Articles in Poetry
Modernist poet P. K. Page may be the most important Canadian author you’ve never heard of. An impressive new biography, replete with examples of Page’s poetry and prose, seeks to remedy that.
Shane Book’s evocative collection Ceiling of Sticks shows us our familiar world in ways that might surprise even the most jaded reader into optimism about poetry.
Constructing a “walrus itself” is a difficult thing to do – but it’s just one of the transubstantiations Ben Mirov attempts in his latest collection of poems
Coming of age after World War I, Auden took the alienation of his generation and sharpened it to a special keenness; he transformed his disaffected modernism into an immortal body of work that still challenges today.
Even the speaker in Jennifer Denrow’s new book knows that the California she imagines is one she’ll never visit, one that cannot possibly be real – but that’s what makes it so alluring.
“He said he would have Crispin Glover play him in a movie”–Alejandro Ventura’s image-rich and always funny poetry is on full display in Puerto Rico. Joe Betz reviews.
A conversation with Adam Golaski about The Problem of Boredom in Paradise: Selected Poems of Paul Hannigan
Current Poet Laureate Natasha Tretheway mines American history–the early colonies, slavery, the Civil War–for the material of her poetry. Teow Lim Goh visits with the figures she’s brought back to life.
It is said that Thomas Hardy fell deeply in love with his wife, Emma, only after she died. Stephen Akey revisits the stunning, elegiac poetry he wrote in her memory.
What do Christopher Marlowe and the newly discovered Higgs boson particle have in common? Anthony Lock explores the connection, by way of unified fields.
Kathleen Rooney’s poems in Robinson Alone can be read two ways–as standalone pieces and as connected parts that form a single poetic narrative of a character’s life
A look back at Anne Carson’s book-length elegy “Nox,” in which readers are asked not only to unfold the poetry’s symbols and allusions but also the accordion-like book itself.
The fairy tale has been through several metamorphoses; the next might result in its extinction. Max Ross reviews Jack Zipes’s cultural history of the genre.
Although I would rather do almost anything than attend a literary reading (like, for instance, stay home and read), I made an exception for Jorge Luis Borges when he lectured to a packed house at …
In sparse and contrapuntal verse, familiar words are warped out of their comfortable meanings, and sharpened to juxtapose – but is Joyelle McSweeney’s latest experiment a success?
Sufi mystics, barbaric yawps, and the comedy of the sexes are what’s inside Anthony Madrid’s new collection of ghazals. What does our poetry editor make of this puzzling Persian pattern?
Emily Pettit turns nonsense into horse sense, or goat sense, in her new collection Goat in the Snow
Madman, lothario, despot, drug fiend, friend and enemy of Mussolini – and immortal poet. Gabriele D’Annunzio was all of these things and many more in his whirlwind of a life.
Myth and fairy tale seem as far from true as can be, but Feng Sun Chen’s poetry uses them to explore the necessities and unavoidable transformations of life.
Pound wrote The Pisan Cantos on toilet paper while prisoner in an open-air metal cage during WWII, and he spent many of the following years in mental hospitals. “I can get along with crazy people,” he quipped. “It’s only the fools I can’t stand.”
There are warring schools of fad and interpretation, there are critical readings of an hour or a season – and then there’s Wordsworth’s verse itself, annotating and amplifying the personal reading experience.
William Shakespeare meets Halo 2 in Colby Somerville’s new chapbook Death TV (1-6): the drone of bees in ancient glades and the drone of Lockheed Martin. What’s the poet onto?
Matvei Yankelevich’s poetry may seem direct and plainspoken, but as a new collection shows, his verse reveals a long battle with the uncertainty of language.
The great Antonio Machado loved his native Spain and was disgusted by its descent into fascism; that fusion of enchantment and grief vivifies his unforgettable poetry.
In Soviet Russia, Joseph Brodsky was persecuted by the authorities, but memorized by ordinary people. In the capitalist West, he was feted by the authorities, but ignored by ordinary people. Perhaps it’s just as well he thought reality “nonsense or a nuisance.”
As the haze and heat of summer kick into full swing, the folk of Open Letters break out their annual Summer Reading recommendations!
Our feature continues, as more Open Letters folk share their annual Summer Reading recommendations!
The verses of the neglected poet James Schuyler seem to ramble, but they don’t really ramble; they seem dishevelled, but they aren’t; they seem miniaturist, but they contain whole worlds. Stephen Akey makes the case for your renewed attention.
Derek Walcott’s long Homeric tribute “Omeros” will likely stand as his masterpiece and reward detailed study for centuries. And as with Homer, even small fragments of the world can yield fascinating insights.
Known as much for how she exited her life as for the poetry she wrote during it, Sylvia Plath remains a polarizing figure in the world of verse. What are we reading, when we subject ourselves to her poems?
The work of the Roman poet Catullus has always challenged the received idioms of poetry and society, and a daring new translation both underscores and undermines that iconoclastic Catullan stance.
The raw sexuality of the Catullus’ love poems keeps them alive even today, and the things he implied about Julius Caesar STILL can’t be repeated in polite conversation – how do we deal with this young man who’s always making us feel just a bit uncomfortable?
When the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded in 2010, it was given to an empty chair. Its recipient, Liu Xiaobo, was in prison for advocating human rights in China. Though he is still incarcerated, a collection of essays sheds light on his thought and struggle.
Randall Jarrell was suspicious of attempts to turn criticism into a science: he wrote as a reader, for other readers, with the work itself foremost in his mind.
Most criticism is reactive, but in his essay “The Poet,” Ralph Waldo Emerson proved prophetic. He set a challenge and Walt Whitman took him up on it.
How should we relate to our cities? To ourselves? Kate Schapira couldn’t be asking more important questions in her latest collections of poems, How We Saved The City, and The Bounty: Four Addresses
Wallace Stevens, so long considered the driest and most cerebral of poets, can in fact touch the soul. It all hangs on the nature of poetry itself, what it is.
Nobody would accuse the mature Larkin of being a greeting card poet, and yet a warm and even vulnerable sentimentality bubbles up in his verse, often when it’s least expected.
A conversation with Maureen Thorson, Open Letters’ new poetry editor, founder of NaPoWriMo, and publisher of Big Game Books
Prince of the Bengali renaissance, internationally feted poet, composer, painter, educator — why don’t we know Rabindranath Tagore today? And will a new book open our eyes?
A poem by Jack Hanson
The 12th-century Sufi poet Rumi is said to have re-created himself as an avatar of love. Chase Nordengren explores the stations on the life cycle that lead to such a radical rebirth.
The late Akilah Oliver’s poetry uses language to escape the trap of consciousness–verse “as rapture, as rupture” alike
A new graphic novel reworks Coleridge’s classic confrontation between man and nature for our times, taking us on a grand tour of environmental degradation.
Between the abstract and the solid, between Michigan and New York City, in and out of love, Gina Myers brings betweeness to the fore in her first collection of poems
Courtier and cleric, adventurer and ascetic, man of faith and man of the world — John Donne was many things in his life, and a sprawling new Companion does its best to assess them all.
In her new collection of poems, Claire Becker probes the matter between what we intuit and what we learn, between what we choose and how we change.
A poem by Andrea Henchey
French trailblazer Raymond Roussel created teeming and fertile worlds from a secret process of wordplay. Two of his most spectacular works are coming back into print after a long, undeserved absence.
Best known today as the muse and lover of Edna St. Vincent Millay, George Dillon was a formidable poet and personality in his own right, and one well worth rereading.
FSG gave fifty poets almost no time at all to write a nation-and-epoch-spanning poem based on ancient Japanese techniques. What could possibly go wrong? Or, more interestingly, what went right?
we travel too quickly through these houses and hours
we travel thickly like rich black beetles tottering on the edges of tables
In his latest collection, The Wrecking Light, Robin Robertson blends the voices of generations of Scottish/Celtic bards and balladeers into his own unique style of poetry.
There is nothing conventional about Christina Mengert’s new book of poetry, nor can it be read the same way twice.
an ecstasy /
recovered from a body
Have bickering bloggers and academic jargon so infected the poetry world that readers can no longer read a poem, or speak of one, as what it is?
Pi Burned Alphabetics
Atomic Snowstorms in Left Handed Corners of the Mind
Circumference of Infinity & Where it Has Gotten Us
Shin Yu Pai engages with history, tradition, and the world around her in her new collection of poems.
The slim body of work of the late New York poet Rachel Wetzsteon skips the faux-Horatian filigree in favor of an unsentimental depiction of modern life and contradictory emotion. And yet, her poems are both outspoken and intimate, and Manhattan is her Rome. Horace might have been flattered after all.
Our tragic feelings seemed opposed to reason:
the boy was taken by arthritic hands that said,
“This is me; but these will be your hands someday–”
“The family got the majority of their ideas about families from black and white films. They tried to replicate every important detail exactly”
Kept between us, I enter my name /
into the raffle /
for a new one and a car to drive it around in.
“A Glyn Maxwell poem encourages us towards an emotion or a point of view not by stating it, often not even by showing it, but by bringing us in stages to cooperate in doing the work of recreating it.”
prussian blue, grog-blossom /
brown, but the prison matron’s white /
picture-hat withered /
the angels to specular. Even now /
Feral cats caught in traps, blood on canvas, mice in laundry baskets, passerines, tail feathers, sky without color.
“Why does the age demand nothing? Am I transcendent or drunk?” :: An excerpt from the Rose Metal Press Field Guide to the Prose Poem
A conversation with the editors of The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to the Prose Poem
THERE IS A BEGINNING TO ALL THIS. AN OCCASION. SCOTTISH BAGPIPES ARE ITS EQUIVALENT, BUT IT BEAMS DOWN IN SPECKLED LIGHTS. SPOKEN LIGHTS.
In addition to their gods and goddesses, the ancient Greeks worshiped youth and athletic prowess, and their foremost bard was Pindar.
Rapt in discussion and a bowl of spicy noodles with poet Martín Espada
The entire first fitt from Adam Golaski’s groundbreaking new translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
Open Letters talks with Adam Golaski about the earlier translations of Sir Gawain, the original MS, and his own “Green”
I tasted each inch of the earth.
I did not like it but I did it.
There were extravagant flavors,
Gobi, Horse Track, Lava Field, London . . .
A conversation and twenty cigarettes with émigré poet and Fulcrum editor Katia Kapovich
There are options regarding /
the ice. We can lick it or cross it. Further information /
when you want it. Information always blinking. /
A chime that rang.
In his study of the poetry and life of dissolute writer Alexander Trocchi, our intrepid corespondent follows him into the dark corners he described, and consorts with smoky ghosts.
From Wyatt to Wordsworth to Bishop (and not forgetting that Shakespeare fellow), that waltz of verse, the sonnet, has survived and thrived. A new collection has some fresh faces.
The forest in this season is a silent palace of abandoned rooms. /
Only a few, precise sounds: as if someone were lifting twigs with tweezers; /
as if, inside each tree-trunk, a hinge was creaking quietly.
…. There’s just this one next thing /
plunked down, weighty & here, after the last //
next thing burned off in mist.
You expected a monster movie, /
the straight line progression of vandalism and death. /
But this plot’s triangular, a love story predicated /
on deceit and betrayal /
Woe to the critic who calls Edith Grossman’s translations “seamless.” In her combative new treatise she argues for a greater recognition of the artistry of translation–but how many liberties can a translator take while staying true to the original?
Our own Marc Vincenz conducts a gothic conversation with the Canadian poet Jeramy Dodds
The personas and poetics of five new books by American women are examined in with an eye toward concealment and of revelation: Matthea Harvey, Katy Lederer, Brenda Shaugnessey, Robyn Schiff, and Karen Volkman.
… I don’t mind the missing violin; /
I am sweetly imbibing a foreign /
fortitude: nothing terrible /
will happen this hour or the previous… /
“My ideal poem would be able to be interpreted as both funny and sad and whatever else….” Shafer trailed off. “I think that’s a fairly accurate description of my work, and probably of myself too.”
He was a soldier, a lover, an exile, and a wanderer – he was Ugo Foscolo,and thanks to a new translation, readers will learn he was one thing more: a powerful poet.
“opium” Georgias, “hotwired” Georgias, and “mercury” Georgias, are cataloged and blasted in Andrew Zawacki’s new collection Petals of Zero / Petals of One. But who or what or where is Georgia’s eponym?
“Whoever devotes himself to decency and to virtue /
he beguiles with deceptions, corrupting their temptingly innocent hearts….”
Long before he wrote some of the most powerful poems in English, John Milton, as a brainy teenager, wrote verse in Latin. Celebrated translator David Slavitt tells us a little about them.
Karl Parker’s moves are more than merely clever: I-less one minute, present & friendly the next, he darts behind masks and speaks IN BOLD, as our contributing editor discovers in her review.
a poem by Tomas Tranströmer, translated by Robin Robertson
Marc Vincenz interviews Forward Prize-winning poet and translator Robin Robertson, whose newest collection, The Wrecking Light, will be published this year
John Madera reviews Michael Leong’s e.s.p. and recounts the scramble of names, idioms, puns, and wild associations he finds in the poems
As Ingrid Norton reports, the eerie and heartbroken poems of W.S. Merwin’s The Lice continue to resonate thirty years on: whispering, creeping, shaking.
Wave Books, 2009
Maggie Nelson’s Bluets starts with its worst sentence: “Suppose I were to begin by saying that I had fallen in love with a color.” I am suspicious of this sentence; I find …
A poem by Kristen Marie Kostick
When he was banished for life from Rome, Ovid was trying to alter his artistic forms with his Metamorphoses. Trace the transformations in Steve Donoghue’s final “Year with the Romans”
George Shannon, Jr. found himself lost from the Lewis & Clark expedition not once but twice; Campbell McGrath locates the wanderer in Shannon; Ryan Davidson reviews the poem.
The Poetry and Life
of Allen Ginsberg:
a narrative poem
by Edward Sanders
Overlook, 2000, 2009
Ed Sanders was a follower of Allen Ginsberg, and later a close friend, and he’s in a nice position to sketch what amounts to …
Exile, displacement, and polyglot discovery fill the verses of Fiona Sze-Lorrain; Edward McFadden journeys through Water the Moon.
He was everybody’s friend, and his poetry breathes with life even today. He was Horace, and “A Year with the Romans” makes his acquaintance.
a poem by John Williams
Black Maze Books, 2009
Survey Says is a short book of white margins and large type, considering solely of answers provided on The Family Feud (in 2005 and 2008):
I soak my dishes. Bambi. Hamburger. …
Steve Donoghue’s “A Year with the Romans” continues with a look at the obscure Roman poet Persius – and the great new book about him.
You knew you were dead in my dream. You said drive me. The doctor. I’m so late. I said no there’s no more doctor you know that. I hugged …
A native of Iowa, A. F. Moritz has just won Canada’s highest poetry prize. Marc Vincenz sits down with him in Iceland to talk about metaphor, identity, and location.
Nixon, Bushes, and the War on Terror have been surprisingly good for poetry. Maureen Thorson releases her findings on National Anthem and Dick of the Dead.
From the forbidding North to the torrid South, the poetry debuts of Joshua Harmon and Farrah Field explore the geography of words. John Cotter gives centrality to locality.
from LA LA LA, a poem by Sampson Starkweather
In the future, we’ll plan the future better.
In the future, you can just become your TV.
In the future, your sexual partners will meet all the qualities on your checklist.
And this anxiety you’re feeling now? In the future you won’t feel it.
An excerpt from a poem by Tristan Tzara, translated by Heather Green
Bryn Mawr’s deaconess Edith Hamilton and Catullus, the bard of Rome’s underbelly, would seem to have little in common. Steve Donoghue brokers a meeting in the latest “Year with the Romans.”
Great Britain has finally made a woman poet laureate—and a lesbian no less. As Bryn Haworth reports, when she’s isn’t writing about the Royals, she’s plenty worthy of the honor. Since writing about the Royals is one of the job’s few requirements, what changes might we expect from the post?
“It takes one to know one,” she said,
and I had knowingly taken several of them,
so when it came time to talk to the cops,
I took the initiative to tell them
where to find Franco (God rest …
Sarah Ruden, the latest and greatest translator of Vergil’s Aeneid, offers a funny and fascinating glimpse inside the classicist’s world in this Open Letters interview.
new poetry from Maureen Thorson
Poet’s poet Lyn Hejinian has turned poet’s novelist in Lola, half of her new collection Saga/Circus. John Cotter circles its sagacity.
The Finnish national epic, the Kalevala, was compiled in the early 19th century from a much older oral tradition—can it possibly have anything to teach the modern reader? Sean Hughes has some surprising answers.
W.W. Norton, 2009
Most of the poems in this collection, the fourth from April Bernard (whom W.S. Merwin deems “brilliant” on the flap copy, a poet of “power and ambition”) are rather lovely—and at …
by Chelsey Minnis
Wave Books, 2008
Chelsey Minnis is something of a poet’s poet, and to certain readers her third book, Poemland, will come off as undisciplined, even ridiculous. But to readers who want to be in …
new poetry from Christine Herzer
Virgil’s Aeneid has been attracting translators for centuries, and Sarah Ruden’s rendering is notable in more ways than one. (She calls him Vergil, for one thing, but that’s just the start.) Steve Donoghue regards her efforts in the latest “A Year with the Romans.”
A poem by Charles Jodoin
Being pregnant, giving birth, and raising a child is both the most mundane of processes and the most miraculous. In the hands of the wrong poet, it is a subject that can …
a poem by Paul Violi
Elinor Wylie has not received the respect of posterity that she herself thought she deserved. John G. Rodwan, Jr. explores the reasons for that neglect, and the poetry that survives it.
Tin House Books
In Satellite Convulsions: Poems from Tin House, Portland’s Tin House Books has released an enticing anthology of contemporary poetry: It’s got one of those nice paperback covers with page-marking flaps, proclaiming contents …
When Jack Spicer was alive, his books could only be had in small editions, in and around the Bay area. Thanks to a new collection, My Vocabulary Did This to Me, that work has finally arrived. Jared White takes us deep into Spicer’s magical, reckless world.
translations by Elisa Gabbert and Kathleen Rooney
Poetry meets anatomy when Lianne Habinek reads Donne, who, in “The Flea” and other poems, aimed to discover the seat of the soul
John Taggart’s most recent book, There Are Birds, might net him a wider audience, thanks to a personal touch in those trademark cadences. Adam Golaski guides us into Taggart’s songlike sonorities.
C.D. Wright collects her poems from scraps of overheard conversation, wandering memories, newspaper headlines. In his review of Rising, Falling, Hovering, John Cotter surveys the damage suspended in that scaffolding.
I need, my sweet girl Ipsithilla,
your pleasures passing through my hands,
like honey dripping from the sun,
so call me to you for the long afternoon.
Among the Nora Roberts and J.D. Robb, Steve Donoghue unearths a rare secondhand treasure in Ovid’s difficult, underrated Fasti. And he celebrates.
The lyric I and the lyric eye are in play and in question in Stephanie Young’s second book, Picture Palace. Elisa Gabbert illuminates its pitfalls and its charms.
It may be debatable whether the most maudit of all the poètes deserves the tribute, but Gaston Frontenac finds the nasty, beautiful Rimbaud well served by Edmund White’s new Rimbaud: The Double Life of a Rebel
2 poems by Peretz Markish
translated by Amelia Glaser
— — —
Hey, what do you deal in – sorrow?
What are you selling there – despair?
I’m a buyer and a dealer,
and I’m dealing and I’m wheeling
days and nights, …
Lorine Niedecker knew the literary life in New York, fell for Louis Zukofsky, published in Objectivist magazines, then returned to Wisconsin, where her poems continued growing spare, surreal, and deep. Heather Green reviews what the new collection Radical Varnacular adds to our understanding of her world.
Sharon Fulton reviews Patricia Smith’s Blood Dazzler, a “resonant and devastating” examination of the Katrina disaster and the Bush administration’s failure to contain its fallout.
new poetry from Michael Trocchia
a poem by Kate Schapira
A poem by Andrea Zanzotto, translated by Wayne Chambliss
Will you switch coronaries with me?
Contributing Editor Adam Golaski gives us his most recent installment of his gorgeous and heart-racing translation of one of English’s oldest poems Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.
State of the Union
Eds. Joshua Beckman and Matthew Zapruder
Wave Books, 2008
There are many things I like about the new political anthology from Wave Books, State of the Union. I like its size–very manageable at just …
A poem by Matthew Klane
a poem by Peter Jay Shippy
A poem by Jesse Ball
In the second of two essays, Chad Reynolds adjudges that in The Presentable Art of Reading Absence Wright himself could have stood to evanesce a smidge of his own ego in the course of his “users guide to evanescence”
What defines an anthology? What are the limits of verse? Derek Henderson definitively answers these and thousands of other questions in his detailed and celebratory review of A Sing Economy.
There can be no more obvious target in the literary landscape for our poetry editor than a popularly selling book-length poem. With Sharp Teeth, Toby Barlow has dared to write such a thing, and John Cotter has responded accordingly.
Wave Books, 2008
Caroline Knox is a serious goofball. In Quaker Guns, her sixth and latest book of poetry, her over-the-top whimsy pays off more often than not, sometimes with big dividends.
Though Knox’s poems …
Analfabeto / An Alphabet
Dictionary lists intersperse the fragmentary text of Analfabeto / An Alphabet, but they are always incomplete. We have the English, but we don’t have all the Portuguese. So, for the …
Coach House Books, 2007
Having read a little about Human Resources, I suspected I might “get” the project pretty quickly and not need or want to finish the whole thing. It combines corporate language …
In the first of two essays on Jay Wright’s new Dalkey Archive books, Chad Reynolds describes the work of an old poet not half ready to go under the earth and still coming to terms with what it means to live on the surface in Polynomials and Pollen.
A poem by Clayton Eshleman.
Open Letters continues its serialization of Adam Golaski’s innovative translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight with this, the fourth installment.
August Kleinzahler is not an old man, yet Sleeping It Off in Rapid City is his fourth Selected Poems. John Cotter explores why you’ll need the old ones too and why you may find yourself with a use for the word “Kleinzahleresque.”
At a poetry reading on the Palatine 2,000 years ago, you’d have spent a week’s pay to hear him read. Today he’s unknown, except to our Steve Donoghue (and a few of our readers, no doubt). Here, after a long time gone, is the Roman poet Tibullus.
A poem by Kaethe Schwehn
Open Letters continues its serialization of Adam Golaski’s innovative translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight with this, the third installment.
A poem by Josely Vianna Baptista, translated by Chris Daniels, and featuring a drawing by Francisco Faria
A poem by Chad Reynolds
Open Letters continues its serialization of Adam Golaski’s innovative translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight with this, the second installment.
A poem by Samuel Wharton
Open Letters presents the first of many installments of Adam Golaski’s innovative new translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, a serialization.
A poem by Clayton Eshleman
Jeffrey Eaton absorbs himself in the weirdly familiar and the familiarly weird worlds of Shafer Hall’s Never Cry Woof and PF Potvin’s The Attention Lesson.
A poem by Daniel Bouchard
Two poets gather up the treasures of the past, one by tossing them in a pile, the other by building a gallery. Chad Reynolds digs into new books by Amy England and Priscilla Sneff.
A poem by Josh Lefkowitz
A poem by Ravi Shankar
John Cotter leads us to the interior of two extremely different books of poetry, Charles Wright’s reflective and naturalist Littlefoot and Frederick Seidel’s garish and weird Ooga-Booga.
A poem by Maggie Smith
A poem by Sommer Browning
Chris Tonelli tackles the wily metaphysics of Zachary Schomburg’s
The Man Suit and Paula Cisewski’s Upon Arrival.
John Cotter guides us through Clayton Eshleman’s translations of the startling, invigorating poetry of César Vallejo, one of the earliest and most underrepresented of the modernists.
A transcontemporization of César Vallejo by Sampson Starkweather
Adam Golaski champions the “difficult read” in his review of the poetry of a. rawlings, Christian Bök, and Nathalie Stephens.
Steve Donoghue reviews John Donne: The Reformed Soul, a new “cuss-and-codpiece” biography by the inconceivably youthful John Stubbs
John Cotter looks into new mixed-media books of poetry by Bill Knott and John Yau to discover shades of meaning in the interplay of artwork and verse.
A poem by Jennifer L. Knox
A poem by Sommer Browning
Kathy Rooney makes a close study of the cool-quotient of new books of poetry by Eileen Myles, Matthew Rohrer, and Christian Hawkey.
Elisa Gabbert examines two genre-expanding books of poetry by Jenny Boully and Max Winter.
A poem by Shafer Hall