2013 Poetry Newsletter
We are celebrating April as National Poetry Month with this dedicated Poetry Newsletter and with our annual bookseller poetry videos. Please check out our new videos and some from years past here. This month (and every month) please join us in celebrating the mysterious joy and elusive usefulness found in reading poetry. We hope you enjoy the videos and are turned on to some of the wonderful poets we present to you in this newsletter and, every day, in our stores.
John & all Dieselfolk
Along with Dogen and Hakuin, Ryokan is generally regarded as one of Japan's greatest Zen masters. A quiet rebel who persistently remained at the fringes of society and the Buddhist institution, he is revered in Japan for his spare, luminous poetry and delicate, expressive calligraphy. He is not unlike St. Francis, a wandering holy man happiest in the company of children and animals. In this new translation by Kazuaki Tanashi (probably the pre-eminent translator of Japanese Buddhist literature working today), Ryokan comes to glimmering life. The poetry could only be written by one truly at home in a simple hut at the root of the mountains. These poems exude warmth, loneliness, and mystery made lucid. -- Alex Kantner
Okay, so I admit that initially it was the thought of actually reading poems into the warm ear of a donkey that drew me to this book. However, in spite of not having the opportunity to do that, I ended up absolutely loving this book by Robert Bly, his ode to the ghazal. An ancient form of Arabic verse, typical of the mystics such as Rumi and Hafiz, a ghazal will often focus on loss, separation, or grief, and Bly's tendency is to look behind at time gone by, memory and reflection being at this collection's heart. "How is it I know/Only one river -- its turns -- and one woman?/The love of woman is the knowing of grief." Yet he also speaks endearingly of enjoying those small moments in life, and the beauty and grace of nature. "Don't be afraid./The great lettuce of the world/Is all around us." This has become my favorite collection by this amazing poet! -- Linda Grana
There once was a time, and always is a time, when someone somewhere holds bound pieces of paper with words carefully composed on them and quietly, expansively, delightfully reads the words and recognizes them as poetry. Devoted publishers of poetry often go to great care to enhance every aspect of that experience. One of the latest successful efforts comes from none other than New Directions, with its honest, clarion call of a publishing program beckoning the inquisitive human to the fire of deeply imagined writing. I'm talking about the New Directions Poetry Pamphlet Series, now up to No. 4 and promising to be a breathlessly awaited event into the unimaginable future.
Just look at the first four titles and know that they are committed to presenting us with the best of contemporary and international writing: experimental, daring, shapely, articulate, and invigorating. Just like we like it. Sorting Facts, or Nineteen Ways of Looking at Chris Marker (#1) by Susan Howe. Two American Scenes (#2) by Lydia Davis and Eliot Weinberger. The Helens of Troy, New York (#3) by Bernadette Mayer. Pneumatic Antiphonal (#4) by Sylvia Legris.
Beautifully designed, textured, printed, and written, this is publishing the way we need it to be. I'm immersed in them, amazed by them, and very glad to turn you on to them. Oh, and don't miss another wonderful book from ND, which came out six months ago, but seems like today: Time of Useful Consciousness by Lawrence Ferlinghetti -- one of the best poetry books of the decade! -- John Evans
It would be hard to do greater justice to Richard Siken's work than Louise Glück does in her introduction to his collection, Crush. "The poems' power derives from obsession," she writes, "but...Siken's manner is sheer manic improv, with the poet in all the roles: he is the animal trapped in the headlights, paralyzed; he is also the speeding vehicle, the car that doesn't stop, the mechanism of flight." These poems left me breathless, like I'd been running from some emotion I couldn't quite name; if you read them all at once or in several deep swallows -- and their compulsive, propulsive nature makes it difficult not to -- you emerge feeling raw and yet somehow freed. The poems in Crush resonate like a lyric to which one instinctively knows the melody. -- Anna Kaufman
I first swooned over Wendell Berry when Anne Lamott quoted "The Wild Rose" in Bird By Bird. I love "Poem" from Berry's just re-released collection, The Country of Marriage: "Willing to die,/you give up/your will. Keep still/until, moved/by what moves/all else, you move." Berry sees marriage as a means to connect to each other and to society at large, even to God. (Oops! I forgot to get married). He also considers the farmer's relationship to the land as a means and metaphor for relating with all that is. Makes me want to live off the land with my one true love. -- Mia Wigmore
Those familiar with my past reviews know I'm obsessed with typography and graphic work; as such, visual poetry is an art form close to my heart. The Last Vispo Anthology is a monumental survey, covering the explosive proliferation of Vispo with the rise of digital communication. Editors Crag Hill and Nico Vassilakis have spent decades practicing and engaging with visual poetics, and the works they've selected show a stunning thematic and tonal range. There's a kinetic dynamism to visual poetry that seems equal parts playful and violent: letters bend and break, pile up like postmodern ruins, or invade, crush, and devour each other on colorful fields of battle. This is truly a global anthology -- 23 countries are represented -- and includes as well a generous selection of essays on Vispo, which range from playful to prickly, but are united by their love of the form. Finally, particular kudos are due to Fantagraphics, one of the world's best publishers of innovative graphic work, to reproduce this often difficult-to-present art form in all its stunning, large-format, full-color glory. -- John Peck
True to the title of this collection, Dunn's poems capture moments in real time. Whether the theme is a singular event, the consequence of routine, or an unusual situation, you can easily slide into his world as a silent observer. Dunn gently engages the reader, prompting thought and self-reflection, though more through happenstance than intention. The poems strike a chord of familiarity, like reading a beautiful letter from a sage friend. -- Cheryl Ryan
Don't let the word "poetry" intimidate your youngsters. This fun and fabulous illustrated book by one of the masters of rhyme will hook them on the genre. Introducing 16 newly-discovered animals, from the materialistic Swapitis (SWAP-uh-teez) to the ever-busy Plandas (PLAN-duz), these mash-up critters will amuse, delight, and encourage you and your little ones to make up Bardvarks (BARD-varx) of your own! -- Riley Ellis