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This collection is a love letter to language with poems that are drunk and filled with references to the hyperkinetic world of the twenty-first century. Yet Zeus and Hera tangle with Leda on the interstate; Ava Gardner becomes a Hindu princess; and Shiva, the Destroyer, reigns over all. English is the primary god here, with its huge vocabulary and omnivorous gluttony for new words, yet the mystery of the alphabet is behind everything, a funky puppet master who can make a new world out of nothing.
These poems contain fasts and feasts, laments and love songs, histories, fantasies, and elegies, the amusing and heartbreaking debris of life on this world, all the while recalling Seneca's dictum, non est ad astra mollis e terris via ("the road from the earth to the stars is not easy").
The Lower East Side Poetry Scene in the 1960s
This landmark book, together with its accompanying CD, captures the heady excitement of the vibrant, irreverent poetry scene of New York's Lower East Side in the 1960s. Drawing from personal interviews with many of the participants, from unpublished letters, and from rare sound recordings, Daniel Kane brings together for the first time the people, political events, and poetic roots that coalesced into a highly influential community. From the poetry-reading venues of the early sixties, such as those at the Les Deux Mégots and Le Metro coffeehouses to The Poetry Project at St. Mark's Church, a vital forum for poets to this day, Kane traces the history of this literary renaissance, showing how it was born from a culture of publicly performed poetry. The Lower East Side in the sixties proved foundational in American verse culture, a defining era for the artistic and political avant-garde.
The voices and works of John Ashbery, Amiri Baraka, Charles Bernstein, Bill Berkson, Ted Berrigan, Kenneth Koch, Bernadette Mayer, Ron Padgett, Denise Levertov, Paul Blackburn, Frank O'Hara, and many others enliven these pages, and the thirty five-track CD includes recordings of several of the poets reading from their work in the sixties and seventies. The Lower East Side's cafes, coffeehouses, and salons brought together poets of various aesthetic sensibilities, including writers associated with the so-called New York School, Beats, Black Mountain, Deep Image, San Francisco Renaissance, Umbra, and others. Kane shows that the significance for literary history of this loosely defined community of poets and artists lies in part in its reclaiming an orally centered poetic tradition, adapted specifically to open up the possibilities for an aesthetically daring, playful poetics and a politics of joy and resistance.
The Poetry of Louis Dudek
A passionate believer in the power of art—and especially poetry—to influence and critique contemporary culture, Louis Dudek devoted much of his life to shaping the Canadian literary scene through his meditative and experimental poems as well as his work in publishing and teaching. All These Roads: The Poetry of Louis Dudek brings together thirty-five of Dudek’s poems written over the course of his sixty-year career.
Much of Dudek’s poetry is about the practice of art, with comment on the way the craft of poetry is mediated by such factors as university classes, public readings, reviews, commercial presses, and academic conferences. The poems in this selection—witty satires, short lyrics, and long sequences—reflect self-consciously on the relationship between art and life and will draw readers into the dramatic mid-century literary and cultural debates in which Dudek was an important participant.
Karis Shearer’s introduction provides an overview of Dudek’s prolific career as poet, professor, editor, publisher, and critic, and considers the ways in which Dudek’s functional poems help, both formally and thematically, to carry out the tasks associated with those roles. Comparing Dudek’s reception to that of NourbeSe Philip, Marilyn Dumont, and Roy Miki, Frank Davey’s afterword locates Dudek in a pre-1980s version of multiculturalism that is more complex than many critics would have it. According to Davey, Dudek broadened the limits on the possible range and type of poetry for subsequent generations of Canadian writers.
Using the confluence of rivers in Pittsburgh as a metaphorical lens, Allegheny, Monongahela probes the ruinous misalignment between the external and internal lives of two sisters and their childhood in Western Pennsylvania. Their complex and difficult relationship is the spine of the collection, told obliquely through a series of sonnets and ekphrastic meditations on the paintings of Georgia O'Keeffe: the ways in which they separately navigate a violent family history that reverberates through their present and futures; their polarized impulses toward creativity and self-destruction. Rooted in a mutable, watery landscape that is not consistently recognizable, Allegheny, Monongahela investigates the collisions between the world and the self, the fissured identities that result, and the ways in which art may heal or fail to heal the cracks.
The full-length debut from francine j. harris, allegiance is about Detroit, sort of. Although many of the poems are inspired by and dwell in the spaces of the city, this collection does not revel in any of the cliché cultural tropes normally associated with Detroit. Instead, these poems artfully explore life in a city where order coexists with chaos and much is lost in social and physical breakdown. Narrative poems on the hazards, betrayals, and annoyances of city life mix with impressionistic poems that evoke the natural world, as harris grapples with issues of beauty and horror, loyalty and individuality, and memory and loss on Detroit’s complicated canvas. In twelve sections, harris introduces readers to loungers and bystanders, prisoners’ wives, poets pictured on book jackets, Caravaggio’s Jesus, and city priests. She leads readers past the lone house on the block that cannot be walked down, through layers of discarded objects in the high school yard, and into various classrooms, bars, and living rooms. Shorter poems highlight the persistence of nature—in water, weeds, orchids, begonias, insects, pigeons, and pheasants. Some poems convey a sense of the underbelly, desire, and disgust while others treat issues of religion, both in institutional settings and personal prayers. In her honest but unsentimental voice, harris layers personal history and rich details to explore how our surroundings shape our selves and what allegiance we owe them when they have turn almost everything to ashes. Throughout allegiance, harris presents herself as an extraordinarily perceptive poet with a compelling and original voice. Poetry lovers will appreciate this exciting debut collection.
The Alphabet Conspiracy takes its name from a 1950s-era school filmstrip of the same title. With a cast that includes patron saints for country girls and criminals, a Revolutionary War hero, the Wolfman, a sin-eater, John Wayne, and Johnny Cash, these poems swagger and sulk through an educational film turned film noir, replete with femme fatales in love. The Alphabet Conspiracy is about the ways in which language itself can function as a plot, keeping us estranged from ourselves, but also about the way it can be used as a tool for recovering our truest selves.
This is the first book published in English by of the work of Brazilian poet Adelia Prado. Incorporating poems published over the past fifteen years, The Alphabet in the Park is a book of passion and intelligence, wit and instinct. These are poems about human concerns, especially those of women, about living in one's body and out of it, about the physical but also the spiritual and the imaginative life. Prado also writes about ordinary matters; she insists that the human experience is both mystical and carnal. To Prado these are not contradictory: "It's the soul that's erotic," she writes.
As Ellen Watson says in her introduction, "Adelia Prados poetry is a poetry of abundance. These poems overflow with the humble, grand, various stuff of daily life - necklaces, bicycles, fish; saints and prostitutes and presidents; innumerable chickens and musical instruments...And, seemingly at every turn, there is food." But also, an abundance of dark things, cancer, death, greed. These are poems of appetite, all kinds.
This selection and its somewhat haphazard direction of how so many of us interact romantically—on the surface—is a gentle reminder that be it fate, chance, or will, we appear destined to carry out our mission to couple and partner, no matter what the cause or effect. If we truly desire companionship, at all cost, there is probably someone out there seeking the same measure—for better or worse. Whether it is simply ourselves, or the likes of Nathanael West (“Day of the Locus”), Amadeus Mozart (“The Dogs of Amadeus”), Mark Twain (“Mark Twain’s Cigar”), Natalie Wood (“The Late Natalie Wood”), or the poor children who haunt the camps at Terezin and Auschwitz (“ Little Ghosts”), we are all in need of the dose of kindness that love’s dispensary provides if we are fortunate enough to find it, hidden or not, among us. Whether or not a higher power is at work to guide us and grant us “The Word,” or we are determined to discover a path towards salvation through the generous acts of others—or ourselves—we follow an unconscious path, at times, and seek refuge, where possible, in places and locations we might have never imagined to investigate and bear witness. It may be upon “The Road to Jerusalem,” aboard “The New Train,” or in “The Terminal of Grief,” yet we still search for solace and speak the only common language we understand, this pursuit of love we may even try to escape—but never deny.