Poetry News

Thirteen Poets Recommend New Titles at On the Seawall

By Harriet Staff

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The semiannual poetry feature on Ron Slate's website, On the Seawall, features commentary in April and November from thirteen poets, who write briefly on some of their favorite new and recent titles! Just up are the following:

Mark Bibbins
on Slant Six by Erin Belieu (Copper Canyon Press)

Daisy Fried
on The Open Secret by Jennifer Moxley (Flood Editions)

Tarfia Faizullah
on Blood, Sparrows, and Sparrows by Eugenia Leigh (Four Way Books)

Dorothea Lasky
on The Feel Trio by Fred Moten (Letter Machine Editions)

Tony Hoagland
on A Wilderness of Monkeys by David Kirby (Hanging Loose Press)

Joshua Weiner
on Station Zed by Tom Sleigh (Graywolf Press)

Lisa Russ Spaar
on The Infinitesimals by Laura Kasischke (Copper Canyon Press)

David Roderick
on Darktown Follies by Amaud Jamaul Johnson (Tupelo Press)

Lee Upton
on Faithful and Virtuous Night by Louise Glück (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)

Fred Marchant
on 3 Sections by Vijay Sheshadri [sic] (Graywolf Press)

Katie Ford
on The Accounts by Katie Peterson (University of Chicago Press)

Nick Sturm
on Soft Threat by Alexis Pope (Coconut Books)

Leslie Shinn
on Darkness Sticks to Everything by Tom Hennen (Copper Canyon Press)

Lasky on Moten! "Reading Moten, we know that controlling language is not his aim, and instead it seems to be his goal to let language control both the poet and the reader, and also the world." And here's a smidge from Fred Marchant on Vijay Seshadri's 3 Sections (Graywolf Press 2014)--but read more about all of these recommended titles at On the Seawall:

...Throughout these poems we find an enduring sliver of hope that human consciousness is greater than mere chemistry, that it holds within it whatever we mean by the soul. It’s also true that this poet’s skeptical intelligence keeps him and us from casually asserting statements about the soul that might ultimately be only delusions. This is poetry thoroughly embedded in our post-everything 21st century. What we see enacted here is nothing less than a search for an authentic, contemporary spirituality.

The first section of the book consists of thirty-one short poems, each of which makes a foray into a surprising realm of vision. “The Dream I Didn’t Have” begins, for example, with a speaker on an autopsy table, his thoracic cavity about to be opened. We don’t know exactly what has happened, but the speaker is surely dead and yet talking about what he sees around him. He reports that a cop nearby is murmuring to himself: “That must have been a dream, or was it a vision?” And we the readers are asking a similar question. Is this poem just a surreal joke? But before we can answer, the mind of the dead man looks out the window and notes that outside “it was Chicago” with its museums, architecture, elevated trains, all of it “rising from the plains / by the impossibly flat lake.” This seems a satisfying ending to the poem, since it suggests that the soul, hovering over what was its body, has suddenly seen the world anew and with tenderness.

Such revelatory vertigo as we find in “The Dream I Didn’t Have” is typical of 3 Sections as a whole. One meets it throughout the first section, and one experiences also in the second section of the book. In an autobiographical prose piece titled “Pacific Fishes of Canada,” Sheshadri [sic] recalls a time in the 1970s when he worked as an American government inspector on a Japanese fishing boat out on the Bering Sea. He had gone to sea filled with visions of the sublime, but what he got was relentlessly seasick. The deflation allows him, however, to glimpse something he hadn’t quite expected. Toward the end of his time at sea, Sheshadri [sic] looked out to the horizon and saw a small boat struggling against another storm rising. “For some reason,” he writes, “nothing has ever given me a deeper education in despair than seeing that longliner working in that emptiness.”