Orange Roses

51xwlRDsvOL._SY300_Orange Roses
Lucy Ives
Ahsahta Press, September 2013
104 pages
$18.00

With the proliferation of graduate programs in creative writing, the day approaches when most poetry published in the United States will have been written by people with graduate degrees in writing poetry—a prospect that may launch a thousand jeremiads. But I will not complain, so long as the academicization of American poetry means we will be getting more books like Lucy Ives’s Orange Roses.

Ives’s poetry is aware of its own processes—as in “Early Poem,” which enumerates its one hundred sentences as they occur (“In the thirteenth sentence I realize I have chosen something”). It is also aware of its own awareness of its own processes, as when the eighty-third sentence forgets to count itself, prompting the admission, “sentence eighty-four contains the question, didn’t you already know that this would start to happen.” For some, this will seem like disappearing down the meta-poetic rabbit-hole.  But the rabbit-hole, remember, is one of the ways to get to Wonderland.

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Pink Reef

refdp_image_z_0Pink Reef
Robert Fernandez
Canarium Books, April 2013
96 pages
$14.00

I brought this along on a recent visit to my doctor, just in case there was a wait; as it turned out, I read the whole book and started again at the beginning—not only because my doctor was running an hour behind, and not only because it was a better alternative than People, but also because it is a book that envelops and surrounds, creating a space one cannot easily leave. A doctor’s office, too, seemed an eerily suitable place to take in Fernandez’s meditations, which trace the shore where the mind meets the body.

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The Bees and Rapture

9780865478855The Bees and Rapture
Carol Ann Duffy
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, March 2013
96 pages / 80 pages
$23.00 / $15.00

Editor’s note: P. Scott Stanfield holds a Ph.D. in English and teaches literature at Nebraska Wesleyan University. Recently, I challenged him to see how many references to other works and artists he could make in a single 500-word review. He gets one point for each, or two for any he hasn’t used in a previous column. Last month’s score: 21; this month’s score: 29; all-time record: 31.
—Andrew Ladd, Blog Editor

Carol Ann Duffy is the current poet laureate of the United Kingdom—the first woman, the first Scot, and the first openly LGBT individual to hold the honor (among her purportedly straight, male, and English predecessors are Dryden, Wordsworth, Tennyson, and, er, Alfred Austin). She has long been well known in the U.K. (she is in the most recent edition of the Norton Anthology of English Literature, Scot though she is), but only some of her work has been published in the United States.  Farrar, Straus and Giroux are beginning to make things right by publishing Duffy’s latest collection, The Bees (which appeared in 2011 in the U.K.), along with her previous collection, the winner of the T.S. Eliot prize, Rapture (2005).

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Experiments I Should Like Tried at My Own Death

Pagel_cover_sm_72dpiExperiments I Should Like Tried at My Own Death
Caryl Pagel
Factory Hollow Press, September 2012
78 pages
$15.00

Editor’s note: P. Scott Stanfield holds a Ph.D. in English and teaches literature at Nebraska Wesleyan University. Recently, I challenged him to see how many references to other works and artists he could make in a single 500-word review. He gets one point for each, or two for any he hasn’t used in a previous column. Last month’s score: 20; this month’s score: 21.
—Andrew Ladd, Blog Editor

A seeker of fossils is a scientist, but what about a seeker of ghosts? No way, most of us would say. “Okay,” the ghost hunters might protest, “we do not belong to prestigious institutions or attract foundation grants—but are we not methodical, do we not document carefully all we do? Yes, our findings are ignored by the scientific establishment, but who truly represents the spirit of free, open-minded inquiry? Them, or us?”

Caryl Pagel’s Experiments I Should Like Tried at My Own Death inhabits just this kind of twilit world, where the broad daylight of orderly modern science entangles itself with the old shadowy world of myth, legend, and superstition.

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Introducing… The New Ploughshares Blog!

The Ploughshares blog has changed a lot since we first launched it in 2009. Back then, it was mostly a supplement to the magazine—a clearinghouse for announcements, extra contributors’ notes, and all the other little tidbits that wouldn’t fit elsewhere. Over the years we added more original material, too, inviting our print contributors to sign up for four-month stints as guest bloggers, and then, in July 2011, adding our first real proprietary content—a book reviews section, written by our staff and other writers not connected with the print magazine.

The blog was still very much a supplement to the magazine, though—and to a certain extent, of course, it always will be. On the other hand, we were increasingly excited about what our regular book reviewers were coming up with, from Shannon Wagner’s Dr. Poetry column, to Paul Scott Stanfield’s “Not Unlike…” column. And who could forget Anca Szilagyi’s inventive book-reviews-in-bullet-points? Suddenly it seemed like the blog could be more than just extra pages for the magazine’s contributors: it could complement the magazine, giving it a lively online presence that would ultimately draw more attention to the wonderful prose and poetry we’ve always published in print.

So we’re very excited to announce, today, that the blog is changing once again. Starting next week you’ll be meeting a crop of nearly twenty regular bloggers, all of whom will be with us for a whole year—and none of whom (with one exception) have any connection with the print magazine’s recent issues. For the first time, the Ploughshares blog is becoming its own, separate creature.

And though I don’t want to spoil too many surprises, here are a few highlights you can look forward to:

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Not Unlike…

Readings in World Literature
Srikanth Reddy
Omnidawn, 2012
42 pages
$11.95

Editor’s note: P. Scott Stanfield holds a Ph.D. in English and teaches literature at Nebraska Wesleyan University. Recently, I challenged him to see how many references to other works and artists he could make in a single 500-word review. He gets one point for each, or two for any he hasn’t used in a previous column. Last month’s score: 31; this month’s score: 20.
- Andrew Ladd

Readings in World Literature, Srikanth Reddy’s new chapbook, is hard to describe. The back cover calls it a “prose sequence,” but the acknowledgements page calls it a “poem.” Likewise, it straddles the fiction/non-fiction divide. Reddy really does teach “Readings in World Literature” at the University of Chicago, but not “Introduction to the Underworld,” as he does in the text. He and Suzanne Buffam really do have a daughter named Mira, and he may really have developed a melanoma; since he teaches at the University of Chicago, he quite possibly really had a student who described himself as a “Zen Naxalite crypto-Objectivist.”Continue Reading

Not Unlike…

Last Poems
Hayden Carruth
Copper Canyon Press, June 2012
120 pages
$16.00

Editor’s Note: P. Scott Stanfield holds a Ph.D. in English and teaches literature at Nebraska Wesleyan University. Recently, I challenged him to see how many references to other works and artists he could make in a single 500-word review. He gets one point for each, or two for any he hasn’t used in a previous column. Last month’s score: 22; this month’s score: 31.

“He became his admirers,” Auden said of Yeats in his famous elegy, acknowledging that for all poets, the day comes when the task of making their case to posterity falls to their admirers.

Hayden Carruth became his admirers on September 29, 2008. Among them are Sam Hamill and Copper Canyon Press—publishers of this and many other books by Carruth—as well as Brooks Haxton and Stephen Dobyns, who wrote affectionate and candid prefatory essays for it.  A gracious tribute to a friend and teacher, Last Poems is also, ineluctably, a case presented to posterity.

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Not Unlike…

The Other Poems
Paul Legault
Fence Books, November 2011
72 pages
$15.95

Editor’s note: P. Scott Stanfield holds a Ph.D. in English and teaches literature at Nebraska Wesleyan University. Recently, I challenged him to see how many references to other works and artists he could make in a single 500-word review. He gets one point for each, or two for any he hasn’t used in a previous column. Last month’s score: 16;this month’s score: 22.

Paul Legault’s volume The Other Poems contains seventy-five fourteen-line poems… creating the opportunity for me to rack up a good many of Andrew’s points by listing other poets who have compiled books of sonnets, but that would be too easy. Besides, Legault’s sonnets occupy a category of their own, defined by constraints other than those of rhyme or meter, making The Other Poems less like Sidney’s Astrophil and Stella (you won’t begrudge me one, surely?) than it is like books that thoroughly explore the possibilities of a poetic form created expressly for the book itself: Jon Woodward’s Rain, Rusty Morrison’s The True Keeps Calm Biding its Story, or (in another vein) Katie Degentesh’s The Anger Scale.Continue Reading