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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


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


April Naoko Heck on "Funeral Outfit"

Aside from this poem having the most boring title ever, I've grown increasingly fond of this quiet, formally simple poem after sharing it aloud at recent poetry readings. MORE


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


Scott Zieher on "What to Want"

This was written in Brooklyn in 1996 and 1997, shortly after getting my MFA from Columbia. As it took shape, I was seeking some kind of employment; teaching jobs were impossible to come by and I eventually took a position as an administrator for a financial services company on Water Street, very close to the bottommost point on the island of Manhattan. I had a small portrait of T.S. Eliot smoking a cigarette on my desk, framed in mauve, taken when he was with Lloyds Bank and doing the most important writing of his life. A lot of the brokers thought this 80 year old photograph was actually me, or my father. My boss hired me at first because he thought I had an MBA from Columbia.  MORE


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


Lauren Shapiro on "The Conversation"

In many ways, my collection Easy Math is about how hard basic communication can be, and this poem, the first in the book, examines that idea. It also examines the absurdity of our daily lives, the excitement that we can reap from the weirdest cultural prizes (Three strikes! Turkey!), and the disconnect between what we are living and what we are feeling. MORE


Lisa Steinman on "Rainy Afternoons of the Soul"

"Rainy Afternoons of the Soul" is a poem that surprised me.  After my previous books, featuring poems that included everything (even one kitchen sink), I'd been trying to write shorter, slightly more focused if still meditative, poems.  However, what I'd come up with—poems I thought of as "single-gestured," most of which were under fifteen lines long—seemed too tidy, at best, and in any case unsatisfying. MORE


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


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


Éireann Lorsung on "Single-page drawing"

Probably "Single page drawing" began in 2005, when an acquaintance introduced me to Cy Twombly's paintings and prints. That introduction marked a shift in my ability to identify things as language, and in my tendency to think of language as something to be seen as much as read, to be felt as much as known—to be felt as a way of knowing. Not that I began writing the poem then. But every time since then when I have stood in a room with Cy Twombly's work, I have felt two impulses: to largeness and to inclusionMORE


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


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


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


Eric Linsker on "Rare Earths"

"What we shall see across time is a marked decay of the confidence in compensation for states of loss which give rise to poems."—Allen Grossman

For "poems" read, too, insurrections, from insurgere, "rise up." The word "Foxconn" was once the word "morning."

In the meantime I returned again and again, on my then-girlfriend's yoga mat I wasn't using for yoga, to images of the webbed netting to stop suicide at Foxconn. At the same time I learned gray foxes sleep in trees, in dens as much as 30 feet from the ground. I remembered hearing at 16 Beaver of treehouses connected by netting, occupied through the summer of 2011 in Puerta del Sol. MORE


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


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


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


Chloe Honum on "Ballerina, Released"

When I was an adolescent, I wanted to become a ballerina. I practiced with more dedication than I knew I possessed. Some nights I dream I can still dance the way I could at my best. MORE


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


Luke Bloomfield on "White Sky"

I got obsessed with China. I used to live in Beijing, population 21 million. When I arrived I didn't speak Chinese, didn't understand it, and the city was alarmingly, indigestibly verbal. If not for a small group of expats who welcomed me into their world and gave me some sense of regularity I wouldn't have lasted long. MORE


Rodney Koeneke on "I Should Feel Happy"

I work at a big state university: cement parking structures, orange construction mesh, scuffed stairwells that lead to halls where the clocks tell different times. Near campus there's a bubble tea place run by a friendly Asian couple. One day someone taped a piece of college-ruled paper to the wall with the question, "How Do You Feel?" written in ballpoint pen across the top. MORE


Sara Nicholson on "The Art of Symmetry"

When I think of this poem, I think of Math.  I mean "Math uab Mathonwy," the fourth branch of the collection of Middle Welsh prose stories known as the Mabinogion. I wrote this poem after reading it. MORE


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


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


Cynthia Lowen on "Hibakusha"

This poem is one of three in The Cloud That Contained the Lightning that share the title "Hibakusha," which is a Japanese word translating to explosion-affected people. It is used in Japan to refer to the survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. MORE


John Deming on Coldfront

Coldfront actually started as a poem-a-day blog with some friends when we were working on MFA's at the New School. In January 2006, Melinda Wilson, Graeme Bezanson and I talked about making it into a sort of news magazine for poetry, or a poetry magazine that didn't actually publish poems…I came from a newspaper background, and we thought it would be productive to try to "cover" poetry in a way that it was not being covered. MORE


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


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


Naomi Washer on Ghost Proposal

Ghost Proposal was conceived of in May 2012 by myself and poet Zachary Green. I'd been his editor for another journal, which sparked a longer correspondence between us. We shared our own work and discussed our ideas of contemporary writing and publishing (you can read more about GP's beginnings here). We finally met and began the conversation about creating a journal just days before we both made geographic changes in our lives. MORE


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


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


Sara Mumolo on "The Called Back Wreck of Things"

I wrote the first draft of this poem in a third floor studio apartment in Mexico City. An aging architect owned the building, and his office stood adjacent to the three-story home, an office comprised of glass. His own Philip Johnson's glass house. MORE


Two books, two gallery shows, and a talk about Jess

The artist Jess (1923-2004), born Burgess Collins in Long Beach, California, abandoned his surname and his training as a scientist in 1949 and enrolled in the California School of Fine Arts. He met Robert Duncan in 1950 and began a relationship with the poet that lasted thirty-eight years until Duncan's death in 1988. Together, the two of them became key generators of the Bay Area art and poetry scenes of the 50's, 60s, and 70s.  MORE


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


Natalie Shapero on "Flags and Axes"

My friend was at work when a visitor to the building began to cough up blood. Medical help came quickly with no heroic measures needed, but the whole situation prompted a what if conversation among my friend's colleagues about deficiencies in their office emergency kit, which failed to contain a particular kind of transparent mask. MORE


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


Jessica Baran on "On Dissonance"

"On Dissonance" is a sequence of prose poems from the second section of my second book, Equivalents, the title of which I borrowed from a series of photographs by Alfred Stieglitz. His Equivalents—all several hundred of them shot between 1922 and 1935—are wallet-sized, black-and-white silver gelatin prints of the sky that are now considered the first abstract photography. MORE


On Gerard Manley Hopkins' “Spelt From Sibyl’s Leaves”

In our particular, peculiar time, is the end of the world evernot in the surround?  We hear increasingly of the fierce consequences our environmental damage has done to the planet, the storms, wars, starvations and financial challenges that seem unlikely to abate.  MORE


DJ Dolack on "NYC Postcards (In Dollhouse Leather Jackets)"

At readings, I usually introduce this poem as 'my love letter to New York City.' And while there's certainly a vein of sarcasm that runs through that comment, there is also a real earnestness that drives the poem. I think both represent the broad catalogue of emotions one can tangle with during a simple stroll in New York City on any given afternoon. MORE


Sally Delehant on "It's Always Something"

My mother died on Easter morning of 2007 when I was 22-years-old. Just weeks prior to this event, I'd been accepted to Saint Mary's MFA program in poetry. I spent the summer in Omaha, Nebraska cleaning out our family's house, which felt like closing a wound that kept reopening. Many nights I'd end up sitting on a closet floor reading her books, trying on her jewelry, or just living in the smell her clothes. Ultimately, I ended up donating almost everything.  MORE


Cole Heinowitz on the poetry of Mario Santiago Papasquiaro

Mario Santiago Papasquiaro is the pseudonym of José Alfredo Zendejas Pineda, the poet immortalized as Ulises Lima in Roberto Bolaño's novel The Savage Detectives. Born in Mexico City in 1953, Santiago came of age during a period of acute political repression, artistic censorship, and violations of academic autonomy that culminated in the 1968 Tlatelolco Massacre, in which hundreds of student protesters and bystanders were killed and injured, and over a thousand were arrested.  MORE


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


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


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


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


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


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


Kiki Petrosino on "This Woman's Face is Your Future"

This poem began with its title, which emerged for me in the last few moments of a dream. The whole sentence surfaced at once, like a seashell revealed at low tide. My dream, as I remember, was an anxious one. I had to assemble an object composed of tiny, elaborate parts—screws and gaskets, a loose pile of flat washers that, maliciously, began to disappear when I grasped them.  MORE


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


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


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


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 VOICE OF WOMEN IN AMERICAN POETRY: with Cyrus Cassells, Carol Muske-Dukes, and Maggie Nelson

Thursday, Sep 18, 7:00pm

Pasadena, CA

The PSA's 2014 National Series pays tribute to the immense achievement of a wide range of poets, from Emily Dickinson and Emma Lazarus to Sylvia Plath, Gwendolyn Brooks, Adrienne Rich, and Wanda Coleman. In this Pasadena installment, distinguished contemporary poets will celebrate the lives and poetry of three 20th century figures, discussing their influence and reading poems of their own in tribute: MORE


Sunday, Sep 21, 10:00am

Brooklyn, NY

The Brooklyn Book Festival is the largest free literary event in New York City, presenting an array of literary stars and emerging authors who represent the exciting world of literature today. One of America's premier book festivals, this hip, smart, diverse gathering attracts thousands of book lovers of all ages. Poets participating this year include Mark Bibbins, Lucie Brock-Broido, Tina Chang, Cathy Linh Che, Mark Doty, Rita Dove, r. erica doyle, Matthea Harvey, Marie Howe, Angelo Nikolopoulos,  Carl Phillips,  Tomasz Różyck, Danny Simmons, and Rachel Zucker. MORE

A TRIBUTE TO JEAN VALENTINE with Catherine Barnett, Mark Doty, and Timothy Liu

Tuesday, Sep 23, 7:00pm

New York, NY

Jean Valentine won the Yale Younger Poets Award for her first book, Dream Barker, in 1965. Her 12th book of poetry is Break the Glass (Copper Canyon Press, 2010). Her next book, Shirt in Heaven, is forthcoming from Copper Canyon in 2015. Door in the Mountain: New and Collected Poems 1965–2003 was the winner of the 2004 National Book Award for Poetry. The recipient of the 2009 Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets, Valentine has taught at Sarah Lawrence, New York University, and Columbia. She lives in New York City. MORE