Diesel has a passion for language, creative combinations of syllabic style, ornery onomatopoeia, magical metonymy and enchanting enjambment.
Also, if you missed out on our National Poetry Month Celebration, you can access the videos of our favorite poems by Herman Hesse, T. S. Elliot, Pablo Neruda, Anne Sexton, Georg Trakl & many more on 30 Videos in 30 Days - 2012 .
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
Counterpoint has just published a 50th Anniversary Edition of Gary Snyder's epochal Riprap and Cold Mountain Poems. Along with Turtle Island and Mountains and Rivers Without End (also generously published by Counterpoint), Riprap is the classic Snyder which has permeated our culture, our counterculture, our ideas about nature and ourselves, and our now very American Buddhism. This edition is beautifully wrapped in a dust jacket graced with Tom Killion's beautiful artwork "Foxtail Pines, Big Arroyo" and includes a CD of Snyder reading all of the poems. It is a stunning edition, slim and powerful - like the man. -- John Evans
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
In this deep reading of the poetic enterprise - with chapters from "Defending Poetry" to "Divine Parameters" - Parini shows why poetry matters through revealing how, and of what, poems are made. "Poems are made things...Poetry is conversation." This is a great introduction to, defense of, and deep dive into the poetic world - enlightening, conversational and useful. -- John Evans
Archy is a cockroach poet. Mehitabel is an alley cat who claims to have been Cleopatra in a previous life. Don Marquis is the writer who put these two oddball characters together for a truly unique and eccentric poetry experience. Archy and Mehitabel is made up of philosophical musings, misanthropic epithets, and even some ironic commentary on animal cruelty, all told through the free verse poetry of a cockroach jumping on the keys of Marquis's typewriter. Immensely entertaining with spectacular and unexpected moments of profundity, Archy and Mehitabel is an obscure poetic classic that should no longer be overlooked. -- Geo Ong
Claimed by Atheists and Christians, Romantics and Idealists, Gnostics and Revolutionaries, even Druids, William Blake stood (and stands) at a crossroads of the Western soul. He bravely pointed down a path few have taken, leaving his work a challenging anomaly for most readers ever since. Much has been written, some of it brilliantly, attempting to parse his vast and difficult poetic works and translate them for new generations. The University of California's The Complete Poetry and Prose of William Blake is a wonderful place to start, and A Blake Dictionary is an excellent supplement to reading the works themselves. Quinney's new book has provided one of the clearest and most concise articulations of what is perhaps Blake's central concern: the salvation of the human soul from the distortions of social, scientific, cultural and religious history. By confining, and refining, her subject, Quinney has opened up a revelatory window into the arc of his prophetic books and the evolving psychology they articulate. Fascinating as cultural history, as contemporary commentary and critique, and as poetic deep reading, it is surprisingly accessible, without compromising the depth of its analysis and the profundity of its subject. -- John Evans
Joseph Lease's Broken World is a lament, a jazz melody, an explanation of how the world (both personal and political) ends. These poems keenly, delicately explore all that is no longer here and never-was-but-should-have-been. Lease's lines are formally austere, using the page and caesura to evoke the space needed for the ideas he presents. These poems exercise a vulnerable, wry negative-awareness that nonetheless accepts us, not in spite of, but rather exactly for everything we lack as individuals and as a nation. "The elegies are taking off their clothes--" (p. 39): indeed they are, and with such abandon. -- Trevor Calvert
From the Union Herald: Broken into 4 sections, Rarer's pages move and build on each other forming something of a metaphysics by the book's last lines: "a redefinition of self somehow finally knowing the popular theory that time does not even exist and without it the universe makes sense again[...]like a bee stinging its own back"(69) The opening section, "Struck Landscape", sets the tableau-lyricism, Foucault, automatons--for the literal "Punch & Judy" that follows it. "Punch", ever the violent sadist, is on a search for meaning[...] The third section acts like a poetic attempt at a Keirkegaardian Either/Or statement, showing the limitations in various approaches to reality and existence, which of course sets up the eschatological final section, "An Approach to Ending".
My first encounter with David Hinton was a slim volume of poetry entitled The Selected Poems of Li Po. The translations felt fresh and alive and I read and re-read that book many times. For me, it was the language that I kept going back for - or, really, the not-language. Paired with the concise and vivid nature of Chinese poetry, Hinton's use of space and his attention to sound allows the mystery in each image a chance to blossom, and I say a chance because the poems never feel finished, they continue to grow and unfurl with each new read. This newest anthology, Classical Chinese Poetry, is just as wonderful. Hinton includes selections from all the early classics (The Book of Songs, Tao Te Ching, Songs of Ch'u, and a large selection of Tang poetry) but also gives his readers a chance to visit other folk-song collections and versions of poems which I personally had never seen before, including a wonderful series of seasonal poems by Lady Midnight. Aside from beautiful translations, the reader also gets many historical aids, in-depth notes and a large reference for future reading. Any fan of Chinese poetry, history, poetics or poetry in general should take a look at this wonderful collection. It is a beautiful edition and one I will pull from my shelf again and again over the years. -- Sean Mix
D.A. Powell's latest collection of poetry, Chronic, possesses equal parts heartbreak and swagger, lust and wit, as he traverses landscapes of unbridled erotica and unparalleled loss. Collaged on these pages we find stories of death and disco, climate change and chronic illness, suburbia and satellites, democracy and one-night-stands. Revealing a wordsmith in his creative prime, Powell's language tends to trigger a powerful visual, sensual and auditory response with every line; even as he writes "sweetmeats and barium ooze from her fistula / cystic hibiscus - with plaster and spatula," the reader's ear delights and her imagination shifts from a candied delicacy to an x-ray image to a blooming flower to a body in disrepair. This crystalline arrangement of shifting and overlapping images is Powell's forte: presenting routine objects, environments and relationships as if seen through a kaleidoscope - at times humorous, at times devastating. With poems this formally and conceptually exquisite, it's hard not to be hooked in an instant, to be drawn to "the parallax of bodies which are and are not ours." -- Steffi Drewes
In his recent book of poetry, Sight Map, Brian Teare embraces the role of lead cartographer. Writing with confidence and precision, he charts the manifold connections between a gritty yet graceful material world and its mystical counterpart. We quickly discover that the poet's perceptions of flora and fauna, of lovers lost and found, of cityscapes, fields and cosmos are all beautifully intertwined. The book's lush, powerful, and wide-reaching vocabulary further blurs the boundaries between nature, sex, philosophy, and prayer. These poems are daring and lyrically complex, and Teare employs a variety of exquisite forms. Each page delivers a carefully crafted meditation that reminds readers of the many ways language can seduce and comfort and challenge us. -- Steffi Drewes
Notley has helped guide and challenge contemporary poetics for as long as I've been alive. In the Pines continues with this; it is mythic, of-the-earth. Notley has created a triptych wherein transformation is a constant. Protean and feminine in its narrative, we read of speakers shifting, flickering almost, from state to state, sometimes so fast not even they know what state they inhabit: "I'm turning into something I never foresaw. When I get there I'll recognize it." This collection never settles - it pulses from prose to verse, from concept to something almost tangible. In the Pines stalks, haunts, and sings. -- Trevor Calvert