Monday, December 31, 2007

Curator's Note: What I Read in 2007

As your humble curator, I thought I'd share some of the poetry books that I read and enjoyed in 2007. In addition to the books listed, I also subscribe to Poetry and The American Poetry Review. Very few of these books are recent, but these are the poets I was reading last year.

* * * * *

American Religious Poems: An Anthology by Harold Bloom -- A great collection of religious poems from the early settlement of America to the present. The introduction is worth the price of the book.

Poems for the Millenium, edited by Jerome Rothenberg & Pierre Joris -- A rather comprehensive anthology of modern and post-modern poetry. What the book lacks in depth on each poet, it more than makes up for in breadth. Still, more poems from each poet would have been nice.

New and Collected Poems (1931-2001), Czeslaw Milosz -- If you like Nobel Laureate Milosz, this is the volume to own. He was one of the great poets of the 20th Century, and his work will not soon be forgotten.

The Second Four Books of Poems, W.S. Merwin -- This volume covers Merwin's career from 1963 to 1973. He was working out the structures (and themes) that would inform his later work in these books, so they are somewhat uneven. But for any fan of Merwin, this collection shows the development of a very good poet.

The Collected Poems, Octavio Paz -- Another Nobel Laureate, Paz ranks alongside Pablo Neruda as one of the greatest poets in the Spanish language. More experimental than Neruda, and more connected to European arts circles, Paz (as edited and translated by Eliot Weinberger) is a monumental figure in Modernism.

East Window - The Asian Translations, W.S. Merwin -- Merwin has a good feel for Asian poetry. He is no Rexroth or Sam Hamill, but these are good translation from the Middle East as well as Asia proper.

So There, Poems 1976-83, Robert Creeley -- Creeley has had a huge influence on contemporary poets. His lines, his simple language, and his focus on objects (rather than ideas, though he does this too), have made him a leading figure in American poetry. The book begins with a series of poems that came from his journey to visit nine countries in the Far East -- to explore a sense of self in a foreign landscape. Great book.

A Short History of the Shadow, Charles Wright -- Wright is one of my favorite living poets. I try to read everything he publishes, and this one is from 2002. His poems are personal and introspective, but they sprawl in their associations and images. I think of his poems as "meditations," in the classical sense, and I sense in his later years a little Eastern philosophy influencing his distinctly American Christian background.

The Singing, C.K. Williams -- Williams is another of my favorite poets. More than most others I have read, his use of longer lines has had an impact on my own work. This volume delves into the world of domestic bliss and trouble, with a deep note of regret running through the collection. As always, he articulates the feelings and fears many of us would rather avoid, and finds some meaning in the process.

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What have you read this year? Please feel free to share any poetry you enjoyed this year in the comments field.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Video - "Addressing America" featuring Allen Ginsberg

A contemporary adaptation of Allen Ginsberg's famous 1956 poem "America," featuring works by Francis Ford Copolla, Martin Scorsese, D.A. Pennebaker, Jim Morrison & The Doors and Mark Isham.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Poem: Bill Hotchkiss

Semester's End
(December 13, 2007)

It's two in the afternoon, last day of the term,
Incipient winter rich in the air as I walk
Across campus, a bundle of papers in hand.

Clouds form and abate, afternoon light
Touches the needles of a young ponderosa,
Just so, and each glows, radiates brilliance.

The pond water is still, reflects perfect
Trees and buildings, and the big perch glide
Slowly, not even disturbing the surface.

Stormclouds rise in the west, moving inland--
They'll bring rain after sundown, red sundown,
And I am walking away, not even limping,
I stride eagerly now toward this oncoming storm.

* * * * *

~ Bill Hotchkiss is my friend and mentor. He is a well-known scholar on the poets Robinson Jeffers and William Everson (of whose literary estate Bill is executor). He has published several highly regarded novels, several books of poetry (most notably Climb to the High Country), and has taught at Sierra College in Northern California for many years.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Year in Review: Major Poetry Awards

As 2007 winds down, I thought it would be nice to take a look at the major poetry award winners this year. Some of my favorites won awards, and many poets new to me also won (which is the fun part -- discovering new poets).


Pulitzer Prize for Poetry:
Awarded to "Native Guard" by Natasha Trethewey (Houghton Mifflin).


National Book Award for Poetry:

WINNER: Robert Hass, Time and Materials (Ecco/HarperCollins) - Interview

Linda Gregerson, Magnetic North (Houghton Mifflin Company) - Interview
David Kirby, The House on Boulevard St.
(Louisiana State University Press) - Interview
Stanley Plumly, Old Heart (W.W. Norton & Company) - Interview
Ellen Bryant Voigt, Messenger: New and Selected Poems 1976-2006
(W.W. Norton & Company) - Interview

Poetry Judges: Charles Simic (chair), Linda Bierds, David St. John,
Vijay Seshadri, and Natasha Trethewey.


The National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry:
Troy Jollimore, Tom Thomson in Purgatory (Margie/Intuit House).


ABA Booksense, Best Poetry of 2007 (Spring)

1. THE COLLECTED POEMS: 1956-1998, by Zbigniew Herbert (Ecco, $34.95, 9780060783907 / 0060783907) "Herbert is one of the truly great poets of the 20th century -- likely only his untimely death prevented him from being awarded the Nobel Prize. His verse is brilliantly conceived, delivered in a language of heart-stopping intensity, and it will haunt your dreams forever." --Shawn Wathen, Chapter One Book Store, Hamilton, MT

2. DISTRICT AND CIRCLE, by Seamus Heaney (FSG, $13 paper, 9780374530815 / 0374530815) "Nobel Prize-winning Irish poet Seamus Heaney fills his latest collection with homage to the everyday and to hard work. But also commemorated is the work of just living: growing up, giving due, persevering, and simply appreciating. Muscular, blunt, lyrical, and moving, this is poetry to return to again and again." --Herman Fong, Odyssey Bookshop, South Hadley, MA

3. BUCOLICS, by Maurice Manning (Harcourt, $23, 9780151013104 / 0151013101) "I'm so thrilled to have a new collection from Kentucky poet Maurice Manning! This Yale Series of Younger Poets winner continues to get better with each new collection." --Jen Reynolds, Joseph-Beth Booksellers, Cincinnati, Ohio

4. REFUSING HEAVEN, by Jack Gilbert (Knopf, $16 paper, 9780375710858 / 037571085X) "Unexpected, surreal, sensual, and full of the world's joys and sorrows, Gilbert is the real deal. Give the human world a voice and it might sound like this one." --John Evan, DIESEL, A Bookstore, Oakland, CA

5. THE COMPLETE POETRY: A Bilingual Edition, by C├ęsar Vallejo, edited and translated by Clayton Eshleman (University of California Press, $49.95, 9780520245525 / 0520245520) "Vallejo is one of the most original voices in poetry that I've ever read. His work is collected here in translation by Clatyon Eshleman, and it is full of mind-blowing imagery grounded in a brilliant humanism presented in experimental verse that will snatch your breath with an arrogant fist." --Josh Cook, Porter Square Books, Cambridge, MA

6. THE BOOK OF MARTYRDOM AND ARTIFICE: First Journals and Poems 1937 - 1952, by Allen Ginsberg (Da Capo, $27.50, 9780306814624 / 0306814625) "Now, we can see how young Al Ginsberg developed his thoughts and what influenced his life and writing, including events in Europe leading to the rise of Hitler, his mother's schizophrenia, his homosexual awareness, bawdy songs of Barnard girls, lists of 'records to buy,' and more. The Book of Martyrdom and Artifice shows that keen observation and intuitive reflection developed early did not waver in Ginsberg's last days." --Carolyn Chin, Books On First, Dixon, IL

7. INCOMPLETE KNOWLEDGE, by Jeffrey Harrison (Four Way, $14.95 paper, 9781884800733 / 1884800734) "Jeffrey Harrison is an incredible poet who continues to perfect his craft with each new book. Incomplete Knowledge speaks to the loss of his brother through suicide. It is simply elegant and very powerful." --John M. Hugo, Andover Bookstore, Andover, MA

8. THE BLIZZARD VOICES, by Ted Kooser (Bison Books, $9.95 paper, 9780803259638 / 0803259638) "This collection tells of the blizzard of 1888 that hit our country's midsection from the Dakotas to Texas. Kooser's poems tell of the survivors and some that lost their lives: Teachers with students surviving in a haystack to farmers surviving by staying near their animals, all told in Kooser's wonderfully poetic voice." --Carl Wichman, Varsity Mart, Fargo, ND

9. ARGUMENTS FOR STILLNESS, by Erik Campbell (Curbstone, $13.95 paper, 9781931896269 / 1931896267) "Erik Campbell's poetry is wise without preaching, smart without intimidating, artfully fun without shallowness. Sit down, shut out the world for a couple of minutes, read three poems from this collection at random, and you'll see why I am recommending him in the same breath as Wendell Berry." --Eric Robbins, Apple Valley Books, Winthrop, ME

10. ONCE AROUND THE SUN, by Bobbi Katz, LeUyen Pham (Illus) (Harcourt, $16, 9780152163976 / 0152163972) "The award for most vibrant illustrations goes to Once Around the Sun. Pham's bright, bold illustrations are brimming with color -- enough to fill the book's pages and give life to its lighthearted poems, one for each month of the year." --Alison Morris, Wellesley Booksmith, Wellesley, MA


Academy of American Poets:

Academy Fellowship
James McMichael of Long Beach, California, was awarded the 2006 Academy Fellowship. McMichael, whose most recent collection is Capacity (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006), received $25,000. The annual fellowship is given in honor of James Ingram Merrill for distinguished poetic achievement. Fellows are nominated and elected by the Academy's Board of Chancellors. There is no application process.

James Laughlin Award
Brenda Shaughnessy
of New York City won the 2007 James Laughlin Award for her poetry collection Human Dark With Sugar (Copper Canyon Press). She received $5,000, and the Academy of American Poets will purchase approximately 5,000 copies of her book to distribute to its members. Peter Gizzi, Matthea Harvey, and Caroline Knox judged. The annual award is given to commend and support the publication of a second book of poetry. The next deadline is May 15.

Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize
Alice Notley
of Paris won the 2007 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize for Grave of Light: New and Selected Poems 1970–2005 (Wesleyan University Press). She received $25,000. David Baker, Mark McMorris, and Marie Ponsot judged. The annual prize is awarded for the most outstanding book of poetry published in the United States during the previous year. The next deadline is June 15.


MacArthur Foundation
MacArthur Fellowship
Poet and translator Peter Cole of Jerusalem, Israel, and poet and fiction writer Stuart Dybek of Evanston, Illinois, won 2007 MacArthur Fellowships. Each will receive $500,000 over five years. Cole's most recent book is The Dream of the Poem: Hebrew Poetry From Muslim and Christian Spain, 950–1492 (Princeton University Press, 2007), and Dybek's most recent book is the poetry collection Streets in Their Own Ink (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2004). The annual fellowships are given in a variety of fields to "encourage people of outstanding talent to pursue their own creative, intellectual, and professional inclinations." There is no application process.


National Poetry Series
Open Competition
The National Poetry Series has announced the winners of its 2007 Open Competition, each of whom received $1,000 and publication of his or her poetry collection.

They are poets Joe Bonomo of DeKalb, Illinois, for Installations, selected by Naomi Shihab Nye and to be published by Penguin Books;

Oni Buchanan of Brighton, Massachusetts, for Spring, selected by Mark Doty and to be published by University of Illinois Press;

Sabra Loomis of New York City for House Held Together by Winds, selected by James Tate and to be published by HarperCollins;

Donna Stonecipher of Seattle for The Cosmopolitan, selected by John Yau and to be published by Coffee House Press;

and Rodrigo Toscano of New York City for Collapsible Poetics Theater, selected by Marjorie Welish and to be published by Fence Books.

The National Poetry Series annually publishes five book-length poetry manuscripts by U.S. poets through participating trade, university, and small press publishers.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Poem: Howard Good

Strangers and Angels

A stranger, they say, might be an angel
unrecognizable in the diffuse light

and the enigma of his arrival

who looks at you as through eyeholes
cut unevenly in a brown paper bag

and relates with ghostwritten words
the events which are about to transpire,

who feels a terrible need to confess
there’s another person with your name,

the downcast face of a sunflower
after the birds have scoured it.

* * * * *

~ Howard Good, a journalism professor at SUNY New Paltz, is the author of the poetry chapbooks, Death of the Frog Prince (2004) and Heartland (2007), both from FootHills Publishing. His poems have appeared in numerous print and online journals, including Right Hand Pointing, Stirring, Flutter, The Elegant Thorn Review, The Rose & Thorn, 2River View, Prairie Poetry, Poetry Bay, Juked, ken*again, and Lily. He was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2006.

Poem: Jess Henerson

no dancing

mama said no dancing
mama said her prayers
daddy took me dancing
prancing down the stairs
you were there
apathy with auburn hair
you did not care
mama said no drinking
mama said she cared
daddy took me drinking
sneaking up the stairs
you were there
apathy with blazing hair
you did not care
mama said no loving
mama left it there
daddy gave me loving
rolling on the stairs
you were there
apathy with scarlet hair
you did not care
you were there
mama loved her drinking
mama loved her prayers
daddy left me bleeding
crying on the stairs
you were there
apathy with bloody hair
you did not care
you did not care

* * * * *

~ This is Jess Henerson's first appearance in Elegant Thorn Review.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Poem: Tim J Brennan

Things Unsaid

after hours in a museum are as quiet
as the framed painting of three red chairs--
which once, you imagine, were occupied
by people laughing at each other’s humor.

that the lake of your father’s mind
must be lovely and quiet,
with small sunfish nibbling
delightfully at its surface.

the air above your sleeping
son’s head is as holy as the rain
outside his open window.

that nothing is perfect, not even
if the next person you meet
may be the only one you’ll ever have
a chance to be in love with.

the coming snow will make
so little noise while falling.

it is nearly midnight in October in Minnesota.

many of its small towns are left with fallen leaves.

* * * * *

~ Tim Brennan is a regular contributer at Elegant Thorn. You can find more of his fine work in the archives.