Category Archives: contemporary poetry

Falling out

March 12, 2014 I know it’s about Vietnam, about the contested nature of poetry as precipitated by that event.   And it couldn’t have been more public.  Their letters, now collected into a volume, documented the widening gap, followed by … Continue reading

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Passing On: Amiri Baraka, Suzan-Lori Parks, Claudia Rankine

January 22, 2014 James Baldwin probably felt a tinge of jealousy at the sight of Amiri Baraka, Maya Angelou, and Toni Morrison at his funeral. Thousands of people there, and those three in particular, so eloquent in their tribute, but … Continue reading

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Not New York

January 8, 2014 I’m about to head off to Chicago, also about to teach my freshman seminar: “Cities.” Chicago again, New York, San Francisco.   The books are the usual suspects, but not all of them (for San Francisco I’m … Continue reading

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The Writer and the Politician

December 11, 2013 They had first met in Cairo, in 1961, when she was working for “The Arab Observer,” an English-language weekly, and married to Vusumzi Make.  Make and Mandela were political enemies, as were their organizations — the Pan Africanist … Continue reading

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Writers getting old: Ashbery, Angelou, Morrison

November 13, 2013 I was standing at the very back, and saw only a wall of people in front.  I’d also missed the introduction.   For most of reading, all I got was the voice, surprisingly strong, vigorous, the voice … Continue reading

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Bono on Seamus Heaney

September 4, 2013 He was there at the funeral, of course, with Adam Clayton, and also wrote this short piece in the Guardian: “Every meeting I’ve ever had since I began full-time advocacy, I have brought with me a book … Continue reading

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Robert Pinsky, Ginza Samba

July 24, 2013 For years I hadn’t gone much beyond his translation of the Inferno.  I’d noticed a couple of things I didn’t like (might even have gone looking for them), and just stopped there, his own poetry getting all … Continue reading

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Natasha Trethewey, Emily Dickinson: Partners in Crime

June 12, 2013 In her interview in the LA Review of Books (just out), Natasha Trethewey mentions only Derek Walcott and Robert Penn Warren as poets who touch her at moments of mass fatalities.  But I’d like to think that … Continue reading

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On Philip Levine’s “Salami”

“Stomach,” the seat of our most basic, precognitive desires (hunger) and responses (the “gut reaction”), aptly opens a stanza rife with the smells and flavors of Spanish cuisine. But if the stomach is the logical destination of the food being … Continue reading

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Adrienne Rich, June Jordan: bracketing war

March 27,  2013 Adrienne Rich wrote the intro to the collected poems, June Jordan’s, talking mostly about meter, sound patterns, vernacular riffs. Of “March Song,” she writes: “Here she breaks what is actually a dactylic metrical line so that the … Continue reading

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