Rolling Contemporary Poetry

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Because the world needs this thread.

So, to start off, what's the best new book of poetry published so far this year?

markers, Monday, 25 October 2010 17:37 (ten years ago) link

I will be following this thread keenly, but have little to contribute to it. Read a couple of new John Burnside poems that I quite liked the other day - has he got a new collection out? (f'ing lame I know - but it's all I got)

Pork Pius V (GamalielRatsey), Monday, 25 October 2010 17:51 (ten years ago) link

While we are all waiting for the contemporary poetry to arrive, ILB'ers may want to while away the time reading the many minor gems in The Hitherto Uncollected Poems of Beth Parker: A tribute.

Aimless, Monday, 25 October 2010 18:03 (ten years ago) link

^^^^^very, very otm

acoleuthic, Monday, 25 October 2010 18:04 (ten years ago) link

I mean the best new poem I've seen all year was by an ILXor (elmo argonaut) so like

acoleuthic, Monday, 25 October 2010 18:06 (ten years ago) link

I don't think a Burnside collection is due yet - one last year iirc. He is very good, isn't he? I always forget about him when I'm thinking about contemp British poetry - I take him for granted a bit, I think – feel like in the platonic issue of the LRB (alongside a diary report from Afghanistan, Tom Shippey on something Medieval, James Wood on an important writer, etc, etc) there are two knotty poems by John Burnside about taking a walk at night in the cold.

Collections I'm meaning to get hold of: Peter Porter's new Selected (always admired him – sucker for formal adeptness + urbanity + his inside/outside relationship with The Tradition – but didn't read much from the last decade), the new Muldoon (feel like I've got to, slightly resent feeling like I've got to, will probably enjoy it once I'm in).

Stuff I've seen around - liking the poems Mark Ford's been publishing recently, but his new collection isn't out till next year. Shocked to be impressed by a Nick Laird poem in the TLS. I've really seen nothing before that's made me believe he's the real thing (tbh saw him as the fag end of the Norn Ireland line, ambition cursed with a middling ear and bad eye) but this had a bit of density & weight.

Here end the dispatches from a p conventional sensibility.

portrait of velleity (woof), Tuesday, 26 October 2010 09:59 (ten years ago) link

I have high hopes for Ange Mlinko's Shoulder Season which Amazon are in the process of sending to me (along with MacNiece's Autumn Journal and Hecht's Later Poems - not sure why I didn't get round to getting hold of these last two sooner).

Stevie T, Tuesday, 26 October 2010 10:11 (ten years ago) link

Think Don Paterson's book on Shakespeare's Sonnets looks very entertaining too.

Stevie T, Tuesday, 26 October 2010 10:16 (ten years ago) link

I will be following this thread keenly, but have little to contribute to it.


also link to elmo's poem lj?

O holy ruler of ILF (a hoy hoy), Tuesday, 26 October 2010 10:20 (ten years ago) link

(I think I might use this thread to remind myself of stuff as well, so:)

I should prob read that Patrick McGuinness collection, Jilted City. I've never really clicked with him in the past, and what I've seen from it hasn't made me that excited, but reviews make it sound like it'd work for me if I had a bit more patience.

portrait of velleity (woof), Tuesday, 26 October 2010 11:08 (ten years ago) link

three weeks pass...

After a long homeward talk with the man himself from a reading I have purchased Jeff Hilson's 'In The Assarts' and the damn thing is extraordinary

benylin cartel (acoleuthic), Sunday, 21 November 2010 21:17 (ten years ago) link

in the asshats

aka the pope (BIG HOOS aka the steendriver), Sunday, 21 November 2010 21:42 (ten years ago) link

gonna tell him that & say it was u

pro EVOO sucker (acoleuthic), Sunday, 21 November 2010 21:43 (ten years ago) link

in the asshats

(I am Spartacus!)

Aimless, Sunday, 21 November 2010 21:49 (ten years ago) link

HOOS is legion

pro EVOO sucker (acoleuthic), Sunday, 21 November 2010 21:50 (ten years ago) link

also pope

pro EVOO sucker (acoleuthic), Sunday, 21 November 2010 21:50 (ten years ago) link

I read a fair bit of contemp poetry these days but I don't know how to talk about contemporary poetry & feel like a lot of the discourse around it is so very many leagues beneath it -- beneath the good stuff anyway; there is loads of lousy stuff that's pretty much exactly on the level of the discourse -- that the vocabulary to describe reading it is lacking; I don't know how to discuss Jean Valentine, for example, who strikes me as a poet of incredible & v. understated power: when people talk about "rhythms" w/r/t ametrical verse, for example, I want to say, what the fuck could you possibly mean by "rhythm"? anyway, Chelsea Minnis, she kicks ass

it's 'cadence' not 'rhythm' these days iirc

pro EVOO sucker (acoleuthic), Sunday, 21 November 2010 22:02 (ten years ago) link

yeah I'm still callin bs on that

just say what you mean, "voibe," and be done w/it

I basically completely wing it & use vocabulary I'd previously have reserved for music when discussing modern poetry I like - the problem is often whether to approach the text as a machine or as a narrative

pro EVOO sucker (acoleuthic), Sunday, 21 November 2010 22:04 (ten years ago) link

like "cadence" is a specific reference to the movement of a metrical line. no coincidence that the term is used in horseback riding; it has to do with the movement of the feet. take the feet away, there's no cadence. imo

I have reconfigured 'cadence' like the busy little modernist I am, also I am throwing 'syllabography' into the ring

pro EVOO sucker (acoleuthic), Sunday, 21 November 2010 22:06 (ten years ago) link

some say cavalier, I say visionary

pro EVOO sucker (acoleuthic), Sunday, 21 November 2010 22:06 (ten years ago) link

do ppl say cavalier

aka the pope (BIG HOOS aka the steendriver), Sunday, 21 November 2010 22:38 (ten years ago) link

posting 16-page modernist-situationist epic to = cavalier, let me roll w/ the defenders of king charles I, struth

pro EVOO sucker (acoleuthic), Sunday, 21 November 2010 22:40 (ten years ago) link


puff puff post (uh oh I'm having a fantasy), Sunday, 21 November 2010 22:50 (ten years ago) link


I wrote a poem today and while I was writing it a dude in a yellow speedo ran by towards the ocean holding flippers and I was like man I should do that instead but I kept writing

puff puff post (uh oh I'm having a fantasy), Sunday, 21 November 2010 22:55 (ten years ago) link

ur a tru bro

pro EVOO sucker (acoleuthic), Sunday, 21 November 2010 23:04 (ten years ago) link

one month passes...


Maggot - Paul Muldoon. Read through about a month ago, didn't leave a huge impression. Liked that first combat/cancer sequence, but overall I'm feeling a bit worn out by the Muldoon music: that rhyme game again, verse always twists into the same patterns of unexpectedness. A step back from that big poem at the end of Horse Latitudes maybe? Anyway, he's interesting, always distinctive, etc etc but I don't really like his verse that much. Which reminds me

Oraclau/Oracles - By my bedside, not reading quickly. I dunno. I sort of like prozac comeback Geoffrey Hill, that odd dense/garrulous texture he hits a lot, the urgency, & I remain a sucker for his canonical sonics; but feel like I'm still sitting outside it a bit. Maybe I'll finish it tonight, report back a bit more concretely.

Waiting to start Hot White Andy by Keston Sutherland. Intrigued; said somewhere before that I wasn't wild on Antifreeze, that I'm a bit sceptical of most stuff that's Prynne-marked (Like he, his style seem a cerebral revolutionary cause, probably the only one in British poetry at the moment; the non-Prynne stuff I've seen mostly doesn't really feel the allure or power of lyric, memorable speech, any trad or popular def of poetry); but I liked the youtube of his reading, & I guess I think more interesting stuff will come from the stony ground of Cambridge poets than the damp pastures elsewhere.

Get that impression because I've been reading Identity Parade to catch up on British poetry (my current loo book). F'k me, what a shower. Hit rate feels far worse than the old Bloodaxe New Poetry from 93 (previous thing of this sort), really meh intros to the poets and the volumes. But k.i.p., k.i.p., so of ppl I hadn't read before quite like Mark Waldron, Melanie Challenger, a few others.

portrait of velleity (woof), Thursday, 20 January 2011 16:28 (ten years ago) link

Like he, his style seem a cerebral revolutionary cause, probably the only one in British poetry at the moment


vampire weekend fan (acoleuthic), Thursday, 20 January 2011 16:32 (ten years ago) link

get thee some sean bonney. lovely guy too. and then check out chris goode, jennifer cooke, o god so many others...

lol @ me pimping my irl homies

vampire weekend fan (acoleuthic), Thursday, 20 January 2011 16:33 (ten years ago) link

also jeff hilson, as said above. wau.

vampire weekend fan (acoleuthic), Thursday, 20 January 2011 16:33 (ten years ago) link

I'm a bit sceptical of most stuff that's Prynne-marked

So am I. But when it works it can be scorching. Mate of mine, Ian Heames, is progressing towards this end. When it fails, it's so many discrete images flashing by at lightning speed for no apparent end.

vampire weekend fan (acoleuthic), Thursday, 20 January 2011 16:35 (ten years ago) link

oops, double use of 'end' - also erroneous use of it at all - poetry doesn't have an end, it participates in a wider flow


vampire weekend fan (acoleuthic), Thursday, 20 January 2011 16:35 (ten years ago) link

but still, Prynnian wank is egregious and barely listenable, barely fun even, so you gotta hit your marks

vampire weekend fan (acoleuthic), Thursday, 20 January 2011 16:37 (ten years ago) link

fair enough, I do tend to be a bit undiscriminating when it comes to that side of things, so call anything that's in the difficult British Poetry Revival line (Barque stuff, all that) Prynne-y. That's v lazy of me, journalistic, so yes fair enough. I'll have a look at those sorts you mention; Bonney seems alright on first glance.

God i don't know though. Touch of the perpetual manifesto writer.

portrait of velleity (woof), Thursday, 20 January 2011 17:01 (ten years ago) link

i been digging james richardson's 'by the numbers' esp the aphorisms:

137. Out walking, I think of that face I love or some scene of awful
embarrassment and stop dead in my tracks, as if I had to choose
between moving and being moved.

"crut" copy (diamonddave85), Thursday, 20 January 2011 17:58 (ten years ago) link

ne1 have any opinion on foer's 'tree of codes' ? i usually tend to enjoy palimpsest and experimental book forms (i just picked up this one in fact) but the die cutting seems and the resulting flimsy-ass-these-are-soo-gonna-tear pages seems clumsy and put me off

"crut" copy (diamonddave85), Thursday, 20 January 2011 18:06 (ten years ago) link

one month passes...

sheen's korner y/n lol

acoleuthic, Thursday, 10 March 2011 23:46 (nine years ago) link

saw louise gluck read last night.

bnw, Friday, 11 March 2011 21:44 (nine years ago) link

five months pass...

i am reading a copy of mark halliday's jab, pub. 2002. it was in my amazon save-for-later list and i have no memory of what led me to place it there. i am having trouble with it, mainly because in register/idiom he is v. close to yoni wolf of why?, which means i keep hearing everything half-rapped for a line or two and then get lost when there's no rhythm to make work


if you were standing frozen in sweated confusion
at the Personal Furnishings rack
in a giant department store five days before Christmas
wearing a woolly jacket that belonged to someone long gone
and trying not to seem dangerous
under silver and scarlet decorations with no conception
of adequate reply to tremendous departures

thomp, Monday, 5 September 2011 11:37 (nine years ago) link

This, though, I like, although it is a bit ILMish I 'spose

Trumpet Player, 1963

When Jan and Dean recorded "Surf City"
there must have been one guy—

I see this trumpet player (was there even a horn section in that song?
Say there was)—

I see this one trumpet player with his tie askew
or maybe he's wearing a loose tropical-foliage shirt
sitting on a metal chair waiting
for the session to reach the big chorus
where Jan and Dean exult
Two girls for every boy
—and he's thinking
of his hundred nights on his buddy Marvin's hairy stainy sofa
and the way hot dogs and coffee make a mud misery
and the way one girl is far too much and besides
he hasn't had the one in fourteen months, wait,
it's fifteen now.
Surfing—what life actually lets guys ride boards
on waves? Is it all fiction? Is it a joke?
Jan and Dean and their pal Brian act like it's a fine, good joke
whereas this trumpet player thinks it's actually shit,
if anybody asked him, a tidal wave of shit.

thomp, Monday, 5 September 2011 14:58 (nine years ago) link

tho' it occurs to me that "actually" is functioning, in my head, the way chris addison or stewart lee might use it: that this switch in register is occurring largely in my head to the particular mode of comedy that isn't quite good enough to justify how bound up it all is in the self-presentation of every British male I know under thirty.

Which is probably irrelevant. I don't know. I half-like this guy. But "what life actually lets guys ride boards / on waves" almost gets to something, & that could remedy this poem, except that it falls so flatly there, is so bluntly stated, that it just kind of sits in the middle of the poem and gets in the way.

thomp, Monday, 5 September 2011 15:07 (nine years ago) link

I like Halliday a lot, especially his first book Little Star, which was embarrassed/confessional/honest in a funny way. He has a kind of casualness that may have been fresher in the world before blogs and message boards.

reggae night staple center (Eazy), Monday, 5 September 2011 18:25 (nine years ago) link

Just started reading lots of Anne Carson which has been consistently blowing me away.

Michael_Pemulis, Monday, 5 September 2011 22:50 (nine years ago) link

I like Halliday a lot, especially his first book Little Star, which was embarrassed/confessional/honest in a funny way. He has a kind of casualness that may have been fresher in the world before blogs and message boards.

There's something about his assumption of a stance of resignedness that I find weirdly offputting: that might be part of it.

Meanwhile, today the British poet laureate told us that "poetry is the original text messaging" -- also that "If you look at rapping, for example, a band like Arctic Monkeys uses lyrics in a poetic way."

thomp, Tuesday, 6 September 2011 10:43 (nine years ago) link

Has anyone read Philip Levine, the new U.S. laureate? I didn't realise they had such sharply defined terms for the job, over there.

thomp, Tuesday, 6 September 2011 10:44 (nine years ago) link

He's one of the 1928 poets (also Merwin, Ashbery, Kinnell, and more. This one and this are representative of his work. Depending on the poem, reads like bad Whitman or great Whitman. Easy reading, in terms of flow and clarity.

reggae night staple center (Eazy), Wednesday, 7 September 2011 00:03 (nine years ago) link

five months pass...

i never mentioned on this thread that i'd read lynn emanuel's noose and hook, which i thought was kind of fantastic

desperado, rough rider (thomp), Monday, 20 February 2012 22:28 (nine years ago) link

Finished both of Patricia Lockwood’s poetry books & her memoir.

the ghost of markers, Wednesday, 24 May 2017 23:06 (three years ago) link

one month passes...

How were they?

Never changed username before (cardamon), Monday, 10 July 2017 14:52 (three years ago) link

That was to ghost of markers above. Anyone found anything else good?

Never changed username before (cardamon), Monday, 10 July 2017 14:52 (three years ago) link

lockwood's poetry doesn't really do much for me but i found her memoir to be pretty good. it's often hilarious (obv.) and touching. i thought the chapter on music was particularly good

just another (diamonddave85), Monday, 10 July 2017 15:54 (three years ago) link

her poetry is pretty prose-ey (prosaic but without the negative connotation) tbh

flopson, Monday, 10 July 2017 18:46 (three years ago) link

100+ free PDF poetry chapbooks "celebrating" 100+ days of Trump awfulness:

Mince Pramthwart (James Morrison), Friday, 14 July 2017 00:15 (three years ago) link

(Haven't read any of them yet, but surely worth a look)

Mince Pramthwart (James Morrison), Friday, 14 July 2017 00:15 (three years ago) link

are all the chapbooks about trump

flopson, Friday, 14 July 2017 03:30 (three years ago) link

inspired by the america of his first 100 days, but not necessarily about _him_ per se

Mince Pramthwart (James Morrison), Friday, 14 July 2017 05:06 (three years ago) link

Some very choice stuff to be had here:

‘It was a shock, and an epiphany,’ says Fiona Sampson, to realise that many of her favourite places were built on and out of limestone: the cosy Cotswold village of Coleshill, the shambolic hamlet of Le Chambon in the Dordogne, the limestone Karst region of western Slovenia, and the honeycombed hills of Jerusalem and the Holy Land. ‘Surely, I thought, this has to be more than mere coincidence.’

From a strictly demographic point of view, it isn’t even much of a coincidence: about one quarter of the world’s population lives in limestone country or depends on it for its water. But the mind of a poet can feed on the slightest chance connection. While her neighbours in Coleshill go about their spongy, fossil-filled environment with nary a thought of ‘chthonic forces’, Sampson inhabits a half-soluble landscape of subterranean streams and geopathic stress created by the compacted shells and skeletons of primeval sea-creatures.

A professor of poetry and champion of creative writing as a therapeutic tool, Sampson fortunately finds other people as interesting as herself. This ‘personal exploration’ of the ways in which a mind interacts with a landscape might have been a gallery of psycho-geographical selfies in picturesque settings; which, to some extent, it is. She relives an early love affair with a chain-smoking Macedonian in the ‘intractable, dense and mysterious’ Slovenian Karst and ...

Never changed username before (cardamon), Tuesday, 25 July 2017 19:31 (three years ago) link

two weeks pass...

jeez---contemporary enough, still:

dow, Friday, 11 August 2017 00:38 (three years ago) link

three months pass...

Saddened to find out that Tom Raworth passed away last February.

alimosina, Monday, 4 December 2017 15:49 (three years ago) link

"Anxiety is just another form of entertainment." NEA Presents: Frank O'Hara reading his poetry,writing some more while talking on the phone and being filmed, also discussing his multimedia collabs, in progrss (shortly before his death). Ed Sanders reads his poetry in his Peace Eye Bookstore (a bunch of other poets on this same page)

dow, Wednesday, 13 December 2017 18:31 (three years ago) link

one month passes...

This happened (and the Guardian editorialised it terribly), what do you lot think

Never changed username before (cardamon), Tuesday, 23 January 2018 21:41 (three years ago) link

Well, it's... not black and white. I think this debate playing out as it is, is something to be welcomed and is right on time. I can go a long way with Watts:

"Watts attacks the “cohort of young female poets who are currently being lauded by the poetic establishment for their ‘honesty’ and ‘accessibility’"

'Honesty' and 'accessibility' have never been things that attracted me in poetry. Honesty and accessibility is what I look for in an automobile mechanic, not poetry. One can easily argue both are 'enemies' of poetry. What's good poetry without a secret, without having to overcome at least some obstacle, without running your head into its wall, without dirt or ugliness, to ultimately come to a revelation or enjoyment or?

Also, honesty and accessibility is goddamn tiring. *Everything* is honest and accessible nowadays. It's all available, shared within a second. This was already uninteresting when Seneca wrote poetry, let alone today w/ instagram etc.

So if the quoted “you should see me / when my heart is broken / i don’t grieve / i shatter” is exemplary, yeah, pass the Dutchie the left hand side man, it's not for me.

But... All that doesn't mean it's not poetry, or shouldn't be called poetry, or shouldn't be lauded, shouldn't be praised. It's not that it's not poetry; it is. It's that it's bad poetry is what deserves critique imo. Everyone has the right to write (or love) bad poetry. We've all done it. Every single one of us is guilty of doing that. Loving bad shit.


Saying it's not poetry: bad
Saying it's bad poetry: yes

♫ very clever with maracas.jpg ♫ (Le Bateau Ivre), Tuesday, 23 January 2018 22:16 (three years ago) link

When I was young, 'young adult fiction', as an advertised literary genre did not exist. And thank god for that. As a young adult the last thing I'd do is walk to the 'young adult fiction' section in the book store. "The fuck is this shit?! You are *marketing* stuff from a boring 30-something to be thee best stuff for me? Off to the gulag with you ffs!" You'd want a rebel, a dark, dissonant voice. Rimbaud for one, who was a young adult all of his writing days, but didn't write like one and sure as hell took care he wasn't advertised as such.

But since poetry now can also be some words framed into a teal/orange square instagram picture, I don't see why we shouldn't call that poetry. The value lies in what the readers derive from it. But it can, and should, still be called out for being bad poetry if it is.

♫ very clever with maracas.jpg ♫ (Le Bateau Ivre), Tuesday, 23 January 2018 22:25 (three years ago) link

Part of me really, really liked seeing a full-on critical takedown of this type of poetry; and part of me watched and disapproved of that liking.

I unashamedly liked the bit in the article where Watts catches Don Paterson changing his critical tune for convenience (he'd previously argued against the things he praises in McNish).

It's interesting getting yr copy of a magazine in the post, reading through it, thinking ah yeah that's a take I've not seen before, and moving on - then watch the same article blow up across social media but framed very differently.

Never changed username before (cardamon), Tuesday, 23 January 2018 23:27 (three years ago) link

Part of me really, really liked seeing a full-on critical takedown of this type of poetry; and part of me watched and disapproved of that liking.

You could've spared me a couple of minutes had you posted this before me tbh. I feel myself inching towards this stance in a lot of these debates. Not necessarily to or fro a certain position, more like seeing the discourse for what it is in the rearviewmirror and driving off, seeing it shrink and shrink...

♫ very clever with maracas.jpg ♫ (Le Bateau Ivre), Tuesday, 23 January 2018 23:35 (three years ago) link

Yeah. I mean I've seen a lot of facebook commentary to the effect of, 'shock horror, Watts is being ridiculously harsh on these young poets' - rather as if people are not so much defending Mcnish and Kaur qua poetry, but are rather aghast that Watts would break the politeness code. She does come across as harsh but I can as you say see her side of it and the other.

Never changed username before (cardamon), Wednesday, 24 January 2018 00:05 (three years ago) link

Now the other side of it (this post got very long, congrats to anyone who reads to end), the thing I thought Watts left unsaid was: yeah so you've got the sort of performance poets who turn up at every open-mic night in the land, and rant, go on for too long, jokes fall flat, tone is off, wouldn't it be better if they read a few more books and did some editing, and tried to write poetry that did something instead of said something for once.

You've got that for sure, and it's not very good; I'm glad Watts has set about criticising that, and the bit of Mcnish that's like that; but you've also got the 'plausible poetry' written by, like, well to stitch a stereotype together, people who did a creative writing course and now run a yearly writer's retreat and are published by Faber.

Certainly some study of poetry, some 'craft', and of course editing, has gone into it, but not very intensively; the imaginative blinkers are still on, it still avoids the risks inherent in trying to write like Rimbaud or trying to write a sonnet or adopting a Yeatsian tone, all of which if you do you have a high chance of failing outright and a slim chance of genuinely opening a new door. Avoid these risks, and you pass. Maybe you wouldn't pass with Watts actually, but in general this is how contemporary poetry goes.

And this plausible poetry is everywhere, well not everywhere, but makes up a large chunk of the poetry currently published in Britain. It's understandable that someone - especially a younger person - would take one look at it and fuck it off entirely in favour of doing some performance poetry at a festival, which I suppose is probably an awesome experience, with tangible rewards - backslaps and cheers from pissed people who don't normally like poetry are going to be more fun than a series of rejection letters.

I guess I think Watts could have cracked the ghost of a smile and shown a bit of understanding of that side of it; an awareness that it's all well and good talking about literary standards but er, what that often translates to in real life is a very very boring poem with an italicised quote from Martin Luther at the beginning, about the author's holiday to somewhere cultural. Or indeed a book about limestone, see upthread.

Never changed username before (cardamon), Wednesday, 24 January 2018 00:10 (three years ago) link

Yeah, def some poetry is too safe. Some can work almost equally well in performance or on the page. Usually not the deepest poetry, but Blake is an exception, judging for instance by most of Allen Ginsberg's The Complete Songs of Innocence and Experience, finally all together in the 2017 edition. I don't find Whitman as powerful---he can oversell---but Fred Hersh's shrewd settings of Leaves of Grass for singers does hold my attention, and he's another influence on Ginsberg, some of whose own writing works both ways, projecting or at least selling honesty successfully, and certainly he favors direct address: " Go fuck yourself with your atom bomb, I don't feel good don't bother me." I'll still take that over a lot of Frank O'Hara.

dow, Wednesday, 24 January 2018 02:36 (three years ago) link

"Deepest" aside, sometimes it works better when the audience has time to stop and think, linger on a word or line, re-read whatever you please. So I'm trying to cut back on NPR.

dow, Wednesday, 24 January 2018 02:39 (three years ago) link

Joan Murray, re-re-rediscovered, new to me----gonna have to get this collection (I don't agree with every single one of his comments on this first poem, for instance, but as in all the DC pieces I've seen, he presents things with room for other views)

dow, Friday, 2 February 2018 23:37 (three years ago) link

three months pass...

local bookstore had more rh sin books than any other poet and ugh:

carles danger maus (s.clover), Tuesday, 22 May 2018 19:22 (two years ago) link

five months pass...

It is the wound in Time. The century’s tides,
chanting their bitter psalms, cannot heal it.
Not the war to end all wars; death’s birthing place;
the earth nursing its ticking metal eggs, hatching
new carnage. But how could you know, brave
as belief as you boarded the boats, singing?
The end of God in the poisonous, shrapneled air.
Poetry gargling its own blood. We sense it was love
you gave your world for; the town squares silent,
awaiting their cenotaphs. What happened next?
War. And after that? War. And now? War. War.
History might as well be water, chastising this shore;
for we learn nothing from your endless sacrifice.
Your faces drowning in the pages of the sea.

Thanks to these 'tides' which also 'chant', I am now convinced that war is bad.

Never changed username before (cardamon), Sunday, 11 November 2018 23:08 (two years ago) link

Poem seems to be stuck between two ideas: war as a mistake morally significant because it could be avoided, and war as an endless problem, rather like the sea, about which nothing can be done. Really these seem like contrary postures.

The century is a tide, which is chanting the psalms, and also a book, with pages, and it is also wounded. The sort of heavy mixed metaphor that brooks no argument, you have to take it or leave it.

Also the statement 'we learn nothing' is a bit questionable. I for one have been to look at several preserved battleships and even read one or two books about wars. Which is a deliberate misreading of what she means, but still.

If history is 'chastising' these shores, that is Britain specifically, for starting wars, we might ask whether it is also chastising the shores of Germany and Japan, and if not, why not?

The only specific real picture we get is of, presumably, British tommies boarding boats, and that's it, and even then they're singing with the bravery of belief. No names or descriptions, or place names.

At least we now know that God has ended, so we're one up on whatever stupid religious naivete those people might have maintained before and after the war.

Never changed username before (cardamon), Sunday, 11 November 2018 23:28 (two years ago) link

I find that the poetry of Isaac Rosenberg does rather more than 'gargle its own blood'.

Never changed username before (cardamon), Sunday, 11 November 2018 23:31 (two years ago) link

Unrelated - I thought I'd check in with difficult Cambridge poets, see what Simon Jarvis has been up to for the last couple of years and yikes.

woof, Tuesday, 13 November 2018 11:29 (two years ago) link

xp History as an ocean makes some some sense.

dow, Tuesday, 13 November 2018 17:12 (two years ago) link

Writing poetry to mark formal and solemn occasions is a tricky business and most poets of this age have no practice at it and never developed any talent they may have had in that direction. Carol Ann Duffy has caught a bit of the heavy music, but her meanings stumble against her ideas like drunks in the dark.

A is for (Aimless), Wednesday, 14 November 2018 04:58 (two years ago) link

Incidentally, Hopkins fits the classic paedophile profile but I dislike him because I don't think he's any good.

can one fp a whole blog

imago, Wednesday, 14 November 2018 07:43 (two years ago) link

Xp that is very bad news re: Jarvis. I dunno how to go about running 'good poetry, bad man' on someone who's done something that bad.

Never changed username before (cardamon), Thursday, 22 November 2018 01:54 (two years ago) link

Elsewhere has anyone read penguin New poets series (their new one). Tried to encounter a few in waterstone's last time I was in, but did not like

Never changed username before (cardamon), Thursday, 22 November 2018 01:57 (two years ago) link

Novelist Rose Tremain thinks poetry these days is overrated. “Let’s dare to say it out loud: contemporary poetry is in a rotten state,” she told the TLS this week. “Having binned all the rules, most poets seem to think that rolling out some pastry-coloured prose, adding a sprinkling of white space, then cutting it up into little shapelets will do. I’m fervently hoping for something better soon.”

Had Tremain really managed to miss the whole of modernism? After all, the modernists swore they had “binned all the rules” at or around the end of the 19th century. For anyone, much less a writer, 20th-century modernist poets are hard to miss; whether it is the sediments of Eliot or Pound, or the brilliant treasures of HD, Mina Loy or Hope Mirrlees. Had Tremain leapt over the cross-currents of the next 100 years from Tennyson to Walter de la Mare to Philip Larkin, flat-footing it on their bald, smooth verse to land on some plaintive lyrical bank of our new century?

Never changed username before (cardamon), Friday, 23 November 2018 00:43 (two years ago) link

ts eliot and ezra pound not contemporary poetry

flopson, Friday, 23 November 2018 00:49 (two years ago) link


I'm not sure which is worse: 'they have broken the rules' or 'modernism means you can't ask for poetry based on rules' or 'because of Eliot and Pound, contemporary poetry need not answer to any standard'.

Never changed username before (cardamon), Friday, 23 November 2018 00:51 (two years ago) link

The Outside Scoop

Recnac and my 📛 is Yrral (James Redd and the Blecchs), Friday, 23 November 2018 00:53 (two years ago) link

Another xp

I h8 the way those two get brought in to justify free verse; Eliot tends to have trimeter, tetrameter and alexandrines going on; Pound began with strict formal verse, moving on to a new style for the cantons, and praised good examples of it throughout his essays

Never changed username before (cardamon), Friday, 23 November 2018 00:55 (two years ago) link

five months pass...

Sad news about Les Murray.

o. nate, Thursday, 2 May 2019 19:35 (one year ago) link

Read 'Deaf Republic' by Ilya Kaminsky which I liked a lot.

Leaghaidh am brón an t-anam bochd (dowd), Friday, 3 May 2019 07:45 (one year ago) link

I read it - I remember it reminded me of Cummings quite often.

Leaghaidh am brón an t-anam bochd (dowd), Monday, 13 May 2019 10:03 (one year ago) link

one month passes...
one month passes...

Just ordered this:

Sounds like he’s a big Robert Lowell fan, which is a good sign.

o. nate, Tuesday, 20 August 2019 16:39 (one year ago) link

two weeks pass...

Was thinking it might be too late for summer reading, but the humidity is ba-a-a-ck (ghost of Dorian), so it's currently hotter than God's stuffed balls where I live, so I'll go ahead and post this:

Far Rockaway

"the cure of souls." Henry James

The radiant soda of the seashore fashions
Fun, foam, and freedom. The sea laves
The shaven sand. And the light sways forward
On the self-destroying waves.

The rigor of the weekday is cast aside with shoes
With business suits and the traffic's motion;
The lolling man lies with the passionate sun,
He returns to the children digging at summer,
A melon-like fruit.

O glittering and rocking and bursting and blue
--Eternities of sea and sky shadow no pleasure:
Time unheard moves and the heart of man is eaten
Consummately at leisure.

The novelist tangential on the boardwalk overhead
Seeks his cure of souls in his own anxious gaze.
"Here," he says, "With whom?" he asks, "This?" he questions,
"What tedium, what blaze?"

"What satisfaction, fruit? What transit, heaven?
Criminal, justified? Arrived at what June?"
That nervous conscience amidst the concessions
is a haunting, haunted moon.

---Delmore Schwartz

dow, Saturday, 7 September 2019 17:37 (one year ago) link

two weeks pass...

Hofmann has a very funny poem about Donald Trump in the current issue of the NY Review of Books.

o. nate, Sunday, 22 September 2019 01:05 (one year ago) link

six months pass...
nine months pass...

Friday’s Weekly Round-Up – 497

Big news announced this week, the upcoming (April 2021) CD release by Omnivore Recordings of Howl at Reed College (from February, 1956, the first recorded reading).
Variety in its announcement notes the background:

“The tape went forgotten until 2007, when author John Suiter found it in a box at Reed’s Hauser Memorial Library while doing research on another poet who read at the college that day, Gary Snyder. Its discovery made the news after being verified the following year. But it was to still go unheard to the general public until a Hollywood-Oregon connection made its release inevitable.

Reed named Dr. Audrey Bilger its president in 2019. Bilger happens to be married to Cheryl Pawelski, the Grammy-winning co-founder of Omnivore Recordings, who had moved to Oregon herself upon Bilger’s appointment. Omnivore already had history with Ginsberg, having released The Complete Songs of Innocence and Experience in 2017 and The Last Word on First Blues in 2016. Using her existing connections with the Ginsberg estate, Pawelski sent the tape to Grammy Award-winning engineer Michael Graves to have it transferred, restored and mastered.”

Chris Lydgate in Reed Magazine tells more:

Its first public reading took place at San Francisco’s famous Six Gallery in October, 1955. Along with Ginsberg, the evening included readings by Gary Snyder, Philip Whalen, Philip Lamantia, and Michael McClure. Poet Kenneth Rexroth was the emcee; Jack Kerouac, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Neal Cassady were in the audience. Unfortunately, no one thought to record this historic moment. Ginsberg was recorded reading the poem at Berkeley a few months later in March, 1956, and for many years literary historians thought that recording was the first. But they were wrong. Earlier in 1956, Ginsberg and Snyder went hitchhiking through the Pacific Northwest, and arrived at Reed, where they decided to hold a poetry reading in the common room of the Anna Mann dormitory. On February 14, Ginsberg read the first section of “Howl,” still very much a work in progress. And this time, someone brought a tape recorder.”

John Suiter, also in Reed Magazine, back in 2008, provides the essential account:

“Before launching into “Howl” itself, Ginsberg pauses to briefly prime his listeners for what’s to come. “The line length,” he says. “You’ll notice that they’re all built on bop—You might think of them as built on a bop refrain—chorus after chorus after chorus—the ideal being, say, Lester Young in Kansas City in 1938, blowing 72 choruses of ‘The Man I Love’ ’til everyone in the hall was out of his head—and Young was also . . .” (This was pure Kerouac, straight from the prefatory note to Mexico City Blues, wherein Kerouac states his notion of the poet as jazz saxophonist, “blowing” his poetic ideas in breath lines “from chorus to chorus.”)
(He) then begins with his now-famous opening line, “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness . . .”—delivered in a rather flat affect. First-time listeners may be surprised at how low-key Ginsberg sounds at the outset of this reading of “Howl,” though this was typical, and soon enough his voice rises to what he later called “Hebraic-Melvillian bardic breath.”
“I still hadn’t broken out of the classical Dylan Thomas monotone,” Ginsberg later wrote of his early readings. “—the divine machine revs up over and over until it takes off.”
The Reed recording of February 1956 is superb, faithful in pitch and superior in sound quality to any presently known 1950s version. Allen is miked closely, so his volume is even throughout. His enunciation is clear, his timing perfect; he never stumbles. His accent is classic North Jersey Jewish, intelligent and passionate. The poet-as-saxman metaphor comes demonstrably true as we hear Ginsberg drawing in great breaths at the anaphoric head of every line. It’s a recording to be breathed with as much as listened to…..”


dow, Saturday, 16 January 2021 18:05 (one month ago) link

Roll on Omnivore---from my Uproxx ballot comments re: 2019:
Allen Ginsberg: The Complete Songs of Innocence and Experience (Omnivore)

Baaahing at and from what no more can be seen from the darkening green, then venturing through rounds in the smokey city, letting the good and bad times constantly roll back and forth through each other, Blake and Ginsberg's magisterial and magical realness trespass is sometimes given pause and detour by evidence of a woman in there somewhere, as the wordmazes make way, even more---something to do with Ginsberg's choice of poems to include: no valentines, but some things that shake the darkness deeper, where Beatrice is unseen, also unsought, it seems. Eventually he meets Arthur Russell, who joins Bob Dylan etc. for nocturnes but hold on now when they meet, it's in a San Francisco park including a Buddhist troupe that AR is living with: here they keep rolling up and down though a thunderclap of drone.

dow, Saturday, 16 January 2021 19:07 (one month ago) link

Oops, that was originally from 2017, pasted into 2019 comments re Arthur Release.

dow, Saturday, 16 January 2021 19:12 (one month ago) link

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