MFA Program Director and faculty member Debra Allbery’s poem “Ballad of the Walking Woman” is today’s featured poem at Poetry Daily.
Roving warp of remember,
raveled weft of forget,
this burden I’ve carried, the burden
I set at the roadside each nightfall
that’s left to me. Cleft from me.
Waking, I’ll sing it behind me,
what’s left of me. Walking, I’ll sing it
away into nothing. Into nothing …[Keep Reading]…
Debra Allbery is the author of the poetry collection Fimbul-Winter (2010, Four Way Books).
James Longenbach‘s The Virtues of Poetry (2013, Graywolf Press) is not interested in the vices or failures found in some poems, so his concerns are not necessarily moral ones, but instead, as the title of the book suggests, he is interested in understanding what makes a particular poem (and poet for that matter) flourish, and therefore what makes a reader flourish. And it is this relationship – the one between reader and poem – that James Longenbach’s book honors through his ingenuity of reading poetry through the framework of virtues, such as boldness, compression, dilation, excess, restraint, and shyness to name just a few he identifies, and he unearths these virtues by focusing on a poem’s prosody and diction and syntax and even the poet’s life – apprehended through letters – as well. The Virtues of Poetry is a joyous book of criticism, written by a poet and critic who does not seek to reprimand poems – which is usually the result of someone mired in taste – but to identify why certain poems can be considered achievements and also to celebrate the paradoxical nature of poetry itself – that poems, no matter when they are written, embody the impulse to clarify the world, while also wrestling with the world’s unsettling mysteries. During our chat, we discuss how poetry found him, the creative similarities between writing poetry and prose, and of course, the virtues of poetry and so much more…
I stand on the shore of Long Island Sound,
east, my parents say, you can see Europe.
Somewhere between Madrid and Barcelona
my tongue touched the Castilian c,
the French r has to do with air
slipped behind a glottal stop
not quite stopped,
Russian consonants crash—
time lifts at the fault lines,
splits the ground we knew,
impassible: walk through.
Mary Lou Buschi (poetry, ’04) recently spoke with SWARM magazine:
Brandon Amico: What was the germ that brought “Scouts” on, the little thing that set the writing of this poem in motion? And is the final product a combination of memory and imagination, or does it sit solely in one of those camps (sorry, I couldn’t resist the pun)?
Mary Lou Buschi: In truth, I was never a Girl Scout. I only made it as far as the Brownies. The girls were mean and I hate uniforms and groups that follow rules or recite pledges or prayers, so even as a little kid I knew it wasn’t for me. The penultimate moment, when Helen puts the corsage in her mouth, was a moment of absolute disgust told to me by a friend who did make it into the Girl Scouts. I found her disgust really interesting so I followed the instinct to write the poem. I also felt that her fear/disgust was closely linked to the speaker of “In the Waiting Room” by Elizabeth Bishop. Although the speaker in “Scouts” denies any likeness to Helen, she remains “other,” safe in her 8 year old self. So, to answer your question the poem is imagined.
Mary Lou Buschi is the author of The Spell of Coming (or Going) (2013, Patasola Press).
Gabriel Blackwell (fiction, ’09) recently spoke with Vol. 1 Brooklyn as part of their “Between Books” interview series.
It started with a cover: a familiar detective-novel image slowly bleeding into the abstract. This was my first encounter with the work of Portland’s Gabriel Blackwell: picking up a copy of his Shadow Man after hearing good things about some then-recent readings he’d given in NYC. Subtitled “A Biography of Lewis Miles Archer,” Blackwell’s book creates a narrative out of the spaces in which noir‘s chroniclers and its characters overlap: a dense, thrilling work with hints of abused power and still-buried secrets. His collection Critique of Pure Reason contained work that bent the lines between fiction, history, and (at times) criticism; it’s nearly impossible to describe, but never less than compelling. I checked in with Blackwell to discuss his methods, his inspiration, and what works and histories might inspire his future projects. (Hint: one Howard Phillips Lovecraft makes an appearance, as does a certain storied British filmmaker.)
Four poems by Leslie Shipman (poetry, ’07) appear online at BOMB Magazine.
Another Disappointing Perigee Moon
Hello, supermoon, my full-fledged saturant:
blaze-bright in the black sky. Tonight,
a mess is born. The marriage of chaos
and affection. To know too much, to desire
too much, the first time like a relic.
The oval orbit spins itself dizzy,
circles close, pulls away, deranges
This is how I want you to be:
a body astonished, strung tight
across the black matte of evening.
A little bit drunk. Gaze-shy and stroked.
What to say when surrender comes?
What becomes of our promise to behave
like lovers? Science doesn’t lie.
It’s the end of a beautiful summer.
A few years ago, in an introductory fiction workshop, my students and I witnessed a young man make relentless awkward attempts to get to know a young woman in the class. He was passionate and clumsy and his efforts were wholly transparent. When the time came for him to turn in his story, he submitted a piece about a young man much like himself who is hopelessly in love with a young woman much like the young woman in the class, and the two characters are in a creative writing workshop together. One night the male character shows up tipsy at the young woman’s house to ask if she will stroll with him in the warm night air and hold his hand, but the door is opened by her boyfriend, who answers for her with a punch to the jaw, sending the character flying and leaving a scrape on his chin—much like the scrape on the chin of the young man in my workshop.
Undaunted, the character retreats to his dorm to write a story about yet another character who is much like the first character who is much like the author, with the idea that a female character who is much like the first female character who is much like the girl in the workshop will read the story and understand that this literary version of himself represents his real self and that he is in love with her.
In the final scene, the girl suddenly understands—during workshop, no less—that the boy is in love with her, and she is powerfully moved by this knowledge. Everyone in the real workshop knows that the real girl would have to be blind and deaf and witless not to understand that this boy was in love with her, but this public declaration—this tender, ridiculous, marginally grammatical, potentially humiliating public declaration—nonetheless moves us.
Robert is the author of Tumbledown: A Novel (2013, Graywolf).
Faith S. Holsaert has won the Press 53 Open Award for her novella, Chosen Girl.
From Judge David Abrams:
…This is a full-bodied portrait of a full life, lived between World War Two and Vietnam, between Jim Crow and McCarthyism, between the innocence of a four-year-old girl and the resonant memories of a thirty-year-old woman…. The best compliment I can pay this novella of a few dozen pages is that when I arrived at the end, I felt like I’d just emerged from the richly built world of a thick novel. I would gladly spend many more hours inside Deborah’s life.
From Chosen Girl:
In the beginning were my parents, shoulder to shoulder, the baby floating within their massed outline.
I sat close, in either lap, during their disputes.
My father said, “Oliver Twist. It’s a wretched book, Deirdre. You like it because you read it as a child.”
“I like it because it’s about people. Not like your Eliot, who writes about things.”
“Deirdre, Fagan’s a sentimental abomination.”
She held me tight against her bosom, and I learned how her muscles tightened when she clenched her teeth. “Well I love that book.”
“Fagan’s an anti-Semitic stereotype,” said my WASP father.
She struck quickly. “Are you Virginia Woolf to my Leonard?” My Jewish mother.
Losing the Horizon, a collection by Priscilla Orr (poetry, ’93), was recently published by Hannacroix Creek Books.
In Losing the Horizon, award-winning poet Priscilla Orr’s second collection, whose first anthology was Jugglers and Tides, shares her feelings on love, aging, loss and death, as well as the comfort and courage we find in the natural cycle of the seasons — spring, summer, winter and fall. What they’re saying about Losing the Horizon: “This is a moving, poignant collection from a mature voice at the top of her craft.” —Paul Genega
Read more at HannacroixCreekBooks.com
Corey Campbell (fiction, ’12) recently spoke with Arizona State University about her experiences teaching fiction to prisoners.
Friday mornings start with the 63-plus mile drive across Phoenix, past Apache Junction, and into the desert. “Usually I’m nervous before class,” she says. Then she hastens to add, “But not because they’re prisoners, and not even because they’re sex offenders” (that detail she learned the week before her first class). No, what Campbell worries about is whether her lessons will encompass all their interests and needs! “I try,” she notes modestly.
Campbell’s regard for what the prisoners themselves are trying to do is very clear in some of the following stories she shares about them: “Marcus writes a fantasy trilogy about an ancient fighter named O.M.A. (One Man Army). Bobby’s poem, ‘The Birth of Hope,’ describes an inmate’s desire for a rainbow, the only lover who dares visit him in prison. Then there is Notso, initially the most confrontational—writing a monologue from my point of view for the first assignment—who has become my biggest supporter, submitting an encyclopedic history of elderly war veterans on a park bench remembering. Notso’s last name is Smart, so he calls himself ‘Notso,’ and asks that we do the same: Notso Smart.”
“Then there’s Wesley, missing his front teeth, who told me once that everyone appears to be friends in workshop but on the yard are only acquaintances. His first submission described a beaming couple planning their wedding while on a Caribbean vacation. In detail he described the succulent jerk chicken they ate, how the sand gloriously rubbed their feet, where they planned to snorkel the next day.” Reading the rich description of this imaginative journey, Campbell realized that Wes was writing to take a vacation. “He didn’t care when we demanded he add tension and conflict; the piece had already served its purpose for him. He wanted to get away!”