Rachel Zucker was once told that poets either write out of noise or out of silence and she has no doubt which category she falls into. Zucker just published a new collection of poems called “The Pedestrians.” A native of … Continue reading
Susan Cheever’s new biography of the poet is called “E. E. Cummings: A Life.” She has also written biographies about Louisa May Alcott, Bill Wilson and her father John Cheever, in addition to 12 other published fiction and nonfiction books. She is a professor in the MFA programs at Bennington College and The New School. Continue reading
Suzanne Cleary loves the sound of Italian. When she picked up a copy of “Italian Made Simple,” she was determined to teach herself the language before a trip to Italy. Instead Clearly came away fascinated by the characters in the book and wrote a poem that tells the story of Mario and Marina. Continue reading
If you pick up Nick Lantz’s new poetry collection, “How to Dance as the Roof Caves in,” you’ll recognize the “self-help” theme running through the titles. To name a few: “How to Travel Alone,” “How to Forgive a Promise Breaker,” “How to Dance When You Do Not Know How to Dance” and even “How to Appreciate Inorganic Matter.”
When he first started composing poems for this book, he found a website with a bunch of “how-to” articles. Always on the lookout for a new project, Lantz was inspired.
“I was just struck by so many of the titles because they were things as simple as ‘How to Boil Water,’ but then some of them were very specific like ‘How to Choose a Wedding Chapel in Gatlinburg, Tenn.,’ Lantz told Art Beat.
Carolyn Forché, co-editor of “Poetry of Witness,” reads “A Letter from Aragon,” written by English poet Rupert John Cornford.
A Letter from Aragon
This is a quiet sector of a quiet front.
We buried Ruiz in a new pine coffin,
But the shroud was too small and his washed feet stuck out.
The stink of his corpse came through the clean pine boards
And some of the bearers wrapped handkerchiefs round their faces.
Death was not dignified.
We hacked a ragged grave in the unfriendly earth
And fired a ragged volley over the grave.
Carolyn Forche, co-editor of the anthology “Poetry of Witness,” read Major John McCrae’s poem “In Flanders Field.”
Carolyn Forche was deeply affected by her experience in countries at war.
Forche is the co-editor of the new anthology “Poetry of Witness.” When she started collecting poems by writers who had endured warfare, censorship, and other extreme situations, people told her she was collecting political poems. But Forche wanted to look more deeply and “understand the poetry as an outcry of the soul.”
Peter Cole thinks of all poetry as translation.
“Writing one’s own poetry, you’re translating a nonverbal experience or a less than articulate experience into something much more articulate,” he told Art Beat.
Amal Kassir lived in Syria for many years. She says her time there helped her understand the people’s suffering while the freedoms she has in America allowed her to become an activist on their behalf. At 18, she performs slam poetry at festivals and political rallies around the U.S., like her recent performance of “My Grandmother’s Farm” at the University of Colorado Denver. Continue reading
As a professor of African American studies, poet Elizabeth Alexander can’t reflect on Martin Luther King Jr. Day without taking into account the full context of the man and his vision.
“I can’t untether myself from history,” Alexander told Art Beat.
“I think that you just can’t understand an extraordinary leader like Martin Luther King and all the people that he inspired in a vacuum. You can’t understand Martin Luther King apart from the ways in which he pushed people and the ways in which people didn’t think he went far enough. You can’t separate Martin Luther King from the fact that he was an extraordinary writer and orator who was a writer and orator in a very, very mighty black tradition. The way that he spoke and the way that he wrote did not come from nowhere.”
When Alexander offered her own work in commemoration of the MLK holiday, she pulled together a series of poems that contemplate a range of history.
“I wanted to let us think about him in place and over time in hopes that that would give us a little bit more to chew on in thinking about what this day means.”
And thus, Alexander begins with “Emancipation.”
Oyster shell, drawstring pouch, dry bones.Gris gris in the rafters.
Hoodoo in the sleeping nook.
Mojo in Linda Brent’s crawlspace.
Nineteenth century corncob cosmogram
set on the dirt floor, beneath the slant roof,
left intact the afternoon
that someone came and told those slaves
Before Alexander continued reading, she brought up some famous words from Dr. King, which he spoke a few days before his death in April 1968: “I may not make it with you. I may not make it to the mountaintop.”
Michael Davidson is a professor of literature at University of California, San Diego. Davidson has published five other books of poetry, including “The Arcades” (O Books, 1998). “Bleed Through: New and Selected Poems” (Coffee House Press, 2013), published in December, is his first book of poems in 15 years. Continue reading