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My Poetry Picks for 2013 December 11, 2013: 1. Stephanie Barber, Night Moves (Publishing Genius Press) A transcription (copy & paste, more accurately) of the YouTube comment stream for Bob Seger’s famous 1976 song. Somewhere between conceptualism and old-fashioned found poetry, this book’s deft authorlessness frames a content-rich sweet spot. An excerpt: The 60,s from Nam [...] by

Towards a Poetics of the Phatic (Part 2) May 3, 2013: In one sense, the phatic is perhaps the oldest and most fundamental dimension of poetry. The impulse to speak in meter or rhyme, for example, is relatable to the infant impulse toward babble, the delight taken in hearing oneself—or others—speak. Many of the same features Jakobson assigns to the poetic function (repetition, soundplay, etc.) [...] by

Towards a Poetics of the Phatic (Part 1) May 2, 2013: [caption id="attachment_66845" align="alignright" width="500"] M. H. Abrams[/caption] [The following is derived from my notes for a talk I gave at the "Rethinking Poetics" conference held at Columbia University on Friday, June 11, 2010.] M. H. Abrams’s 1953 introduction to The Mirror and the Lamp (“The Orientation of Critical Theories”) [...] by

Mark Rutkoski, Words of Love May 1, 2013: There is a sense in which every “pure” conceptual writing project feels like it has already been done before: the production of the text depends upon the prior existence of the text. This is necessary to the signature aura of travesty that fuels conceptualism. The reader must begin from an awareness of having been ripped off, or at least [...] by

Robert Frost’s “‘Out, Out–’” April 29, 2013: Re-reading Robert Frost's "'Out, Out—'" for the first time in a long while, I expected it to exhibit at least some kind of craft-smartness and metrical subtlety. But what an off-putting, stilted poem! The buzz saw snarled and rattled in the yard And made dust and dropped stove-length sticks of wood, Sweet-scented stuff when the breeze [...] by

Notes on Craft and Failure April 26, 2013: The techne of the builder, the craftsperson, the designer, is measurable and finite, at least at a certain basic level that defines minimal competence. One important historical criterion for poetic craft has been facility in metrical control combined with syntactical suppleness. E.g., a Greek ode in quantitative measure: if one foot is [...] by

The Poet’s Ear (Part 4) April 24, 2013: In my last post I used Robert Creeley’s “I Know a Man” to illustrate the basic principle behind torque: that of twisting or swerving away from an expected cadential trajectory. Creeley’s enjambments are both arbitrary and motivated at the same time: they continually threaten to jar us from the precipitous headlong syntax of the poem. [...] by

The Poet’s Ear (Part 3) April 22, 2013: The word cadence comes up repeatedly when people are talking about the poet’s ear. With respect to poetry, it denotes “rhythm, rhythmical construction, measure” or in Samuel Johnson’s words, “the flow of verses or periods” (OED). More generally, it refers to rising and falling (especially falling) rhythms, vocal or otherwise, or in [...] by

The Poet’s Ear (Part 2) April 17, 2013: Can one have a good “ear” for radically disjunctive or "non-absorptive" poetry? This might sound like a perverse question, as experimentalism is often suspicious of formally conservative notions like “ear” and the essentialist values they evoke. Language poetry in particular is in large part predicated on the rejection of the illusion [...] by

The Poet’s Ear April 15, 2013: We’ve all heard it said that a given poet has (or doesn’t have, as the case may be) an “ear.” This is not the same thing as having a distinct “voice.” Although both terms are centered around the notion of speech, “voice”—oddly—does not usually have much to do with the actual sound of the voice, but rather with the set of [...] by