The Early Poems of Gerald Stern

By Gerald Stern on 6.21.10

What I attempted to do in this Early Collected—the first six books of my collected poems—is to reach out simultaneously for a new language and a new subject matter. I was interested in that which was overlooked, neglected, and unseen, from a political, religious, and personal point of view and a voice that bespoke this in the simplest, most honest manner. I found myself returning to early—to fundamental—experiences, as I found myself discovering a new language. This constituted a celebration as well as a kind of mourning or elegy, and the results can be seen in such poems as “Lucky Life,” “The Blue Tie,” “Stepping Out of Poetry,” and “Bob Summer: The Final Poem.” This was a difficult road to hoe, for it expressed neither formal, academic niceness nor bohemian madness. If there are sources they are variously in the Hebrew prophets, in Blake, in Whitman, in Ovid, in Coleridge, and, as far as modern poets, in Yeats, Stevens, Pound, and Hart Crane.

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The Oral World vs. The Written Word

By Nicholas Carr on 6.18.10

Early in the fourth century BC, when the practice of writing was still novel and controversial in Greece, Plato wrote Phaedrus, his dialogue about love, beauty, and rhetoric. In the tale, the title character, a citizen of Athens, takes a walk with the great orator Socrates into the countryside, where the two friends sit under a tree beside a stream and have a long and circuitous conversation. They discuss the finer points of speech making, the nature of desire, the varieties of madness, and the journey of the immortal soul, before turning their attention to the written word. “There remains the question,” muses Socrates, “of propriety and impropriety in writing.” Phaedrus agrees, and Socrates launches into a story about a meeting between the multi-talented Egyptian god Theuth, whose many inventions included the alphabet, and one of the kings of Egypt, Thamus.

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Julie Sheehan Announces Summer Tour Dates

By The Editors on 6.10.10

Julie Sheehan has lots of readings coming up to support her new collection Bar Book: Poems and Otherwise. Check out all her Summer 2010 tour dates after the jump.

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You’re a Poet, You Say?

By The Editors on 6.09.10

Guest contribution by Andrew Hudgins:

When strangers ask me what I do, I usually follow the lead of W. H. Auden, who said he was a teacher. So much easier than saying “poet,” and having to deal with the inevitable follow-ups: Have I heard of you? What books have you written? Do they sell that in bookstores? 

Those questions are just tune-ups for the really hard one.

“You’re a poet, you say?”
“What kind?”
“What kind?”
“Yeah, what kind of poetry do you write?”

I know I’m being offered an opportunity to promote an art that needs promotion and maybe sell a book or two. I know the question is coming, but like a recalcitrant student, I’m always unprepared.

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Griffin Trust Recognizes Adrienne Rich for Life’s Work

By The Editors on 6.09.10

On Tuesday, June 2nd, Adrienne Rich received The Griffin Trust for Excellence in Poetry’s Lifetime Recognition Award, citing fellow female writers, such as Margaret Atwood, Naomi Klein, Anne Carson, Nicole Brossard, Lisa Robertson and Dionne Brand as inspirations. Since receiving the Yale Younger Poets award in 1951, at the tender age of 21, Rich has strived to make the political personal in her poetry and prose. Rich’s list of achievements is extensive, to say the least, and she has authored 30 books of poetry and prose. It goes without saying that Rich has shaped the content and the form of American poetry in the latter half of the 20th century. I’ll go even further to say that she has been a driving force in dictating the place of women in literature and in the world. I remain truly grateful that she dove into that wreck.

Look for Tonight No Poetry Will Serve: Poems 2007—2010, a new work from Adrienne Rich, in January 2011.

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The Importance of Merging Margins

By Kimiko Hahn on 5.20.10

In the current Broadway play Red, Mark Rothko shouts at his assistant for never having read such writers as Nietzsche. It’s both an attack on the younger man’s perceived lack of cultural literacy and a provocative way for the older artist to mentor. All the while, classical music is playing in the background in a kind of surround-sound tutoring. The audience comes to discover something about the assistant’s own musical preferences when he plays a Chet Baker record while the master is out wheeling and dealing in the art world. We also learn that the assistant’s artistic taste runs more toward Andy Warhol and Jasper Johns than toward the high modernism of his self-aggrandizing guru. I’m impressed by the variety of culture represented in that studio.

When I was about that young man’s age, say twenty-eight, I was in the throes of an art movement here in New York City. It was 1983, and the group became known as Artists Call Against U.S. Intervention in Central America. Reagan was president and he was funding “freedom fighters” to undermine the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua and elsewhere in the region. We congregated in the loft of Leon Golub and Nancy Spero.

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Reading: At Length Celebrates First Anniversary

By The Editors on 5.14.10

The online magazine At Length is celebrating their first anniversary in New York City tomorrow night (5/15) by serving up an evening of poetry and music. The entertainment for the evening includes Kimiko Hahn (reading from her brand new collection Toxic Flora), Joanna Klink, Major Jackson, Craig Morgan Teicher, and The Lisps. Admission is free but the location is super secret so send an rsvp to to get all the details. Doors are at 7:30.

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Hand Weights & Newspapers

By Kimiko Hahn on 5.11.10

Young writers—as well as random people who come up to me after a reading—often want to know the tricks of the trade. And there are a few that I learned as an undergrad (show don’t tell; every item on a list needs to be equally extraordinary; etc.). In general I frustrate the person by simply badgering her or him to read more poetry, both classic and contemporary.

But the truth is I do have my own “tricks.” This feels like a good moment to share one in particular.

When I taught workshops in the past, I used to bring in a volume of Emily Dickinson, a hand weight, and a newspaper. The first was obviously in the “go read poetry” category. The hand weight was there to remind students to take care of their bodies (since even the deskbound have bodies). And the third was meant to inspire them to read the newspaper.

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Want to Write a Poetry Review for The Rumpus?

By The Editors on 5.10.10

Well, here’s your chance. Rumpus poetry editor, Brian Spears, is “in awe” of Sandra Beasley’s second poetry collection I Was the Jukebox and is looking for someone to review it for the online magazine. From Spears’s blog:

I finished Sandra Beasley’s latest, I Was the Jukebox, and I am in awe of it…just pure awe. It’s not what I do, and it’s not what I want to do, but damn, do I want to read it again. It’s easily one of the best collections I’ve read this year so far. Now I just need someone to offer to review it for The Rumpus for me.

Send your pitch to review this awe inspiring new collection to Brian at poetry AT

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Marilyn Hacker’s Elegy for Mahmoud Darwish

By The Editors on 5.10.10

This week’s “Poem of the Week” selection from The Guardian, chosen by the poet Carol Rumens, is the final poem from Marilyn Hacker’s most recent collection, Names. The poem is called “A Braid of Garlic.” Rumens writes:

A Braid Of Garlic, the last poem in the collection, is partly an elegy for Mahmoud Darwish, “whom, daring, I called a brother”. The verse is written in an informal Sapphic quatrain, its stanzas sometimes impressionistic ‘scenes’ or vivid jottings. The dying fall of the feminine endings and foreshortened last lines seems appropriate to the overall mood. But against this sorrowful cadence is pitted a vigorous appetite for joy and survival, expressed in the muscularity of the syntax, and embodied by the “aging women” who continue valiantly to shop and write and celebrate their “memories and continence”.

Read Marilyn Hacker’s “A Braid of Garlic” at The Guardian.

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