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Monthly Archives: March 2017

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 —

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.

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