Dear friend, you have excited crowds,
with your example. They swell
like wine bags, straining at your seams.
I will be years gathering up our words,
fishing out letters, snapshots, stains,
leaning my ribs against this durable cloth
to put on the dumb blue blazer of your death
—Maxine Kumin (1925-2014), “How It Is”
The poetry world lost one of its liveliest voices last week. Like much of her work, this beautiful poem (the full version is in the Penguin Anthology of Twentieth Century American Poetry) meditates on transience, death, and remembrance. wwnorton will release her final collection, And Short the Season in April.
A quick fyi: The New Yorker has just launched a new poetry podcast, and it’s introduced and hosted by Paul Muldoon, the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet who formerly taught poetry at Oxford.
I’m not naming names because, frankly, I can only remember one, but in December about a half dozen librarians told me they get POETRY EBOOK REQUESTS. This goes against everything this marketer has read. But such is the ebook thug life.
For those of you who want to see more poetry in the Cloud, give me time to broker contracts with specialty publishers and university presses, though know that the following UPs are coming very soon:
- University of Virginia Press
- Vanderbilt University Press
- Wesleyan University Press
- University of Texas Press
“Sometimes when I find myself in a dark place, I lose all taste for poetry,” said [Mary] Szybist in her moving acceptance speech; what good is poetry if it can’t bring back lost loved ones, for instance. But as Szybist confirmed, there’s plenty poetry can do: “Poetry is where we can speak differently.”
Twas the night before ALA and all through Tumblr
not a creature was meming; no need for a mouse.
The posts were tagged by tumblarians with care
in hopes that Set Phasers soon would be here.
The replies were nestled, all snug in the blogs
while visions of banana slicers danced in their heads.
This is so beautiful.
Rilke declined to critique [Kappus’s poetry], saying “most events are unsayable, occur in a space that no word has ever penetrated, and most unsayable of all are works of art, mysterious existences whose life endures alongside ours, which passes away.” They maintained a correspondence for six years, though nine of the ten letters Rilke wrote Kappus were sent in 1903 and 1904. Rilke emphasized again and again the importance of solitude for an artist: “Nobody can advise you and help you, nobody. There is only one way. Go into yourself.”
My latest Classic Returns column for LJ!
Read about what I think about old books, please.
from “Earth Light”
Lynn Xu, DEBTS & LESSONS
DEBTS & LESSONS was recently reviewed in Library Journal: “Her method is fresh, startling imagery, bordering on the surreal; if ‘Language exists because nothing exists between those/ who express themselves,’ then she has done her job breathtakingly.” -Barbara Hoffert
Danish poet Morten Søndergaard has put together Wordpharmacy, which “consists of ten medicine boxes, each representing one of the ten word-groups. Each box contains a leaflet that functions as an instructional poem, guiding the reader’s ingestion of the given word group.”
“I always felt, if I can get to a library, I’ll be OK.” - Maya Angelou
If for some reason you can’t get to your local library but still want helpful answers, go to AskRI.org to call, email, or chat with a reference librarian.
"On Saturdays when I was a young girl, my mother would drive me downtown to the Santa Cruz Public Library. Often, she would drop me off; leave me there for hours. And I was completely content to wander aimlessly, pulling books from the endless shelves. I would get myself into a small spell, walking and gathering books. Then, I’d find myself a quiet corner to sit and there, I would lose myself inside the portal of a book.
"Years later, I am, again, in the library, this time, the Aptos Public Library. I am in the children’s reading room kneeling before a round wooden table upon which sits a fake board game, The Phantom Tollbooth. Here is how the game goes: I pick up a card, and whichever book is listed on its backside, that is the book I will read. I spend a week inside the kingdom of this book and then, when my mother returns me to the library, the next Saturday, I tell the librarian which books I’ve read, and she takes me by the hand and escorts me back to the magic round table, back to the board game. She disappears for a moment and then returns with a form with my name on the top. She adds the books I read that week to the long list, instructs me to spin the spinner and then I pick up a new card, and flip it over.
"The pretty librarian takes my hand and leads me across the room to a shelf where she pauses, leans into the books and pulls out a beautiful red book with a black horse’s face on it. Black Beauty.
"She hands me the book, the key, and I open it, and then I drop under as I enter the beautiful kingdom again."
Today is Poem in Your Pocket day (yes, really), an occasion I would have let pass by totally unrecognized if not for my colleagues. My poem? Fellow native Washingtonian Thomas Sayers Ellis’s “Roll Call,” a poem about names—one of my favorite subjects.
Your LJ tumblrer’s poem today, currently stuffed in the her back pocket of her jeans.
Selected by editor Emily Fragos, LETTERS: EMILY DICKINSON (Everyman’s Library. 2011. ISBN 9780307597045. $13.50) offers significant glimpses into the poet’s engagement with the natural world. Arranged by topic and then chronological order, the slim volume (part of the “Pocket Poets” series) traces Dickinson’s occupations and time line. These lyrically written, sometimes elliptical letters to her family and friends are vividly descriptive, include snippets of poetry, and depict Dickinson’s innermost thoughts and feelings. The collection serves as a basic introduction to Dickinson’s life from her school days in 1845 to the last four words sent to her cousins just before her death in May 1886.
Lullabies, skate punks, video games, black Southern roots. The fierce cat within, the fierce journey without. All-powerful queens and time-eating spiders. All in language brightly accessible or twistingly different. That’s what I found with colleague Annalisa Pesek when we went hunting for spring poetry publications, beyond what we are able to review in the magazine, that we believe really matter. Read these poets now, watch them for tomorrow.