sonnets, busyness, influence, and macaronics (not in that order)
Normally critics, scholars and reviewers (even those who are also poets, such as [coughs] me) are supposed to spend more time reading than they do writing: you read a book, you read it again if you like it enough, you read some books about the book or maybe (if it's a "popular" piece) some author interviews and background articles, and then you start to write.
The danger in blogging, for critics, scholars and reviewers (though not perhaps for other kinds of writers, who have the "notebook" form as an excuse) is that you'll spend more time writing than you do reading, bringing all too close the dreadful day when you realize you've run out of things you've recently read about which you want to write (or at least about which you have something to say). It's a risk on Harriet, just as it's a risk-- in theory-- for such good general book-critic blogs as the NBCC's, and the Valve, and Jenny, though in practice Jenny never runs out of things to say.
Now that day hasn't come for me, though I occasionally fear that it's coming soon (if it seems truly imminent, I'll stop blogging). A related day, however, has come: the day when, rather than pursuing one extended polemic or heartfelt Internet-only paean here, I mention some things I've been reading for writing elsewhere, raise some questions I've had to ask myself, and implore you-all, Gentle Readers, for suggestions, related works and answers. Linkage and open-ended questions, as you might expect, below the fold.
Thanks partly to Rigoberto, partly to how much I liked some of his earlier books, I'm now reading 187 Reasons Mexicanos Can't Cross the Border, not quite a new book of verse by J. F. Herrera but a compilation of earlier poetic texts, many composed with live performance in mind. So far- -and that means "not very far"; I'm not halfway through, and it's long!-- it's stunningly good, a little like Howl, and not much like anything else in English. Of course, some of it isn't in English, which is part of what's neat about it: there should be macaronic or multilingual verse by and about U.S. Latinos, verse dense enough to work on the page rather than only in performance, and Herrera-- among others--- is inventing it.
I've been thinking for a piece that will appear elsewhere not just about how good Laura Kasischke's poetry is, but about what other poets can learn from it: just in time, then, comes a first book from Pittsburgh where Kasischke seems to be the major stylistic influence.
It's that time of the term when academics feel (even more than usual, and perhaps with no more justification) that we have too much to do, no time to do it, and will inevitably let somebody down. Some of my favorite rock songs describe just this feeling. What poems, what poets, describe it well?
For a larger project I shouldn't much talk about yet, I'm collecting sonnets. Lots of sonnets. What are your favorite sonnets that few other people have read? I seek, especially, sonnets from outside the modern period; either very recent work (say, after the death of Merrill, in 1995) or work from before modernism began (in English language poetry, that means before 1913 or so). Expansive definitions of "sonnet" apply. Translations of poems originally written in other languages are welcome; as some of you know, a few of the most famous Renaissance sonnets in English are close adaptations from Italian, Spanish or French.
Speaking of sonnets: I, too, am excited about Karen Volkman's next book. Here is another sonnet taken from that book, and here is news of a forthcoming chapbook, and here is another sonnet, this one with a nod to Garcia Lorca, who (as Karen does) throws any simple contrast between tradition and innovation into a cocked hat, where such contrasts belong.
Stephanie (also Steph; formerly Stephen) Burt is a poet, literary critic, and professor. In 2012, the New York Times called Burt “one of the most influential poetry critics of [her] generation.” Burt grew up around Washington, DC and earned a BA from Harvard and PhD from Yale. She has published four collections of poems: Advice...