiction (Graywolf Press, 2010): “…It is…worth entertaining the notion that the least important time in any workshop is when your own work is being talked about. It’s called ‘Poetry Workshop,’ not ‘Me Workshop,’ after all.” This is a quote that I’ve repeated a few times in my own workshops. Last semester when I was going through some student assignments–a required review of any poetry reading on campus–I realized how valuable this sentiment is. The first sentence of a student composition began: “I find it very difficult to relate poetry to my everyday life unless I am the author.” Yes: Poetry Workshop, not Me Workshop.
in sAndpaper socks
put Your hair into the earth
go iNto the dark meat of a crocodile
spitting across syncopating roachEs into
buttoCks of vibrating nostrils
we can invent new bOnes
a village libating like niagaRa falls
an armpiT of inflammable explosives
hEad units and gyrating limbs parading
[Source text: Coagulations: New and Selected Poems (1984)]
John Yau and Albert Mobilio, editors of Hyperallergic Weekend, have released an annotated list of 16 of their favorite poetry books of 2012. I reviewed one of their picks, Enduring Freedom by Laura Mullen (Otis Books/Seismicity Editions), in early December, but I haven’t yet seen many of the others; I clearly have a lot of good reading to do in 2013. (As Amber Sparks noted in a recent Big Other post, this year was a great year for literature: “Good writers got great books published.”)
I wanted to also briefly note a handful of poetry books that gave me pleasure in 2012–I wish I could mention more, but 2012 was more of a year of rereading (and writing) for me than reading and encountering new books.
* John Yau’s own Further Adventures in Monochrome (Copper Canyon Press)
This is bound to be a classic. Besides containing the dazzling title poem–which must be one of the most profound dramatic monologues to be yet penned in the twenty-first century–Further Adventures in Monochrome contains the completed series Genghis Chan: Private Eye, which Yau began to publish in installments in 1987. Seth Abramson from The Huffington Post got it right when he said: “It seems impossible that such a fragment-driven lyricism should again and again accumulate into ridiculously compelling assemblages, but Yau has done such difficult work countless times in the past, and returns to do so once again–and brilliantly–here.” “I wink at you from infinity”–that’s the last line of the book. No spoiler alert needed: there is surely enough surprise in these pages to go around.
Blackbox Manifold, “an online forum with a slant towards innovative poetry that has prose, narrative, or sequences in its sights,” is increasingly becoming one of my favorite UK-based poetry journals. Issue 9 is now live.
Here’s a nice, little snippet from the issue:
To harbor the hinge, harry
the quarter moon to its spot—
To listen with your hands cupped
just over your ears?
You have this one mouth.
You’re from tonight.
from “Poem to Tomaž Šalamun,” Joshua Marie Wilkinson
“The rate of firearm death of under 14-years-olds is nearly 12 times higher in the U.S. than in 25 other industrialized countries combined.”
Qtd. in Julie Carr’s 100 Notes on Violence (Ahsahta Press, 2010)