Sunday, August 23, 2009

Poetry Give-Away IV: Singularities by Susan Howe

Singularities by Susan Howe.

I read this in grad school and wrote all over it, mostly on the fly-leaf, some underlining, and very obnoxiously I wrote one poem all over page 27. If you're still cool with that, I think $2 will ship this one. If you want a pristine copy, try here.

Howe is mostly concerned with recovering historical voices, layering and mixing language, sometimes literally on the page by disobeying typical typography. An archeology of New England in poetry.

I'll admit I don't really get it. This book is challenging, using archaic spelling and breaking narratives to achieve the feel of little recovered pieces, marginalia and potsherds.

"Visible surface of Discourse

Runes or allusions to runes
Tasks and turning flock"

from "Articulation of Sound Forms in Time" Singularities

Poetry Give Away III: Hat on a Pond by Dara Wier

I read this book in college and wrote all over it. So if you're not up for that, you can get it online here.

Dara Wier's book, Hat on a Pond, seems well situated in surrealism, working in the collage method: the "encounter on an operating table of an umbrella and a sewing machine." Many of her poems are lists of unlikely pairings of nouns and modifiers, example from "Balsam of Myrrh," "ditchwater green grenades." Hat on a Pond mixes up straight collage by weaving in some narrative; the general idea of domesticity confronted with industry, war, loss, and agriculture coalesces over the course of the poems. Abstract assertions loggerhead with the natural world (bizarrely described), form the platform for concrete description or seem to come organically from it; in fact, Hat on a Pond seems a study in the different angles of intersection that the concrete and the abstract can have.

An example of these two impulses, which I think define Hat on a Pond:

"Do you know what's the unluckiest thing
In the world, a differential grasshopper
said to me."

--"Awe of Everything"

My favorite poem is one of the more narrative poems to emerge from the surrealist background, "Devilhorses." The poem has a rural, folkloric listing of bizarre family chores and ends in a fairytale-esque description of the child/narrator's chore. The final revelation about the devilhorses, in fairytale fashion, is both comforting and menacing.

Here's another brief snippet, showing the loveliness that these poetics can achieve, from "A Ghost's List of Alarming Notes After a Drizzling Rain," (another list poem)

"Not one of them went anywhere without their bones,
A light rain dappled their soulpaper."

Link to title poem, "Hat on a Pond."


Vintage Poets: Joanne Kyger and Susan Griffin

According to Wikipedia, both of these poets are alive, so I don't want to insult them. Let's just say the poetry I'm looking at, the earlier poems in one book and poems '79 to '89 in the other. I'm pretty sure 60's, 70's and 80's are vintage now and those are the poems I'm talking about here.

There's an awkward time period in poetry for young poets coming up today, a time period not old enough to be taught as literature, as the critical foundation of poets of old, and not contemporary enough (or for some other reason not in the cannon or in vogue) and so it doesn't make it onto the required reading lists. Vintage poetry! In fact nobody you know, or maybe even your teachers, might have heard of some of the poets writing in the decades just before you were born. I think there are a lot of poets like that. Awesome poets that you have just never heard of.

You might encounter these poems from the 60s, 70s and 80s that you buy at used book stores or book rummages or you get randomly for Christmas presents because you're a poet, or are dusting up the shelves of your local library because somebody coming through your town at some point donated it. And you might read this book that posterity has put in your hands and notice how incredibly outdated or naive or just bad it is. Or maybe you are like, holy crap, this is different.

Being a reader of the winners of the last years' contests and the last years' poetry journals and journal submissions, I see the same sorts of things, the same images and words and poetics popping up in different genres, but still pretty much the same excercises (like a slew of villanelles, or, all of a sudden, a bevy of sonnets, or like, 15 poems with a parrot in it). That's what is so awesome about these books, is that people you know aren't reading them, people you know aren't writing these poems. You've been introduced to something new.

I have two of these books that I think have been almost more helpful to me than most of the books on the required MFA reading list, because these poems just say something in such a way that you think, ok, I could do that. I went through the first book, Bending Home: Selected and New Poems by Susan Griffin, and literally wrote "exercise," "line breaks," "hueristic," on the pages. I felt like I had learned about what a poem could do from this book. The line is super short in most of the poems, the content is often more abstract than I believed we were allowed to be before reading Anne Carson.

Some of my all-time favorite poems are in this book: "Her Sadness Runs Besider Her Like a Horse," and "Love Should Grow Up Like a Wild Iris in the Fields." While I'm trying to get rid of all the books I can live without, xeroxing beautiful poems and jettisoning the book, this book is full of gems, of things I didn't think were possible but can't wait to try.

A little quote from "Summer Night":

"This is civilization.
We have inherited it.
We love the glitter."

The second book, Just Space: Poems 1979-1989 by Joanne Kyger, I literally just started reading to microreview and give it away this upcoming week. Two weeks in a row and I'm not parting with the book I've begun to read! It's just too different, and too long. I want to take everything I can from it before/if I give it away.

From a poetics point of view, it's really interesting. The poetry is verse but has the feel of a prose poem. It sounds a lot in tone and in the way it leaps like The Rooster's Wife, by Russell Edson, or maybe anything by Russell Edson. It's got a narrative pretense but the leaps are lyrical and move the poems toward surrealism even though they are accessable and clearly about everyday narratives. The overall effect is like a dream where you are going through ordinary life but with dream logic, and everything is skewed.

The poems also use white space in a way I haven't seen before, with indentations, terracing, using almost concrete poetry-esque shaping but without any form emerging. The block of text, sometimes very narrow with short lines again, takes up more mental space because it isn't clinging to the left margin like a rat drowning in a bucket. The three or four word lines take up space and that somehow justifies them and gives them weight. It's cool. And then sometimes the indentations are like brackets seperating the different points of view, the narratives of different characters.

The tone of the poems in Just Space is different too, assured, confident, political but not taking itself so seriously. I don't think a fair-use quote is going to do these poems justice, so I won't try. These aren't super condense feeling poems with a bunch of stand-alone lines. The whole thing is an organic, sweeping, relaxed, scattered thing that comes together like an abstract painting. I really enjoy it.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Hayden Ferry Review on Amazon: I guess I did it all by myself!

This is just a sidebar: I found one of the issues of HFR that I edited on I am listed as editor!! Crazy! It says right at the top "by Meghan Brinson." This is funny because I'm not even alphabetically the first editor (there were several editors, people, two fiction, two international section, the managing editor, and the other poetry editor). That would be Aimee Baker.

But this is my thrill of the day to see "by Meghan Brinson" on

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Food Poem

Thanks CRWROWPPS for this posting:

Alimentum Poetry Contest is seeking fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry all around the subject of food. Alimentum is the only literary journal all about food.

Submissions open September 1, 2009 and closes December 1, 2009. Submit up to 3unpublished poems related to the subject of food or drink. Five-poem limit on poetry submissions. Do not consider previously published work. $15 entry fee which includes a one-year subscription. Snail mail only. First prize $500 and publication for a single poem.
Send to:
Alimentum Poetry Contest
PO Box 210028
Nashville, TN 37221

Deadline: December, 1, 2009

I don't have a food poem, but I'm reminded of Thomas Lux's "Refrigerator, 1957"
which I think is an amazing poem. I'm really tempted to write a poem for Nutella.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Poetry Book Give-Away II: Notes From The Divided Country/ Immortal Sofa

I started reading another Whitman award winner, Suji Kwock Kim this week for my poetry give-away. But sorry people, I'm on page 15 and this is a book I'm going to keep and savor, one of those that specifically talks to you at a moment in your life (I just had a baby, and the first poems of this book talk directly to that experience).

It's a beautiful, soul-wrenching book. Notes from the Divided Country $6 from LSU Press..

So my offering this week is a book of poetry that I reviewed on Hayden Ferry Review's blog from one of our contributors: Immortal Sofa by Maura Stanton.
Warning, it is not a microreview.

Why I think you should spend $2.00 postage on this book:

"God's Ode to Creation," "The Milk of Human Kindness," are great poems.

Here's a sample though of one of my other favorite poems from this collection:

"I close my eyes, trying to conjure the warm
watery planet, sizzling with lightning bolts,
where I darted and turned my somersaults
and then, diving through transparent depths,
inserted myself through the waving seaweed
and came back up, my eye filled with joy."

from "Practicing T'ai Chi Chu'an"

Give this book a new home!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Had to Share

I'm not a huge Ayn Rand fan, although my husband and one of my best friends are. But I can sure see her point. Put a point on the board for Ayn Rand!

I just had an interesting discussion about the children's classic The Giving Tree, which I've always hated (said opinion inevitably getting both me and my mother criticised), and this discussion prompted an online search that uncovered this illustration. Reillustration. Reactionstration. I love it!!

Thanks Objectivist Blog

Anyway, new challenge. Take a children's classic you've always hated (or loved) and rewrite it!! I'm going to do James and the Giant Peach.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Travel Writing

Everybody's got the travel poem, but if you've got an essay, this might be worth looking into:

Unlike guidebooks written by professional travel writers, our
books feature stories written by literary writers -- all of
whom who have lived in the places they write about. Most were
born there, or grew up there, or lived there for many years.
And they didn't write specifically for travelers. They wrote
because they had a good story to tell.

Thanks Funds for Writers!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Poetry Book Give-Away I: Carolina Ghost Woods

Carolina Ghost Woods by Judy Jordan, 1999 Whitman Award Winner.

Rural elegies, a time capsule, a luxury of sounds piling up in long lines for a slow procession of sound and image. Folk wisdom, herbology, a catalogue of biology and dissapearance.

from "Sandbar at Moore's Creek"

"the delft-blue mussel shells,
fingertip tiny, most beautiful when strewn with loss."

My favorite poem: "Walking the Geese Home." Accessable, luscious, sincere.

TAKEN. But you can also get it from LSU for $6.00.

Monday, August 10, 2009


There was a recent discussion on the Wom-po email list about trying to sell your house and having way too many books. A lot of the wompos came to the conclusion that having a house full of books is an awesome way to live. I disagree.

I come from a family of functional horders and I am fighting it. I've taken a good look at my three bookshelves that I've carted across the country already and decided that if I don't love it I'm not keeping it. My new goal is to read one of these books a week, give it a microreview on the blog, and GIVE IT AWAY. If you want it, send me postage and it's yours. Otherwise, it's going to the library.

I encourage others to do the same thing! Poetry should be shared, circulating, percolating, not gathering dust, costing a fortune to move and eating up home equity.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Donner Party Long Poems

When I was in a graduate class on writing the long poem, I decided to challenge myself. I would think of the worst possible sounding idea for a long poem. I came up with the Donner Party. I wrote about 5 pages. I kind of like it.

I've since discovered about 3 book length long poems about the Donner Party and my goal is to read each one. So far I've got my hot little man-hands on one copy:
Keithley, George. The Donner Party. New York: George Braziller, 1972.

So far I've only read the first page or so and I despise it with a deep and loving, laugh out loud, oh my god I was so right this is the worst idea ever hatred.

I've decided to risk life and limb to bring you the first stanza of this book, this marvel of mid-century writing, which since it is but a tiny portion of the poem, perhaps the copyright gods will permit me to post here:

"I am George Donner a dirt farmer
who left the snowy fields
around Springfield, Illinois
in the fullness of my life"

That's all you get--that's all I will risk for you! If you want the rest (it is sort of delicious, this first page) you can get your own copy or maybe if you offer me $5 I will sell you mine. Shipping included.

I've tried to pawn off actually reading it on someone else, but no one I know will take up the gauntlet. 254 pages of Donner Party poetry just doesn't seem to interest anyone. Friends of the Library, here I come. That was some of the best 4$ I ever spent.

Because I also bought an Amazon bargain book, American Primitive by Mary Oliver. That makes this ok. yes!!! I was going to give you guys the link, but I think I bought the only 5$ copy. I don't know if this link to a search will work, but if it does, enjoy your 5$-ish poetry books. Love, Me.

What makes the whole Donner Party poem thing interesting to me is the rejection I just got from Anti-, which goes something like this: we like the concept/concept but the lyrical bit just didn't do it for us. If you've got something similar, send it along.

They liked that it was about the Donner Party, is what I think that means! But obviously my poem didn't pull it off, and with this hefty, gray, funky-smelling volume in front of me that I can't bring myself to read, do I feel implicated. (But my line is longer! Come on!) So when I laugh at this monstrosity, maybe I laugh at my own. Oh Blackbird, publish my long cannibal poem. Please?