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Corinne Manning on The James Franco Review

A few years ago I got some feedback on a novel that ended up changing my approach to everything I've written since. I was told by an editor that a book I'd written was moving into LGBT genre territory and it might isolate mainstream audiences. It occurred to me that I thought that I had been writing to a mainstream audience, I'd already been censoring how I truly wanted to write.  MORE

 
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Anne Shaw on "Shatter and Thrust as a Series of Silver Gelatin Prints"

One of the interesting things about the poem--to me, anyway--is that it was semi-planned. Although I worked through many drafts, from the start I had a sense of what its structure would be and what I wanted it to contain. To be specific, I knew that I wanted to write a long poem in couplets that was organized around if/then statements. MORE

 
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On Christopher Marlowe's “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love”

You love John Keats. I do too. He revolutionized the art, died young, left a lot of masterful poetry unwritten, was good-looking and tubercular: Keats!

But Christopher Marlowe left a lot of poetry unwritten too. MORE

 
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James Laughlin, Publisher & Poet

Born handsome, brilliant, and rich, all his life James Laughlin courted the art of self-effacement. But even as he practiced disappearance, a behind-the-scenes master rather than a public  figure, he, more than any other person of the twentieth century, directed the course of American writing and crested the waves of American passions and preoccupations. His life is mirrored in his friendships and in the careers of the many writers he championed. MORE

 
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Thomas Meyer on "Airs Waters Places"

Several years ago I read Thomas MacEvilley's Structure of Ancient Thought. A book a friend gave me for Christmas. Not sure but think MacEvilley mentions there Hippocrates's "On Airs, Waters and Places." The title struck my ear, but got compressed.  "Airs Waters Places." Eventually I did a "tracing" of it, a translation, sort of, all its simple, lovely pieces pared down, arranged with an occasional aside. MORE

 
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Paige Taggart on an excerpt from "Sorry As The Flame For No Other Fire"

The poems are largely about love, and destroying the past experiences of love in order to arrive at a clean slate and a new hope to embrace love. It's baby clean love, it's baby no, I've never loved/been loved this way before. "The crescendo of love being arrival," we arrive at a clearer point of existence on the spectrum of our lives in order to love anew. MORE

 
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Anthony McCann on "Mouth Guitar"

As some may recall, February 2013 was marked in Los Angeles by the "manhunt" for an ex-LAPD officer named Christopher Dorner. Dorner, unable to find justice for what he saw as his unfair dismissal from the force for filing an allegedly false report accusing another officer of brutality, had taken up arms against his erstwhile comrades and their kin. MORE

 
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Erika Meitner on “Porto, Portare, Portavi, Portatus”

How do we approach the seemingly unspeakable through language? As a writer, there are things that are easier for me to write about, and feelings or experiences that are so difficult to articulate that they become long stretches of silence. MORE

 
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Emerson Dameron on Weird Deer

Travis Nichols started Weird Deer in 2005 as a Blogspot account, and the concept hasn't changed since. He at some point wanted to start a record label for poetry, but decided that an archive of voice mails might be easier for everyone involved. It really took off in the late aughties, when Travis worked for the Poetry Foundation and made some big connections who contributed. Then it lay dormant for a couple of years because of his other obligations. MORE

 
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A.E. Watkins on “Allerton in Winter IV”

I started the "Allerton in Winter" poems during the first semester of my MFA program and continued tinkering with them while taking Brenda Hillman's class on the Arcades Project. Walter Benjamin's unfinished work – an assemblage of aphoristic observations and quotations – would irrevocably shape my writing and thought.  MORE

 
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Jenny Sadre-Orafai on “We Can Be Anything We Couldn’t Be

I didn't think prank at first. I didn't really think anything beyond the image—a baby grand piano resting on a sandbar in Biscayne Bay. Sixteen-year-old Nicholas Harrington said it wasn't a prank. He said it was "more of a movement." I thought then, on January 25, 2011, youth. I thought of being fearless and reckless and so full of ideas MORE

 
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The Editors on Smoking Glue Gun

In 2011 we had just graduated from LSU, where we were involved in multiple reading series and literary outputs. We were leaving a buzzing, excited community of self-publishers & arts events, and we weren't sure if we'd continue in academia. We wanted to find a way to stay connected to publishing, writing, and organizing community events. We were also surrounded by young, talented, mostly unpublished writers & wanted to create a venue to showcase their work outside the Baton Rouge area. MORE

 
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Four poems by Kajal Ahmad, translated from the Kurdish

Translating these poems is an act of archaeology. I work with co-translators, unearthing with raw strikes of the shovel until I can see the lines of the poem and switch to gentle brushes. When I first saw the shape of this poem, the shape of its idea, my mind began to echo with its nothingness. MORE

 
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Brooklyn Book Festival

The PSA Poets Laureate event at the Brooklyn Book Festival on Sunday, September 21 drew a large, receptive audience snugly assembled on the steps of Borough Hall. The following pictures by Lawrence Schwartzwald (who will soon be featured in Poetry Magazine with a portfolio of his work) convey the sweet and celebratory air of the event. Rita Dove, former U.S.Poet Laureate, Marie Howe, current State Poet for New York, Tina Chang, Poet Laureate of Broolyn, and Ramya Ramana, New York City Youth Poet Laureate are pictured below on stage. MORE

 
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Wendy S. Walters on "The Oakland County Child Killer, 1977"

Troy, Michigan is a collection of sonnets inspired by the city map of my hometown—I wanted to represent the rectangle shapes repeated throughout of the city plan.  I chose the sonnet form because younger writers often use it when they attempt to become a poet.  Even though I no longer qualify as a younger poet, this book was also about bringing to life a version of myself from the past to try to make sense of the landscape that had shaped my understanding of both safety and danger. MORE

 
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Claudia Keelan On “Continuous Acts”

"Continuous Acts" comes near the end of O, Heart a verse-drama rooted in the utterance of an omniscient or all knowing narrator, never named, who speaks on behalf of the woman, the main character in the book. All of the poems posit and argue the main questions in the piece, i.e. what comprises what we call the human heart, how can we know our "heart's truths," and how the answers to those questions by women and men provide differences in kind historically to the question of sincerity. The main "drama" is the dialogue—between what we call the humanities and what we call science, and the inconclusive answers provided from both disciplines.   MORE

 
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Sommer Browning on "Federal Holiday"

I started writing this poem on a Columbus Day. At the time, I was working for the federal government as a contractor. I had the day off because Columbus Day is a federal holiday and our building was closed, but I didn't get paid because the contractor did not recognize that holiday. It's a screwed up situation.  MORE

 
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Sean Bishop on Better

I started building Better in early 2012, about a year and a half after finishing my two-year gig as the managing editor of Gulf Coast. I just missed being an editor, basically, and I wanted to get back into it, to push further with what I'd learned and accomplished back at the University of Houston. MORE

 
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Brian Blanchfield on "The City State"

"The City State" is something of an homage to Guy Davenport. In "The Trees at Lystra," the opening story in his collection, Eclogues, Davenport recasts from a Greek adolescent's perspective the New Testament story in the Book of Acts in which Paul and his companion come portentously to the lively village to inveigh against polytheism and are mistaken ironically for Zeus and Hermes. MORE

 
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Jennifer Michael Hecht on "The Spider"

The poem is what I call a "transliteration" —a meaningful sound-alike—of William Blake's classic poem, "The Tyger." I was in the middle of writing Who Said, my third book of poems, which is full of poems in direct conversation with an iconic poem. Many of them are also transliterations, or are other kinds of odd translations. MORE

 
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Erica Wright on Guernica

Stop me if you've heard this one before: Two friends walk into a bar named Guernica. It's true—founders Michael Archer and Joel Whitney once organized readings at their favorite watering hole, but soon outgrew this format. Along with Joshua Jones and Elizabeth Onusko, they decided to turn their increasingly popular events into a journal, so that the conversations emerging could be preserved. The bar name stuck since it spoke to their mission, exploring the intersection of art and politics. Guernica Magazine celebrates its ten-year anniversary this year. MORE

 
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Stefania Heim on "A Third Party Who Says Me"

I don't think that I will ever get over the feeling of looking out the window of a flying airplane. It isn't so much that it's shocking—which of course it is, if you think about it. It's that it's so interesting. Part ant colony, part lit-up window of a stranger's house, the earth, arrayed and displayed 30,000 feet below, scintillates. It rivets. My experience of crossing over our planet's populated landmasses is a meditation on how people cluster and spread. It is a treatise on what we mean to each other.  MORE

 
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On “Ode to a Nightingale” by John Keats

Poetry speaks to those of us who hear it across vast distances of time, culture, and personal identity. If I didn't believe this, there would be little for me that explains how a poem by an 18th century Englishman would so profoundly impact a 20th century Jamaican-American woman. I'm speaking, of course, of the well-known poem, "Ode to a Nightingale," by John Keats and, the unknown story of my 18-year old self's discovery of the same as a first-year college student in Miami in 1990—almost two centuries after Keats' had written the poem, in the spring of 1819, when he may already have sensed that he was dying. MORE

 
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In remembrance of June 4, 1989, and the events of Tiananmen Square, poems by Liu Xia and Liu Xiaobo

Liu Xia (b. 1961) is a Chinese poet and artist, born and raised in Beijing. She worked as an editor and then a civil servant for the Beijing tax bureau until she quit the job in 1992. Liu Xia started writing poetry in 1982 and has continued to this day.

As wife of the imprisoned Noble Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo (b. 1955), some of Liu Xia's work needs to be read from the context of the political situation in China and her personal experiences. She met Liu Xiaobo in the 1980s at a literary gathering and married him when he was imprisoned in 1996 (so that she could visit him in prison legally as she explained). Liu Xiaobo was first put in jail from June 1989 to January 1991 due to his involvement with the June 4th student movement. He was detained without trial from May 1995 to February 1996, then sentenced to three-year imprisonment from October 1996 to October 1999, and finally given an eleven-year term in December 2008. Liu Xia herself has been under house arrest since 2010. MORE

 
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Joy Katz on “Excuse Me, Where is Varick Street?”

I began to draft this poem when I lived in New York, after one of many times someone stopped me and asked for directions.

The draft began as a conversation between me and an "offstage" character. Almost a monologue, but not quite. What drove me to the page is that I felt helplessly pleasant when asked for assistance. The sensation was awful on some level. I look like a nice, unthreatening person. And I am. Yet something about that is slightly intolerable. I kept writing to try to understand why. It has to do with power—power is at play in this poem. I am far from being a power-hungry person, but where is the line between helpfulness and manipulation? That question seemed the burning center of the writing. MORE

 
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Lee Yew Leong on Asymptote

Asymptote debuted in January 2011. Right from the start, it was conceived as an international journal that would present the best writing from all around the world—running the gamut of literary genres: fiction, non-fiction, poetry, drama, visual art, criticism, and interviews. The first issue saw work from 15 languages and included new translations of Aimé Césaire, Habib Tengour, Ko Un as well as a Swedish Poetry Special Feature—and this is just to mention the poetry MORE

 
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A Painter Among Poets: Trevor Winkfield

Trevor Winkfield is a painter, writer, and translator. Winkfield was born in Leeds, England, in 1944, and has lived in New York since 1969. He exhibits his paintings at Tibor de Nagy Gallery, New York. He is the editor and translator of Raymond Roussel's How I Wrote Certain of My Books and Other Writings (Exact Change, revised edition 2005) and has worked collaboratively on books with the poets John Ashbery, Kenward Elmslie, Barbara Guest,  Harry Mathews, Ron Padgett, and John Yau, among others.

His art writings—including essays on John Graham, Jasper Johns, Gerald Murphy, Florine Stettheimer, and Vermeer—were recently published as Georges Braque and Others: The Selected Art Writings of Trevor Winkfield, 1990–2009 (The Song Cave, 2014). MORE

 
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Elaine Bleakney on “For Another Writing Back”

I wrote most of For Another Writing Back during the first year of my son's life. Motherhood created an urgent narrative situation in me: I had to write about my life. I wrote fast—it felt fast—and under the ardent sign of motherhood I chased subjects I'd glossed or abstracted or left out of previous poems MORE

 
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Louise Labé: A conversation with translator Richard Sieburth and editor Jeffrey Yang

Each edition of Richard Sieburth's astonishing translations of French and German literature has resituated and recreated the original work into a lasting book of English prose and verse—Friedrich Hölderlin's late Hymns and Fragments, Gérard de Nerval's Selected Writings and his novel The Salt Smugglers (a publication that even echoes the typographical layout of its original left-wing feuilleton newspaper publication), Nostradamus's Prophecies, the Délieof Maurice Scève, among many others. In the same spirit of reinvention, Sieburth's new edition of French Renaissance poet Louise Labé was just published by NYRB/Poets. Jeffrey Yang, who was the in-house editor for the book, as well as for Sieburth's edited volume of Ezra Pound's New Selected Poems and Translations, talks with the master translator about Louise Labé. MORE

 
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Joshua Marie Wilkinson on “Fortnight’s Insignia”

My dad is not a poetry reader. He reads nonfiction mostly. He's a Timothy Egan and Malcolm Gladwell fan, to name two. But when he came for a visit to Tucson this month, right after my new book, The Courier's Archive & Hymnal, had come out, he read it one morning before I awoke.  MORE

 
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The Editors on Radar

Radar was born over a bottle of Prosecco and an order of General Tso's tofu in Princeton, New Jersey in the summer of 2013. At the dining room table, we began to map the project by instinct, acting on our own wish lists as readers of journals and on our shared vision as editors and poets. (We are fortunate that Rachel is a freelance web designer and could take on the technical aspects of the work.)  We started from scratch, without referencing other journals or websites. MORE

 
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On "Wild Nights"

I don't know how old I was when I first saw a poem of Emily Dickinson's; I was in a classroom.  I learned that her punctuation had been altered and then restored.  I also learned that she wore white and was in love with god. MORE

 
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Rachel Zucker on [taking away taking away everything]

I wrote "[taking away taking everything away]" in response to an assignment I gave my graduate students at NYU. I was teaching a course I called "Terms of Engagement." In this workshop the students wrote new poems every week in response to various modes of engagement including: ekphrastic, kinetic, narrative, collaborative, textual, hypnopoetic, historical, social, political. The first mode we considered was ekphrastic. For this assignment I asked students to write poems in response to "Matisse: In Search of True Painting," an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The College Group at the Met (with whom I'd worked before, on another poetry project) had agreed to host a public reading of the poems that my students would write in response to this show.  MORE

 
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Gary Miranda on Translating Rainer Maria Rilke’s Duino Elegies

A translation, whatever else it might be, is an attempt to recreate an experience. The tricky question is, whose experience? The German of Rainer Maria Rilke's Duino Elegies would have sounded very different to one of his contemporaries than it does to a modern German's ear, just as we recognize, say, Keats's language as being from an earlier period. Do you try to make Rilke sound slightly archaic to reproduce the experience that a modern German might have of the original, or do you try to find an equivalent for the experience that a German-speaking contemporary of Rilke might have had?  MORE

 
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Vijay Seshadri on "The Descent of Man"

I wrote "The Descent of Man" after a long layoff from writing—or, to be more accurate, from trying to write, which is largely what I do. Poems written after a long layoff in my case usually turn out baroque, or more baroque than ones that are the result of working habitually MORE

 
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Julia Cohen on "Call Me a Grown-Up but My Five Eyes Blink at Once"

My childhood was built atop an apple orchard. Or rather, my childhood home was constructed on what used to be a former orchard. A single crab apple tree in our backyard remains. My friend Katie and I (both of us six years old) were digging in the backyard when we discovered a buried trash heap that must have been quite old.  MORE

 
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Catherine Barnett on Emily Dickinson

Sundays this New York City cafe fills up and empties according to the bells that ring from the neighboring church; weekdays according to the cops' schedule. I come here almost every day to work alone in the company of others. These hours get me through the week; they're essential to the sense of discovery and possibility for which I long. But why choose to sit at the table with only books? I often have Beckett with me; sometimes Stevens; always Dickinson, whose familiar face I was surprised to see gazing back at me last July from the shelves of a lovely tiny bookstore in the 20th arrondissement in Paris. MORE

 
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Wendy Xu on "Several Altitudes of Not Talking"

This poem contains one of my favorite ways to think and talk about poetry: "a game called all of this is hypothetical."

It also happens to be the very first poem in my first book You Are Not Dead—first firsts seem particularly pleasurable. In the summer of 2011, when I wrote this poem, I had moved across the country to Western Massachusetts for poetry school. Living in the midst of relentless new was both overwhelming and productiveI'd never before so consciously watched other people, inhabiting all manner of physical space, for seemingly no reason at all.  MORE

 
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Jillian Weise on "Semi Semi Dash"

Usually it goes like this: Able-bodied poet evokes disabled veteran, or friend in some accident/illness, or figurative language thereof. We recognize these poems and we feel bad. We have been reading these poems since the Bible. It has gotten a little ridiculous, lately, with poems that use amputation as metaphor for Fragmentation or the Dead Father or Pick-Your-Sadness. MORE

 
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On Anne Bradstreet

I have always been attracted to double-mindedness, to art that appears to think, rather than to assert.  As a reader, I am suspended in ambivalence, in feeling strongly in multiple, conflicting directions.  For the poets I admire, death is hideous and transcendent.  God is enormous, terrifying, beautiful, and non-existent at once. This is to say that my favorite poems—and, I'd argue, most great poems—suggest minds at work on unsolvable problems. MORE

 
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Mary Ann Caws on Pierre Reverdy

Pierre Reverdy is among the greatest of modern French poets, and certainly among the most elusive. His work is at once impersonal and intimate, crystalline and opaque, simple to the point of austerity. The landscape of his poetry is both instantly recognizable and, devoid of local specificity, imbued with an otherworldly strangeness. He is "a secret poet for secret readers," as Octavio Paz once described him, insisting on the necessity of parsing the silence, the empty spaces between what seems visible in the lines of his poems. Each feels like a fragment of a universe, and yet whole. MORE

 
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Yona Harvey on "Schottelkotte"

"They used to call him 'Blood and Guts Al,'" my father says about the newscaster who haunted my Cincinnati childhood, Al Schottelkotte.  We're in my parents' living room, the day after my poetry reading at the University of Cincinnati.  My father tells me this bit of information, though, after my first book, Hemming the Water, has been published, after my mother asks why I wrote this poem.  "Artistic" and "domestic" lives mingle.  In truth, there's no separation; only one brain, one life, and that's how I've learned to write my poems. MORE

 
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Katie Peterson on "Spring"

The same poem can serve several purposes. At my most single-minded, I began to understand this, against my will, in the years after my mother left the earth on May 22nd, 2008. For a time (and I'm not sure whether this time has actually ended, or will ever end) everything that felt like poetry also naturally resembled mourning. But poetry attaches itself to the present moment, and the present moment quickly became full of other sensations.  MORE

 
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Garrett Caples on Philip Lamantia

When we were working on the just-published Collected Poems of Philip Lamantia (University of California, 2013), Andrew Joron and I visited Michael McClure to talk about their friendship at the turn of the '60s.  And we were both forcibly struck by McClure's remark, apropos the readers at the famous Six Gallery reading in 1955, "We all looked to Philip," pointing out that, going into the event—aside from Kenneth Rexroth, the evening's emcee—Lamantia was by far the most famous and experienced poet, the only one with a book (Erotic Poems [Bern Porter, 1946]), not to mention extensive magazine and journal publication, from View in the early '40s to the New Directions annual in the early '50s.  MORE

 
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On the Vulgate Bible

I sang in Latin almost every Sunday for two years before I knew what any of the words meant.

Ecclesiastical Latin (then Classical, then Medieval) taught me compression in a way that was at first mysterious. I believe I loved the words more before I knew what they meant, when I was a chorister with vague sentiments and excellent pronunciation. Then, after Latin became my primary course of study in college, I came to love the liturgy as one comes again to love in a long marriage, after you know what all the words mean. MORE

 
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On John Donne

When a friend asked me the other day, Who was the poet you first fell in love with? I had to pause a moment. Poetry meant very little to me when I was young. I loved getting lost in novels; I learned how to think by reading and acting in plays.  And thinking, especially when tethered to feeling, was fun. But poems weren't yet alive for me; I didn't know what to do with them. Until, that is, I encountered the poems of John Donne. MORE

 
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On Basho

Sometimes the world feels weighty to us, like Atlas' burden, sometimes almost lark-light, unbearably sweet; Basho, the peripatetic 17th century Japanese poet, had a knack for distilling, in terse language, our seemingly contradictory sense of the world as onus and the world as gift. MORE

 
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On Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass

I could drop my finger anywhere in Leaves of Grass—preferably the 1860 edition, less formless than the giddy first, far less bloated or smoothed over than the mighty last—and find a concrete reminder, when I need one, which I often do, of why I've bent my life around poetry, a practice which, in an off minute, when life is grinding down upon me with too many of its ugly knuckles, can seem needlessly indulgent, if not ridiculous. MORE

 
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Adrian Matejka On “The Shadow Knows”

Jack Johnson, the first African American heavyweight champion, was one of the greatest mythmakers of the early 20th century. His skill in the ring and personality out of it were so outsized that almost anything he claimed seemed possible. When he said he hoboed from Galveston to New York City alone at age 12, everyone believed him. When he said he fought a 25-foot shark with nothing but his fists, no one questioned it. MORE

 
 

Upcoming Events

 

THE NEW SALON: READINGS AND CONVERSATIONS r. erica doyle and Angela Jackson, with Alice Quinn

Monday, Nov 24, 7:00pm

New York, NY

r. erica doyle was born in Brooklyn to Trinidadian immigrant parents. Her first book, proxy (Belladonna*, 2013) was the recipient of the Norma Farber First Book Award from the Poetry Society of America and a Lambda Literary Award Finalist. Her poetry and fiction appear in various journals, including Ploughshares, Callaloo, Bloom, Blithe House Quarterly, and Sinister Wisdom. She is a fellow of Cave Canem and an educator in the New York City public schools. MORE
 

THE PSA READINGS AT MCNALLY JACKSON L. Lamar Wilson, Wendy Xu, and Rachel Zucker

Tuesday, Dec 2, 7:00pm

New York, NY

Sacrilegion (2013), L. Lamar Wilson's first book, was selected by Lee Ann Brown as the 2012 winner of the Carolina Wren Press Poetry Series, named a finalist for the Publishing Triangle's Thom Gunn Award, and awarded an Independent Publishing Group bronze medal; Prime, a collection of poems and interviews with the Phantastique Five, was published this year. Wilson's poems have appeared or are forthcoming in such journals and anthologies as Callaloo, jubilat, The 100 Best African American Poems, and Please Excuse This Poem: 100 New Poems for the Next Generation. A Cave Canem graduate fellow, Wilson is completing a doctorate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in African American and multi-ethnic American poetics. MORE
 

An Actors' Reading of Bertolt Brecht's Love Poems Directed by Tony Kushner

Thursday, Dec 4, 6:00pm

New York, NY

In a stunning New Yorker piece from 1956, Hannah Arendt declared that Brecht "staked his life and art as few poets have ever done." MORE