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1 APRIL 2017

My poem “Tadic” is today’s 2017 National Poetry Month post on the blog of the Rensselaerville Public Library. To see my post, click HERE.

I thank poet Tom Corrado for inviting me to participate in this library project!

20 MARCH 2017

I am delighted to announce that I was a finalist for the 2017 Stephen A. DiBiase poetry prize. For a list of all winners and finalists, click HERE.

 

7 MARCH 2017

A Short History Of American PoetryA Short History Of American Poetry by Donald Barlow Stauffer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This “short” history is 427 pages long (excluding Bibliographies and Index), but it’s eminently readable, not nearly so tedious as much shorter histories. This highly engaging book educates and entertains, enlightens and provokes, sensibly organizing about three centuries, 1600’s to circa 1970, of USA poetry written in English (omitting languages of native first peoples). Each of the twelve chapters begins with a brief overview of a particular literary era, then proceeds in sections, poet by poet, focusing on the major writers but also including some lesser-knowns. Donald Barlow Stauffer lavishes upon his readers the wealth of his scholarship as well as the vivacity of his enthusiasm. His knowledge extends beyond classroom essentials into the realms of juicy biographical tidbits, illuminating passages from many iconic poems, intricate webs of artistic influences, opinionated judgments upon the legacies of individuals. And all this, written in clear prose unhindered by academic pretense or jargon.

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2 MARCH 2017

My latest review on Goodreads.com —

Event BoundariesEvent Boundaries by April Ossmann

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Every one of these translucent poems can be likened to an orchid—a unique specimen cultivated with rare skill, yet surpassingly fresh. Each candid word is a shimmering petal. And the networks of syntax are angelic: consummately clear.

The events presented within these pages are personal “herstory” happenings, familiar to most of us. Private or public dramas situated in Vermont and environs—territory haunted by Robert Frost and Jane Kenyon, among other master poets. To my mind, April Ossmann certainly deserves such esteemed neighbors, not only because the concerns of her poetry are shared by Kenyon and Frost—surviving a rural winter, negotiating with wildlife and villagers and romantic partners, eeking out mercy or pity from the strict contract with Death—but also because several of her poems pay direct homage to their oeuvres.

Recall the oft-quoted poem, “Because You Asked about the Line Between Prose and Poetry.” According to its author Howard Nemerov, the line in question is not a fixed, finite borderline; instead, one kind of language morphs into the other by “riding a gradient invisible.” Likewise, with regard to the possibilities offered by April’s poetics, boundaries are not sharp edges; instead, they are dimensionless membranes analogous to the cosmological event horizons of black holes. Think: multiverse, multi-verse. Whenever I am probing any Ossmann poem, searching for one or more wellsprings (of sounds, turns, images, form, claims about reality), my pursuit becomes folded into the poem’s own unfolding. I approach, approach, approach … depart, depart, depart. April’s poems deflect conclusive arrival. Her craft employs involution, implication, origami, self-consuming bubbles.

Jane Kenyon had the immutable “otherwise;” April has the mutating otherwise. Robert Frost had hay fields; April has force fields. Vermont poets have sturdy apple orchards; April has immaterial auras. Auras as transitory—and marvelous—as orchids.

I highly recommend Event Boundaries.

15 JANUARY 2017

TRUMP’S AMERICA

a call for submissions (deadline 20 February 2017)

forthcoming poetry anthology compiled by Dante DiStefano

Quote from Dante DiStefano: “I am working on this anthology titled: Misrepresented People: Poetic Responses to Trump’s America. I’m looking for poetry (previously published and unpublished) that bears witness against the misogyny, racism, homophobia, and downright fascism that has always surrounded us, but is incarnated in the president elect. The poems need not be directly about Donald Trump, but should address any of the various complex social ills of which his election is a symptom. Poets interested in submitting work should send 3-5 poems in a word document by February 20, 2017 to dantedistefano@gmail.com ”

 

 

30 DECEMBER 2017

Searching for Sappho: The Lost Songs and World of the First Woman PoetSearching for Sappho: The Lost Songs and World of the First Woman Poet by Philip Freeman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Engaging, often revelatory, solidly-documented yet clearly-worded–this book by Philip Freeman now rests on my “indispensable” shelf. SEARCHING FOR SAPPHO is neither the daily journal of an archeologist digging in Greece, nor a volume of commentary on Greek poetry presented by a literary critic. Instead, it is a rich itinerary for the amateur detective inside all of us; it is an irresistible field guide for anyone who relishes the challenge of scavenger hunts. Deploying a wealth of existing literary and historical artifacts, clues, citations, testimonials, and translations, Mr. Freeman invites us along as he correlates the subject matter embodied in Sappho’s surviving poems to some reliable deductions about the geography, culture, domestic life, religion, and political events of the region that Sappho called home in the seventh century BC. Most fascinating to me were his evidence for, and conjectures about, the female predicament–how Sappho lived her life as wealthy daughter, sister to three brothers, prominent wife, devoted mother, passionate lover, respected ceremonial poetess, and role model for women of later centuries. I recommend this worthy book for a wide audience.

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10 NOVEMBER 2016

Today, my duty as a poet-citizen is to memorize this immediately necessary poem (excerpt), to learn it by heart. I will do so.

from THE CURE AT TROY
by Seamus Heaney

Human beings suffer,
They torture one another,
They get hurt and get hard.
No poem or play or song
Can fully right a wrong
Inflicted and endured.

The innocent in gaols
Beat on their bars together.
A hunger-striker’s father
Stands in the graveyard dumb.
The police widow in veils
Faints at the funeral home.

History says, Don’t hope
On this side of the grave.
But then, once in a lifetime
The longed-for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up,
And hope and history rhyme.

So hope for a great sea-change
On the far side of revenge.
Believe that a further shore
Is reachable from here.
Believe in miracles
And cures and healing wells.

Call miracle self-healing:
The utter, self-revealing
Double-take of feeling.
If there’s fire on the mountain
Or lightning and storm
And a god speaks from the sky

That means someone is hearing
The outcry and the birth-cry
Of new life at its term.
It means once in a lifetime
That justice can rise up
And hope and history rhyme.

(excerpt above re-typed here by me, poet Therese L. Broderick, reproduced from my own copy of the anthology POEMS TO LIVE BY IN UNCERTAIN TIMES (Beacon Press, 2001), edited by Joan Murray. If anyone reading this post would like to have a complimentary copy of that anthology, I will purchase and send you one.)