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SEPTIMA is interested in names, and she has changed her own a few times. At first, of course, a poem has no name—but when it finally acquires that object of language to signify an individual identity—that's when it really starts to become a poem. So for me, names and titles are an important part of the writing process: they help get to know a poem, a book, or a series, to let it grow into a real thing. MORE

 
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EIGHT NEW-GENERATION AFRICAN POETS

The African Poetry Book Fund is a project  that seeks to undermine the easy ways of reducing Africa to notions that do not recognize the complexity and variety of experiences and practices that constitute poetry written by Africans. In many ways, it would be tempting to try to offer some definitive statement about what African poetry is, but this would be a silly thing to attempt, and, at the end of the day, such exercises belong to our colleagues in academia and not to us in our capacity as editors.  MORE

 
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Kenji C. Liu on “So that you are always sir, dear sir”

The 2014 mass kidnapping and murder of 43 teachers' college students in Ayotzinapa, Mexico brought renewed international attention to the ongoing precariousness of life under the country's dirty war, its "narco-politics." Sadly, many of us in the United States usually know very little about what's happening in other countries, even though our tax dollars are often directly connected. Money, the quiet fascia of state violences. How easy it can be to be gently seduced by USAmerican comfort and privilege. MORE

 
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Kyle Dargan on "Fool's Therapy"

As I mention in the author's note for Honest Engine, I wrote this book while wading through a torrent of bereavement that started with my grandmother's passing and ending with my college roommate being negligently run over by vehicles involved in a police chase. MORE

 
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An Interview with K.T. Billey

'Vulgar' has obscene connotations but it also pertains to the masses, the quotidian. In a culture that separates us from our bodies yet obsesses over sex, vulgar has come to be smarmy—negative. But we're in these bodies every day. Embodiment is the foundation we have in common. MORE

 
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Niina Pollari on "Do You Feel Tenderness"

When I was a young kid, I had to take a school physical. My mother came in with me, and the errand was supposed to be quick, but I refused to undress. The doctor and my mother didn't force me to do anything,  MORE

 
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Barbara Claire Freeman on "Every Day But Tuesday"

The title comes from teaching a poetry workshop at UC Berkeley during the Occupy movement. The class met late on Tuesday afternoons and its beginning coincided with the arrival of media helicopters circling and re-circling overhead, hosing the campus in spotlights to be televised on the nightly news.  MORE

 
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Claire Donato on "The Second Body"


1. I don't normally close read my skin.

2. My first impulse is to close read the poem. MORE

 
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Ginger Ko on "The afternoon, and other places too"

This poem was written with some anger, during a time when all my poems were rebuttals to anticipated put-downs and critiques, especially the ones scaffolded by racism and misogyny. I was getting frustrated with my writing and my voice, feeling suffocated by an ingested, self-reproducing colonization in my bloodstream.  MORE

 
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Meghan Privitello on "The Problem is How"

There are poems that answer questions, and there are poems that take you further into the question without any hope for an exit, an exhale, a reckoning. This is a poem without hope of finding its way out. MORE

 
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Khaty Xiong on "Pork Rinds, Watered Rice"

Born and raised in the Central Valley of California, I spent many sweltering summers picking vegetables with my parents; for years it had been one of the main sources of income for our family. We'd go to other people's farms (mostly relatives) and pick green beans or Thai chilies, hauling buckets and boxes from dawn to dusk MORE

 
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Laura Sims on "Staying Alive"

I'm always drawn to contemplating extreme states—of being and mind—and the post-apocalyptic world offers instant access to extremity. For those of us on Earth who don't already know poverty, hunger and habitual discomfort, an apocalypse could mean a complete overthrow of the comfortable life we know now, one that reduces us to our most basic skills and instincts. MORE

 
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Patrick Rosal on "Ars Poetica: After a Dog"

"Ars Poetica: After a Dog" is a parable about sound. I imagine there are many readers who miss the primary prosodic constraint of this poem—the strict decasyllabic line. Let me come back to this. MORE

 
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Amanda Nadelberg on "The Victory Portfolios"

I am forever mishearing and misreading surroundings, it's how I edit (others and myself), it's how I practice living and tell jokes and in this small suite I let the method be clearer, I showed my work. Humor is that tracking. Palimpsests are proof of that work. MORE

 
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Jay Deshpande on “To Body What’s Around Me”

"To Body What's Around Me" is a love poem with a problem: it does not clarify who the You of its address is. At moments it feels like a beloved other: "These are the days in which you come to me…" But at other moments that You is not quite human, not quite beloved. MORE

 
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Jynne Dilling Martin on "Out of Whose Womb Came the Ice?"

During my stay in Antarctica, I met a woman who'd spent several years teaching Yup'ik children in Alaska. Joolee told me how baffling the Common Core curriculum had been for the elementary school kids: they had no reference point for a cow, a lawn mower, a grandfather clock. MORE

 
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On George Oppen's "Of Being Numerous"

I was 23 and self-effacing, my hair in a tight bun, when I read these lines, out of George Oppen's Of Being Numerous. I read them on my hour or so ride on the Q train, when I went to teach Brighton Beach community college students who had failed their basic reading and writing exam. That season, in which one of my students left obscene phrases on torn pieces of paper on my desk, I tried to teach poetry to him and the others and sometimes succeeded. MORE

 
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Abdul Ali on "Holy"

This poem began as an ars poetica. A glorified play on words. I wanted to riff about words and how they haunt us in our sleep. Or, better yet, when a poem writes you. What is the responsibility of the both-eyes-wide-open poet? How do we access freedom in language in discussing topics many audiences would rather not hear about, such as racialized violence? MORE

 
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Monica Fambrough on "Request"


When I wrote this poem, I lived in a narrow house perched at the top of a hill in the Leschi neighborhood of Seattle, Washington. I was a newlywed, and it was an extraordinarily hopeful place to live.  MORE

 
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A Selection of Marcel Broodthaers's Poetry

The artist and poet Marcel Broodthaers (1924-1976) is the subject of a major retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, February 11 – May 15, 2016, the artist's first museum retrospective in New York. Coinciding with this retrospective Siglio press has recently published a stunning volume containing two of Broodthaers's books of poetry translated from the French by Elizabeth Zuba and Maria Gilissen Broodthaers.  MORE

 
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Kimberly Grey on "Wound! Out from Behind Two Crouching Masses of the World the Word Leapt"

"The things you think of to link are not in your own control. It's just who you are, bumping into the world. But how you link them is what shows the nature of your mind. Individuality resides in the way links are made." Anne Carson said this. I'm interested in the relationship between language and the mind. And so the mind's relationship to meaning. MORE

 
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Andrew Davis on Osip Mandelstam's Voronezh Notebooks

This section is the turning point of Osip Mandelstam's long poem Voronezh Notebooks, the Continental Divide from which the waters of the poem descend, imperceptibly at first, but ineluctably, in opposed directions. On the one side a reflexive, desperate assertion of his old prerogatives as a poet, now impossible; on the other a sort of acceptance, and an eerie contemplation of the future. MORE

 
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Derrick Austin on “Blaxploitation”

"Blaxploitation" begins with an episode of Taxicab Confessions. Visiting home from college, I caught this particular episode one sleepless night: two black gay men talking about fraught and humiliating sexual encounters they'd had with white men.  MORE

 
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Fiona Sze-Lorrain on "Towering"

I have always been intrigued by ancient Greek cosmological views, in particular the apeiron.  In a cosmic infinity, what exists at random and what survives by error?  Is the idea of a cosmic infinity still relevant to a human sense of self—can it help us to confront our present-day violence? MORE

 
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Michael Robins on "Pseudonymously Yours"

In April 2010, I write and exchange a daily poem with Adam Clay. Often the poems are quick and sent before the day's responsibilities; other days are fits and starts, culminating in an email sent minutes before midnight. Weeks are no luxury, nor the shaping of multiple drafts. April spills forward and poetry becomes a serious addiction. MORE

 
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Ben Fama on "Conscripts of Modernity"

Poetry is a losing context.

The shooting at my college was in 2007. I tried to write about it for years after in a subjective, direct way, and failed. In 2011 my workplace held a workshop—Active Shooting Training. Making notes, reminding myself how to survive, on a campus in a lecture room at a much different place and time, hearing the sort of matter of fact instruction that confronted a new gruesome reality was the only slant, cold, way I could approach the topic, so I just transcribed it. That language indicates more about the experience than any more direct attempts I had been making. MORE

 
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Alissa Quart on "Palm Springs At the End of the Mind"

It was the time of the fiercest battles in Iraq, the early days of the forever war. All around us, there was a new language— "homeland," "Operation Iraqi Freedom," an argot of fear pouring out of television anchors and sometimes even our public intellectuals, turned overnight into macho men on death drive.  MORE

 
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Margaret Ross on "A Timeshare"

When I think of the soul, I think of furniture. The two occupy a similar place in life, so domestic as to be mostly ignored and thereby capable of seeming totally surprising and alien when looked at closely. MORE

 
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Christian Schlegel on "Peter" and "St. Peter's Hymn"

It's funny: now that I look at Honest James, and imagine myself back into the poems' different inceptions, I have trouble separating fact from fiction. Or: is it all fiction? Could I tell many plausible-sounding stories about the composition of each? MORE

 
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Lia Purpura on "Belief"

The poems in my new collection It Shouldn't Have Been Beautifulshare a common way of entering the world: most were struck into being by a charged phrase or moment, a zap of understanding—and the desire to leave the "I" behind as much as possible and to be on stage only very briefly. MORE

 
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Sandra Simonds on "I Grade Online Humanities Tests"

This poem is about a bourgeois woman caught between two men: one, the uneducated mechanic she is having an affair with and the other, the educated father of her children. This poem is about a woman who wants to find a man who would make her feel anonymous, outside of her personal history, outside of her education, outside of her marriage and profession. MORE

 
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Kit Schluter on Jaime Saenz's The Cold

The following poems are the first two sections from Bolivian poet Jaime Saenz's 9-part 1967 long poem, El frío, as translated from the Spanish by Kit Schluter under the title of The Cold, and recently published by Poor Claudia. The subsequent prose excerpt is the final two paragraphs of Schluter's afterword to the translation, written in direct and intimate address of Saenz himself, over thresholds of distance, language, and mortality. MORE

 
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Hilary Vaughn Dobel on translating Carlos Pintado's "Mudras"

I am a poet; I am a translator. It is something else entirely to be both of those things at once, which is why I initially (and forcefully) resisted translating poetry. When I look at my English-language version of "Mudras" from Carlos Pintado's wonderful book, Nine Coins, it's hard to see past the music of the original and the imperfections of my own. MORE

 
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Anne Boyer on "Science Fiction”

There is so much missing here. First, it might be important to tell you that this poem was once a novel. The novel is now missing, of course, and the missing novel begins with this missing quote by Hannah Arendt: "the freedom to call something into being, which did not exist before, which was not given, not even as an object of cognition or imagination, and which, therefore, strictly speaking, could not be known." MORE

 
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EIGHT NEW-GENERATION AFRICAN POETS

The plan is simple, as publishing plans go. Publish seven to ten chapbooks by African poets each year. Promote said chapbooks. In ten years there will be seventy to one hundred chapbooks by African poets that might not have existed before. Oh, and make sure the work is first-rate, representative, and new. This plan only works if there are seven to ten really gifted African poets who have not yet had a major publication. MORE

 
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Betsy Fagin on "new old forest: infrastructure"

I'm fascinated by the idea of "new old" and the consumerist mentality that underpins it, the belief that everything is disposable and replaceable, that anything old can be recreated. What about old growth forests? How shall we remake those? It will certainly require a great deal of planning, and that must begin with infrastructure. MORE

 
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Monica McClure on an excerpt from "Tender Data"

When I first started thinking of what to write about this poem, attempting to formulate cogent thoughts—usually while jogging in the June heat—that would theorize and illuminate this poem of memory clots and digressions and non-sequiturs that, as the title poem of the book, promises to hold the major themes together, I became really stressed out. Like really stressed. MORE

 
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Jasper Bernes on an excerpt from We Are Nothing and So Can You

I wrote this section in my final year of work on We Are Nothing and So Can You, around the time of the first wave of riots in Ferguson (August 2014). I was hugely inspired by the determination and consistency of the people out in the streets there. Whereas other popular eruptions in response to anti-black police murder would often dissipate after a few days, the people in Ferguson kept coming out, night after night, for weeks.  MORE

 
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Natalie Eilbert on “Imprecation”

The word was first introduced to me in a workshop by the brilliant poet, Dawn Marie Knopf, and it means a spoken curse. It was irresistible as a conceit, but I didn't touch it for years. Imprecation. I grew up sealed shut, ashamed of my body, ashamed to speak. From imprecari, to invoke, call down upon.  MORE

 
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Bridgette Bates on an excerpt from What Is Not Missing Is Light

In the past, we traveled to unknown cities, loaded our cameras with a roll of film, smiled and said "cheese," hoping a set of 24 photographs would expose a beautiful  journey. Time and time again, I returned home from such trips eager to see what images I had captured, and upon developing my photos was surprised to find I had taken significantly more pictures of unknown pieces of art from inside a museum than of the usual landmarks and landscapes. MORE

 
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ire'ne lara silva on "shame: a ghazal in pieces"

I love the elegance and music of ghazals and wanted the inventiveness of language that a ghazal's rhyme scheme demands. But not only do I suffer from the need to rebel against rules—even the ones I set for myself—I also found that the lilting rhythm of the ghazal was at loggerheads with my sense of indignation. Finally, I let the ferocity I felt explode the ghazal structure while retaining the ghazal-inspired language. MORE

 
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Morgan Parker on "Apology with Pearls On"

This poem started when a friend challenged me to write something "elegant." On G-chat, I followed his suggestion with a "lol." Elegance is something my poems never aspire to. I write about disappointing one night stands, peeing on street corners at night, getting too drunk to hide how I feel. As a woman, I almost cringe at the idea of being elegant, weary from men on the street telling me to smile and averse to anything that insists I "behave" or be "lady-like."  MORE

 
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Julie Carr on an excerpt from "Rag"

The central concern of Rag is violence against women and girls as it surfaces in film, fairy tale, daily life, the news. Against that, I wanted to record intimacies of all kinds, but especially between children and parents and between friends, as a response, maybe an answer, to such threat MORE

 
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Selections from the Murty Classical Library of India

The Murty Classical Library of India aims to make available the great literary works of India from the past two millennia. The series provides modern translations of classical works, many for the first time, across an array of Indian languages, including Bangla, Hindi, Kannada, Marathi, Pali, Panjabi, Persian, Sanskrit, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, and Urdu. MORE

 
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Shane McCrae on "Community"

The best way I can think of to write about writing, my writing, is to write about "Community," since I had a lot of trouble writing it / since it took me a lot longer to write than most of my poems / since I had never before, and have never since, written another poem in quite the same way.  MORE

 
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Janaka Stucky on "Recreating a Miraculous Object"

The poem—more dirge or chant—I composed less to conjure an encounter than to become rich with the echoes of its absence. What we do when we are helpless against our losing. The utter dread of loss. Our anxiety to circumvent grief simultaneously propelling us toward its void, as though we are concentrically orbiting that inevitable point of departure—so dense nothing we do can escape its pull. MORE

 
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Craig Santos Perez on "from sounding lines [chamorro standard time: UTC +10:00]"

In my new book, I explore the theme of migration in a multitude of ways, including its relation to colonial land takings, military enlistment, education, debt, tourism, memory, citizenship, food, and extinction. The poem above, however, looks at migration in relation to time zones and telephone calls. MORE

 
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Michael Morse on “(What the Admiral Saw from the Air)”

The poems in Void and Compensation feel like rehearsals for and engagements with both loss and connection…I guess the two go hand-in-hand.  The lyric, then, can serve to distill experience…it offers a chance to find compensation in singing, in finding a presence within our circumstances and our thinking and our feeling. MORE

 
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Ansel Elkins on "The Girl with Antlers"

Blue Yodel is populated by the strange, the outcast, the bizarre, the different, the so-called "freaks" who live on the social outskirts. The Girl with Antlers is seen as an abomination of nature simply because she defies easy categorization. People fear the unknown and are often made uncomfortable when confronting someone who upsets their fixed definitions of personhood and notions of being in the world.  MORE

 
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Eugenia Leigh on "Psalm 107"

Once after a poetry reading, someone from the audience asked whether I am a person of faith. "Judging by your poems," he said, "you either hate God or you love God." MORE

 
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Joshua Clover on "Haecceity"

The poem is a derivation of Diane Di Prima's "Revolutionary Letter #19" ("if what you want is jobs / for everyone, you are still the enemy,/ you have not thought thru, clearly / what that means…"). It's the last poem written for the book. Red Epic tracks the world following on the global collapse of 2007, trying to grasp it both systemically and at the level of local textures of life. MORE

 
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Mary Jo Bang on “Compulsion in Theory and Practice: Principles and Controversies”

At this moment when neuroscience is able to map so much of the brain's activity, what's interesting is that in spite of all that mapping, and countless theories spanning centuries, the construct of the self, both one's self-perception and how one behaves in any given situation, seems to defy understanding. Perhaps because it's not possible to tease apart all of the elements that contribute to it: genetics, education, history, nutrition, viruses, bacteria, the air one breathes, the enormity of culture—all of which morphs continuously over a lifetime. MORE

 
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Eric Amling on "Ill Estates"

This poem like many poems was born from the zygotes of other poems. In Torrington, CT I had a room at the Yankee Peddler Inn. The room was ugly but the housekeeping made an effort to fold your toilet paper into a V every afternoon. Something about the tub made me uneasy. The whole place made me uneasy. The Inn was built in 1891, the original owner died in a room on the third floor. There were ghost rumors and I think the decor tried to play that up. I thought I'd get some writing done away from New York and I did.  MORE

 
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Yolanda Wisher on “American Valentine”

I was once a little black girl writing poems, and one of the standard gifts for birthdays and holidays, from those relatives who wanted to encourage me in my literary pursuits, was a book of verse – Shakespeare sonnets or the more cherished Phillis Wheatley collection. At the time, hers was the name they knew. The first black published poet. She became my measure. MORE

 
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Caki Wilkinson on “Third Standoff”

"Third Standoff," which appears near the end of The Wynona Stone Poems, is the last of the "Standoffs" between various people in Wynona's life. First, she tries and fails to confront her boss, Lois; later a horde of Wynona's former lovers takes on her latest squeeze, the Channel 5 weatherman. But "Third Standoff" is unique in that it addresses Wynona directly. MORE

 
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Translators Jeff Clark and Robert Bononno on Stéphane Mallarmé's A Roll of the Dice

Un Coup de Dés [A Roll of the Dice] has never before been designed and typeset properly. The closest version is the Michel Pierson & Ptyx limited French edition of 2002; this edition, however, slavishly attempts to match the last round of proofs for the never-materialized Vollard edition of 1897, which Mallarmé was correcting at the time of his death. In our edition I've done my best, in the design and setting of the original French version of the poem, to match the typography of those proofs but also improve their typographic infelicities; the result is basically what Mallarmé had approved and was actually seeing and working on, but with tightened and corrected typography. MORE

 
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Carl Annarummo on Greying Ghost

I can't quite remember when I first discovered chapbooks. I do remember going to the Grolier Bookshop in Cambridge when I was in college and picking up books by Burning Deck and Ugly Duckling and a handful of others. I think I spent something like $25 for all that poetry which for a broke student was amazing. And they were so beautiful looking! MORE

 
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David Tomas Martinez on "Shed"

Like many of my poems, which are based in my own personal history, this poem relies heavily on my experience, though I filter it through a language of poetry. "Shed" is based particularly on two consecutive romantic relationships that were very difficult, both which I have conflated into a four-year period that I associate with an emotionally destructive time. MORE

 
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Lightsey Darst on "Paradise"

It's a strange thing to look back at DANCE. I have to do this reconstruction, this remembering—which I, personally, have always found difficult. I am not good at remembering why I did what I did or how it felt to me. How could I be? I'm a different person. MORE

 
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Sally Wen Mao on "The White-haired Girl"

The inspiration for this poem, "The White-haired Girl", grew out of my fascination with tales about wayward women. The poem is named after a Chinese opera and film based on real-life stories from the 1920s and 1930s—it's about a girl, Xi'er,who was forced into marriage with her father's vindictive landlord and flees her captor by escaping into the mountain. MORE

 
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Randall Horton on "When Winter is a Transitional State"

I wanted to explore what an unconventional love looks like. To most of the outside world, this kind of love would seem abnormal. I worked within the freedom and constraint of the couplet form, going for the duality of thought within the speaker's mind. MORE

 
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Cathy Linh Che on "Pomegranate"

I'd been thinking about mythology and archetypes. I'd been thinking about that Persephone's being carried off by Hades felt analogous to my experiences of being sexually violated as a child. The experience of being taken again and again into an Underworld MORE

 
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Malachi Black on "A Memo to the Self-Possessed"

It began in failure.  Perhaps most poems do, but this was an especially staunch case:  the lines went nowhere.

I suppose I needed to figure out just what they meant, or where they "went," but I was in no great position to know then.  It had been an especially fraught winter.  My mother, whose home was half a continent away, was sick and was suffering and had already suffered.  My family was in disarray, and the relationship I had been kindling for two years had sagged to ash without an ember. MORE

 
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Danez Smith on "poem where I be & you just might"

Once upon an April, I forced myself to sit down and write the too late love poems for a few boys who came into my life brief, but grand seasons. I was thinking about the many loves that were never lovers—how intimacy and romance can occupy a room without taking hold of the body. MORE

 
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Samuel Beckett's "Cascando"

The 'occasion' prompting the poem was Beckett meeting, and thinking he had fallen in love with, an American friend of Mary Manning Howe, Betty Stockton Farley, who did not reciprocate his feelings, although soon 'wordshed' seems to have taken over from those feelings. Beckett later remembered his feelings as a marker ('the Farley episode', when he was struggling unsuccessfully with another poem), but it was the poem that mattered. MORE

 
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Tarfia Faizullah on "Aubade Ending with the Death of a Mosquito"

This poem is a contrapuntal, which means it can be read three different ways. Musically speaking, a contrapuntal imposes two or more distinct melodies upon each other simultaneously, and in doing so, creates a brand new harmonic relationship. MORE

 
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Danniel Schoonebeek on "Nectarines

"Nectarines" really started when Melissa asked me if I'd write a poem for a track off Siamese Dream. She used to host this reading series called Polestar in the basement of Cake Shop, and the idea was you take a record like Doolittle or Super Fly and you assign each poet a track. Give them a little head start, maybe a month to write a poem that approaches their song in some way, and when everyone meets in the basement they read their poems in the same order as the track listing. MORE

 
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Sandra Lim on “Human Interest Story”

The first line of this poem, "Snow would have been breaking the drifts that day, on a mild mood," persisted in my mind long before I set down this poem to paper. It makes sense to me now that a poem that thinks about the tensions between the world outside us and the strange ones inside us would begin in an image of gesture and atmosphere. MORE

 
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Mathias Svalina on WASTOID

I thought love had failed me. Probably I had failed love. I was, as they say, going through a hard time. In attempt to restore myself, recreate myself, I looked to the poetry of the Elizabethans. I reread my Sidney & Spenser, my Donne & Marvell. Because isn't art supposed to assuage the crushing pain of existence? to save us? It did not help. MORE

 
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On Shakespeare’s “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day”

Long ago as a high school sophomore, I had yet to experience "first love," or anything resembling it, so when I read the sonnet Shall I compare thee to a summer's day, it wasn't so much the romantic tone that entranced me. There was no particular girl or boy that I thought of as I read it in class. It wasn't the deft imagery either, gorgeous to be sure, but the poem's assertion of immortality in its last two lines. That was what got me. MORE

 
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Kristi Maxwell on "Plaisir Minus +/-"

When I was writing "Plaisir Minus +/-," I was thinking about meaning as a process of addition and subtraction—the isolation of a word that leads to a new fusion in a line or sentence or stanza. The way words are companions to each other. The way the word is companion to the mind. The way context infuses. Language as simultaneously remedy and refusal. MORE

 
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Lisa Lubasch on "The Situation/Evidence"

Being in an aftermath is difficult. One wants to argue with it. One wants to make it into an order. Being inside it is also difficult. One might be able to organize it but is there another way? One wants to bring something up. One wants to change it. One wants to exist. One wants to do one thing. To "rise above it." But there is no way to "rise above it." You are "in," not "above," and through this "within" you can determine, can "figure out" your way. MORE

 
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Maggie Nelson on Eileen Myles

Earlier today I taught a class at CalArts about the great artist and writer David Wojnarowicz, who died of AIDS in 1992. In Cynthia Carr's biography of David, she quotes a student at Illinois State University—located in "Normal," no less—who saw him talk there in 1990, right when David was becoming a poster child, or rather a whipping post, for the culture wars of the 90s. The student said, "After you hear a voice like that, it changes you." Indeed. After you hear certain voices, the direction of your life is changed, and there's no going back. That was what hearing the voice of Eileen Myles was like for me, in the year of Wojnarowicz's death, 1992 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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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

 
 

Upcoming Events

 

A New Salon: Reading and Conversation Brenda Shaughnessy, with Deborah Landau

Thursday, May 5, 7:00pm

New York, NY

Brenda Shaughnessy was born in Okinawa, Japan and grew up in Southern California. She is the author of Our Andromeda (Copper Canyon Press, 2012), Human Dark with Sugar (2008), winner of the James Laughlin Award and finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and Interior with Sudden Joy (FSG, 1999). Her poems have appeared in Best American Poetry, Harper's, The Nation, The Rumpus, The New Yorker, and The Paris Review. She is an Assistant Professor of English at Rutgers University, Newark, and lives in Brooklyn with her husband, son, and daughter. MORE
 

THE PSA READINGS AT MCNALLY JACKSON: Derrick Austin and Nate Marshall

Tuesday, May 10, 7:00pm

New York, NY

Derrick Austin is the author of Trouble the Water (BOA Editions 2016). A Cave Canem Fellow, he earned his MFA at the University of Michigan. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Best American Poetry 2015, New England Review,  Four Way Review, Southern Humanities Review, Callaloo, Crab Orchard Review,  and other journals and anthologies. He is the Social Media Coordinator for The Offing. MORE
 

Poetry Society of America's Spring Benefit Dinner Honoring Billy Collins and Poetry's Philanthropists

Tuesday, May 24

Bronx, NY

On May 24th, 2016, at our annual spring benefit at The New York Botanical Garden, the Poetry Society of America will honor Laura Baudo Sillerman, a great champion of poetry who will be accepting on behalf of all poetry's philanthropists, and her friend of many years, Billy Collins, one of our country's most admired and popular poets. MORE