Author Archive

Mary Jo Bang’s Modern Inferno

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Mary Jo Bang’s raucous translation of Inferno, published in 2013, tries to bring us as close as she can to the intrigue of Florence in the 14th century.

Kissing Walt Whitman

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I saw all the things we consider “Whitmanesque”: the energy, the exuberance, the empathy. And one thing that my mother’s serene portrait had not prepared me for—the eroticism.

Expecting the Fish of Anguish: For the Love of the Non Sequitur

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Perhaps in times like these, when the work of making sense of the world around us gets harder, we need poetry that points toward that difficulty—and that makes that work worthwhile.

Star Stuff: Poets on Space

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Science relies on metaphors. The work that metaphors do, after all, is to either make the familiar strange, or to make the strange familiar. Science is full of strangenesses, difficult for most of us to grasp unless we have something more quotidian to compare it to. Space, in particular,

Black Voices on the Civil War

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Charlottesville has me thinking about poems of the Civil War that center black experiences. Poems from the Civil War canon are usually heavy on Whitman, Dickinson, or folk songs. The following three texts should satisfy anyone who wants to read beyond “O Captain, My Captain.”

The Poet’s Palette

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There were many ways, surely, for poets to suggest sadness or calm aside from merely the subject matter. Could the idea of a poet’s palette be pushed further—could poets work visually on the page without color to achieve some of the same effects that color would?

The Art of Climbing

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Recently, I began thinking how some of the poems I love most evoke this sense of motion; in particular, I began thinking about two pieces about the act of climbing: Langston Hughes’s “Mother to Son” and Carl Phillips’s “The Pinnacle.”

The Real Surrealism of Robert Desnos

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Excommunicated from the movement by Andre Breton, Desnos is at once an artist who troubles the traditional narrative of surrealism and who embodies most wholly some of its most important tenets.

The Alchemy of Poetry Plus Criticism

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What is the goal of poetry? Is it to make music with language? To express feeling? To make an argument? It’s likely, for any given poet, to be at least one of these things—and possibly all.

Narrative and Anti-Narrative in the Poetry of Sexual Assault

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In the brief back-cover description of Lauren Berry’s The Lifting Dress, we read: “Set in a feverish swamp town in Florida, The Lifting Dress enters the life of a teenage girl the day after she has been raped.”