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In her debut poetry collection, Kelly Davio invites the reader into a world where sin is virtue and virtue is vice, where the ominous lingers just beneath the surface, and the everyday is imbued with the fantastic. In these intelligent, compassionate, and harrowing poems, Davio gives a modern voice to metaphysical tradition.
But a Storm is Blowing From Paradise emerges at a time when science is discovering more and more about the mystical particles that make up our universe and our bodies. From tidal forces and prairie burns to ruminations on racial identity while standing at the foot of Mount Rushmore, these poems chart a travelogue through mental and physical landscapes and suggest that place, time, love, and bodies are all shifts in the "undulate cosmos." Straddling the lyrical and experimental, these poems conjure and connect the cosmological, the carnal, and the personal in a country—and a universe—that is gobbling itself into oblivion. But a Storm is Blowing From Paradise is in love with the universe of language—Its forms, its sounds, and even its static.
Reality has begun to show its age. Have you noticed? Joe has. Calamity Joe is the pen name of the mysterious narrator in a new kind of poetry collection. Spending his days in a lab, talking to mice & microbes, he will soon be the last living member of his family. More and more, life seems to hint at its syntax, and Joe feels that he can just make out the page he inhabits. Drastic measures are called for, but for what? Poet Brendan Constantine hasn’t crafted another novel in verse, but a secret life revealed by poetry. Open it anywhere and be rewarded with poems that stand alone; read it from the beginning and discover the deeper context that ties every image together. As with his previous collections, Constantine employs countless approaches to poetry and no single style dominates. Looking through Joe’s eyes, we understand that life has no single story, that love is not a single feeling, and that consciousness may be an act of sheer will.
The poems in Cartographies travel new territory, exploring the heart’s changeable geography and the soul’s uneven terrain. They map the familiar, sometimes astonishing, and always complex world of the poet’s native San Gabriel Mountains, as well as nearby Los Angeles, with its cultural richness and social/political tensions. Divided into four sections—The Soul, The Self, Mountains, The City—Cartographies investigates and fathoms our most profound relationships with time, nature, love, and death. In poem after poem, Simon finds meaning in unexpected locales, from a hospital AIDS ward to the “Rorschach” on a butterfly’s wings to a barrio bakery, and in the briefest of moments, evoked by the plaintive voice of a spider, or provoked by a breathless escape from an avalanche. With clarity and eloquence, these poems dramatize the persistent paradoxes present in our daily lives, those interstices of yearning and mourning, fear and celebration, or anguish and amazement that reveal the deep wells and turbulence of human consciousness. With consummate craftsmanship and inner grace, Simon apprehends the elegiac within the purest moments of joy, and intimates catharsis within despair. She opens the mind’s windows to myriad small miracles provoked by the barest glimmers of wonder and hope.
A Collection of Collage Poems
As Gertrude Stein might have put it, a cento is a collage is a mix tape is a video montage. This hypothetical description is fitting in a number of ways. Although the cento form is ancient—in existence since at least the days of Virgil and Homer—it was also used to striking effect in the Modern era: consider, for example, T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land and Ezra Pound's Cantos. More recent centos include John Ashbery's "The Dong with the Luminous Nose," Peter Gizzi's "Ode: Salute to The New York School 1950-1970" (a libretto), Connie Hershey's "Ecstatic Permutations," and the "Split This Rock Poetry Festival - Cento, March 23, 2008" (a collaborative protest poem delivered in front of the White House). The Cento: A Collection of Collage Poems, edited by Theresa Malphrus Welford and with an introduction by David Lehman, features an extensive sampling of centos, collage poems, and patchwork poems written by Nicole Andonov, Lorna Blake, Alex Cigale, Allan Douglass Coleman, Philip Dacey, Sharon Dolin, Annie Finch, Jack Foley, Kate Gale, Dana Gioia, Sam Gwynn, H. L. Hix, David Lehman, Eric Nelson, Catherine Tufariello, and many others.
A Long Playing Poem
In the tradition of the Langston Hughes’ classic Montage of a Dream Deferred, Mitchell L. H. Douglas uses persona poetry to explore the personal and professional struggles of soul legend Donny Hathaway in his debut collection Cooling Board: a Long-Playing Poem. Douglas presents a narrative in two sides: side one focusing on Hathaway’s development as a young musician and subsequent rise to fame and side two bearing witness to the adversity that plagued his later years. Readers see Hathaway as true to his family and faith, and uncompromising in his quest for musical innovation. In a nod to Hathaway’s legacy as a musical trailblazer, Douglas implements a significant poetic innovation through the book’s format. By including alternate versions or “takes” of poems readers receive new information and interpretations of the poems. It can be likened to an album with previously unreleased versions of popular songs. Along the way, poems resembling liner notes and pop charts enhance the experience, reminding readers that the music is the heart of this ride. Above all, Douglas’ depiction of Hathaway reveals the human side of a man who has remained a mystery in the time since his death. Not only does the poet speak in the voices of Hathaway and his long-time collaborator Roberta Flack, the reader also hears the voices of those closest to Hathaway whom we are less familiar with: his mother, Drusella Huntley, his grandmother, Martha Crumwell—Hathaway’s earliest music teacher—and his wife, Eulaulah. With Douglas as a guide versed in the power of possessing many tongues, Cooling Board captures its reader like the best Hathaway song: passionately, honestly, and with an undeniable sense of purpose.
covet (kúh-vit)v. tr.: to desire, esp. to desire eagerly, to wish for, long for. As in to covet another’s belongings, the ghosts of households and fixtures, their voices or warnings. Ex: she coveted the fine table, the rich furnishings of her neighbor’s home. As in to covet the past, a lost year, a lost life or one not lived. Ex: turning the photograph of her parents over in her hand, she imagined their happiness and coveted what might have been. As in to eagerly wish for the health, well-being of one for whom responsibility is given, or a child. Ex: she coveted, above all, happiness for her sons. Or, to want that (i.e. person) which one may not have, desire to possess another. Ex: thou shalt not covet.
Kirkwood's slender, desolate-feeling first novel, set between the California desert and L.A., hinges on an intricate emotional triangle revolving around a teenage runaway. Alexandra, a middle-aged transvestite living a celibate life on the Salton Sea, befriends the runaway, Olivia, at the girl's desert campsite before Olivia disappears. Eleanor, an L.A. plastic surgeon and a lonely lesbian, saw Olivia once in her office and later unknowingly gives a consult to Olivia's unstable mother, Asa, who has for several years cleaned Eleanor's office at night and begins to track the surgeon's whereabouts once she discovers the doctor's connection to Olivia. Meanwhile, Alexandra, enjoying a flirtation with the surgeon that begins after a body that might be Olivia's is found, stays at Eleanor's canyon home for a month, visited occasionally by Asa, disguised as a door-to-door cosmetics saleswoman. Once Kirkwood maps out the particulars, every maneuver on the part of these characters is fraught with tension. Kirkwood's exploration of personal and spiritual metamorphosis is all the more powerful for its surprising subtleties.
A Book of Distinctions
Jack Foley’s The Dancer and the Dance: A Book of Distinctions deliberately challenges many conventional ways of thinking about poetry. Though extremely scholarly and aware of the “tradition,” Foley offers readings rooted in a consciousness which is simultaneously non academic and open to the new. “The self of this book,” he writes, “is not a unity but a multiplicity. Many people would agree with this idea of selfhood—the self as a ‘multiplicity of voices’—but clarification is still required as to how the concept of the self as multiplicity affects literary criticism, how it affects our actual reading of poems. It may be that the self we postulate as we read a poem contradicts the self we experience in the world; it is also possible that familiar poems may be experienced anew by being read in the light of multiplicity.” Foley’s explorations lead him into radically new readings of “canonic” work by poets such as Keats, Yeats and Mallarmé, into the world of opera, free jazz, New Formalism, and the writing of song lyrics, into “ethnic” literature, theater, and finally into problems of “spoken word” and “slam poetry.” Throughout, his point of view, initially controversial, becomes finally compelling. “It is possible,” he says quietly about the whole of Western culture, “that Plato was wrong, and that we must make an effort to think in a different way if we are to encounter reality at all.”
For thirty years, Margo Klass has created hand-crafted book forms. In the last decade she's turned her skills to making elegant and profound sculptures. She constructs box forms, icons, and altarpieces, and covers them in cloth or fine paper. Some have windows or skylights so shadow and light can collaborate. Then she gleans from the wide world found objects that she places in gorgeous juxtaposition. From this process come altarpieces and icons, tiny rooms and vast expanses that draw us into their worlds. Frank Soos spends time in each of these created spaces, and responds in miniature essays, pieces of brief prose no longer than a paragraph. The interplay between words and objects is startling, playful, thought-provoking, and emotionally complex. Reflection and refraction—we take in both words and images, and then our imaginations continue the transformations.