My Poetry Picks for 2013
This was a great, volatile year for poetry—my list could have been much longer. I don't think I've ever had a year when I've read so much poetry and been inspired, entranced by so much poetry.
Dolores Dorantes's Estilo is an ekphrastic poem that makes out of Henry Darger's famous drawings of the Vivian Girls a zone of ambient violence, a narrative without arch in which the actions become almost ritualized: the addressee, the almost absent Man-figure is drawn into the poem by the girls who alternatively try to seduce, torture or steal power from him. The imaginary planetary wars of Darger's imagination suddenly get relocated to the violence of contemporary Mexico. I recently gave a reading with Dolores and Jen Hofer, her translator, in Los Angeles, and I was mesmorized: "... Line of graves and kidnappings for your consumption. Interchangeable faces. Doll’s legs. When you wish it, the sky opens its mouth. When you wish it, the sky turns and hides you atop our arsenals. We cover our girlish faces. We are the war.”
Olga Ravn's Jag äter mig själv som ljung. Flicksinne (I eat myself like heather. Girl-mind) is a kind of gurlesque masterpiece by a young Danish woman (who also happens to translate Sylvia Plath and Ann Jäderlund into Danish). I first read it sitting in my friend Martin's couch in Copenhagen and was immediately overtaken by the brash, furious, brilliant meditations on gender and images, by the "milk heart" and the "deer heart," the "advertising girl" who gets fucked in the "underclass of the image."
James Pate's The Fassbinder Diaries: a fan fiction (of Fassbinder, yes, but also Don Delillo, Roberto Bolano, Kenneth Anger) as sharp, striking poems; secret outtakes as ruined allegories: "There was always Pig Radio./ You can hear it later in the night./ When I listen I think of angels in pink surgical gowns./I think of shaved cats that look like small pigs./I think of shaved human heads that look like starved pigs."
Uche Nduka's Ijele: A brash no to temperance and moderation, this poem surges on language that is at times odd and nonsensical but always comes furiously, urgently. It's like a violent struggle or dance between reader and writer: "i cannot resist the temptation to make a fuss of you." Fuss has never sounded so intense.
Twerk by LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs. A cacophony, polyphony of languages. A work, a werk, a nasty dance move, a twist. The twist: I love how in that one song about Rimbaud and horses and lockers, Patti Smith re-ignites all the hysterionic energies of the watusi; Diggs is great like that and also not like that: "Mista Popo said: oh bodacious Zwarte Piet,/How does the butterfly thrive/for my big ole kettle belly?"
Sean Kilpatrick's Gil the Nihilst: "Got your cum-caught hosanna for munitions." Sentences are tools of self-mutilation and are also mutilated in turn by the self, that rocking horse of a rancid sit-com boy driven by an indignation similar to Pate's.
Poet and translator Johannes Göransson emigrated with his family from Skåne, Sweden to the United States at age 13. He earned a BA from the University of Minnesota, an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and his PhD from the University of Georgia. He is the author of several books,...