From Poetry Magazine

Reading List: November 2016

By Lindsay Garbutt

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The Reading List is a feature of Poetry magazine’s Editors’ Blog. This month contributors to the November 2016 issue share some books that held their interest.

Kaveh Akbar
It’s a funny thing to be writing this again so soon (I recommended six new collections for last month’s reading list!) but I’m glad for the opportunity, as I neglected to mention books I’ve been loving (an inevitability) and have also recently stumbled into several new infatuations. Here are six more, in no particular order, with a line or two from each:

Sun Yung Shin, Unbearable Splendor
“All the shipwrecks sailing within us. I must disembark at every coast / inside me. The docks grow open as mouths.”

Dana Levin, Banana Palace
“Information about information was the pollen we / deposited —  // while in the real fields bees starved.”

Luis Muñoz, From Behind What Landscape
“The rocks, much more, / the chestnut trees, plenty. / The rushes, the wasps, / much less.”

Jos Charles, Feeld
“ther is no / vulnerabilitie / onlie wut / protrudes / & thees lyons / leckynge mye woond / expecktynge / 2 finde / a woond” *

Jane Wong, Overpour
“For certainty, I knock softly / at my fate. For grief, I listen with all my limbs.”

Joshua Bennett, The Sobbing School
“My parents praise a vengeful god. / Son of all three, what else did I inherit / but this commitment to the scales?”

*Feeld is actually still an unpublished manuscript, but Jos was kind enough to share it with me (this quote is from a poem freely available online) and I’m truly obsessed. I feel like I have so much to learn from these poems, which sound like a mix of Jorie Graham, Eduardo Corral, and Chaucer. I could have just as easily picked a line from their collection Safe Space, which is also masterful and importantly disassociating.

Beverley Bie Brahic
I have been in France with no internet connection for two weeks; the book that has tagged along is The Rattle Bag (Faber, 1982) a fat, green collection of Ted Hughes’s and Seamus Heaney’s favorite poems. The pages are dog-eared and unstuck. It’s more a deck of cards. But packed with treasures—and the poems are in alphabetical order so you never know what you’ll find side by side. My picks: a Yeats's “Two Songs of a Fool" (I don’t remember ever reading), Norman MacCaig’s “Praise of a Collie,” and old favorites by Frost and Edward Thomas. Fascinating to see who made the anthology and who didn’t, and which of their poems (Larkin’s, say) Heaney and Hughes chose. I ought to buy a new copy.

Kate Bingham is a terrific young British poet. I’ve just lapped up Five Poems in Clutag Press’s beautifully-produced Five Poems Series. In the same series I loved Róisín Tierney’s jazzy five. You won’t find these books in brick and mortar shops, but the Clutag website is a joy to peruse and even the books’ packaging is elegant.

Rereading Chana Bloch’s 2015 Swimming in the Rain. My favorite poem there might be “The Joins,” a small masterpiece of suggestiveness. Also Nina Bogin’s The Lost Hare. Bogin, an American who lives in eastern France, writes sensuously meditative poems, mixing landscape with history, and her voice, to my mind, is utterly unique.

I discovered Hédi Kaddour’s Paris poems, Passage au Luxembourg, thanks to Marilyn Hacker’s wonderfully close translation, Treason. Thom Gunn’s San Francisco poems, at the moment those in Boss Cupid, keep rising to the top of my pile.

Stephen Burt
We’re moving to New Zealand for two months (Dec. 2016–Jan. 2017) so I’ve been catching up on New Zealand literature, not just the poetry but the prose: most Americans know about Janet Frame through a movie about her life, but she was a great writer, a shy, reflective, strange great writer, and The Carpathians, her final novel, is both a straightforward reflection on the melancholy of old age and not-quite-lost memory, and a tricky post-postmodern text about its own creation. It’s also science fiction—reminds me of James Tiptree, Jr.—and a look at an American out of place. For more straightforward heartbreak there’s Frame’s Toward Another Summer, a novel that’s full of quotations from NZ poets: she seems to have kept these quotations about her almost talismanically while she struggled through severe social anxiety (that’s what we’d call it now) as a lonely young writer in early 1960s London. It’s a novel Frame seems to have seen as too personal to publish during her lifetime: she left a fair copy for her executors instead. And it’s almost compulsively quotable: “–Did you find what you’ve lost? –Who does? she said, neatly pleased.” As for contemporary NZ poetry, you won’t do much better than the two books—entire books!—by Michele Leggott now available online in the new issue of Poetics Research.

It’s not all Kiwi around here, though: there are comic books, as usual (Gillen and McKelvie’s The Wicked and the Divine seems to be moving towards a firm conclusion), and there are new U.S. poets, exciting ones. Muriel Leung, for example, whose book-length lyric sequence Bone Confetti crackles with the energy of grief: it’s the best kind of mess, like early Hart Crane with silver threads of Philip K. Dick:

Foliage of people in an endless parade: make it mean
something.
Blinked passages of time in accelerated speed.
You in a glass tube shot back to metropolis.
Me in a ghost cab still on hold with Verizon.

Finally: I’ve been struggling with, trying to process, thinking my way through, Lawrence Giffin’s almost abstract, challenging, argumentative book of poetry-and-poetics, Plato’s Closet: he’s one of a few hip New Yorkers trying to figure out how to write criticism and poetry and Continental philosophy and collage art all at the same time. Oh, and porn (mostly M/M). “Where prose makes explicit what was never there to begin / with, poetry struggles to distract from what is // most disappointing about hidden truth.”

Johnny Damm
At the moment, I’m fully immersed in the work of artist Benjamin Patterson, who died in June. I had been aware of Patterson as a founding member of Fluxus and, as Patterson put it, “the only black in this crowd.” His obituaries, however, included a detail I hadn’t heard before: in 1965, at thirty years old, Patterson retired from art mainly due to his disillusionment with Fluxus and the rest of the New York avant-garde scene’s lack of political involvement. All these leftist, so-called radical artists: Patterson noted that he’d never seen one at a protest and that Fluxus, in particular, didn’t have “the formal capacity to be political.”

This offers a fascinating and timely lens from which to revisit Patterson’s great works on paper—his action poems and performance scores, as collected in Benjamin Patterson: Born in State of FLUX/us, the catalogue from a 2011 exhibition at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, and in The Four Suits, a 1965 Something Else Press publication long out of print but entirely worth tracking down. I have a particular affection for this section of 1962’s Methods and Processes, included in Born in State of FLUX/us:

sit before a mirror in a dark room
make pleasant face
make angry face
make perplexed face
make indifferent face
stop
imagine expression of no face.

Brendan Galvin
For thirty-five years now Salmon Poetry has been publishing volumes by Irish and American poets and sending them forth from its Cliffs of Moher location in County Clare, Ireland, three hundred books to date. I first became aware of this press through R.T. Smith’s powerful Split the Lark: Selected Poems, published in 1999, and here’s a brand new volume, Little Wanderer, from another Southern poet, Jennifer Horne, who’s also a sometimes hilarious, sometimes somber short story writer (see Tell the World You’re a Wildflower, University of Alabama Press, 2014).

She’s adept at putting words in the mouths of others, thus Anna Akhmatova speaking at Oxford, strangers met at the sites of concentration camps, on trains, at outdoor cafes, and a long sequence of classical characters, mostly women. This poet has traveled high and low in Greece, Central Europe, Italy, Ireland, Britain, and in her Alabama home place, and her poems can constitute encounters with everyone from a former torturer at a dinner party (“Evil knows better than to pick his teeth in public. / He owns a building / in the nice part of Bucharest. / He’s never short of things to do”) to an Irish shopkeeper in Sligo saying, “Any day you get up is a good day, isn’t it?” Nothing touristy here, and one constant is her open mind, “a minor American” traveler’s sensitivity to new people, new places, and histories unlike ours.

In one hour at the embassy
checking slick microfiche,
I made as much as one month’s work
teaching in the local school.
I spent the entire month’s check
on a bag of oranges.

Benjamin Goldberg
In the county where I teach, the superintendent recently sent an email alerting school personnel to the “creepy clown” phenomenon. There was an alleged sighting in a local neighborhood. Moments like this make me less interested in nuance.

Of all things, the email made me return to Meghan Dunn’s poem, “Lockdown,” in the current issue of Southern Humanities Review: “When the alarm goes off, they file to the corner / farthest from door and window, any shooter’s angle,” and “We’re starting Antigone. / The state is sick, James reads, / You and your principles are to blame.” Having recently run our own lockdown drills, I find myself thinking less about clowns and more about the moment in history my students and I occupy. How safe, I wonder, can I keep them when the shooter is the state?

I’m looking for poems with answers. In his debut collection, The Sobbing School, Joshua Bennett reminds us: “There’s a process / by which bodies blend in, or don’t, or die, or roll on / past the siren’s glow so as not to subpoena the grave.” Even Bennett’s questions are so epigrammatic they moonlight as answers, “Who can be alive today / & not study grief?”

More than ever, I find myself drawn to poems that aren’t afraid of their own certainties, poems that unabashedly know and say. In her book four-legged girl, Diane Seuss offers, “Either the whole world is New Orleans / at 3 a.m. and a saxophone like a drill bit or it’s all clinical sunlight and sad / elementary school architecture circa 1962.” I want to believe, even with Seuss’s ironies, in the earnestness of the impulse to dichotomize the world so spectacularly. I want to lay my poet-envy at the feet of poems like this, poems so insistently themselves that I have little choice but to follow their lead.

Rebecca Hazelton
Poetry wise: I’m currently reading The End of Pink by Kathryn Nuernberger. It’s a deep dive into science (and pseudo-science) that is weird and funny and sad all at once. I particularly enjoy her poems on parenthood, and how it can reveal unflattering parts of oneself. I’m also reading my friend Alan Michael Parker’s The Ladder, a book which points out the absurdism of life so gently and with such humor we might almost miss the sharp edges in these poems. It’s tender, prickly, and very good.

In terms of my not-so-guilty pleasures, every night for months I’ve been reading novels in James S.A. Corey’s “Expanse” series. It’s been years since I’ve read science fiction—it seemed like book after book there weren’t any female characters, or at least not any believable ones. This is reductive, of course, and there are many writers in sci-fi today who saw that lack and responded accordingly. This is a series where it’s not unusual to see people of color and women in positions of power. It’s also a ripping good space opera.

I love graphic novels (though my pocketbook does not) and I’ve finally bought the recent collections of Saga written by Brian K. Vaughan. It’s another space opera, but an intimate one, told through the lens of parenthood. The art, by Fiona Staples, is expressive and stylish, and takes advantage of the medium.

Finally, I’ve been reading Magic and Loss by Virginia Heffernan. I can’t praise this book enough. Heffernan’s diction is a delight, and her argument that the internet might be humankind’s greatest art project seems at first overblown, and then increasingly valid. Heffernan examines digital life in ways mundane and profound, from a delicious reading of Angry Birds to a moving look at the effects of virtual reality.

Donna Masini
Waiting rooms. Hospitals. Anxiety, dread, boredom, uncertainty. My father, brother, and I attend my mother. Here a book must feel necessary. Those I’ve packed—essential as contact lens solution. Two years since my sister’s death I still carry Brenda Hillman’s Death Tractates. Even when I’m not reading, it moves through me, grounds me: “Smart daffodils! They waited / till the cold snap was over, then brought themselves / into the corridor, like lamps of pity—” “When she had just started being dead I called to her. / Plum trees were waiting to be entered…”

On the bus to N.J. I need non-fiction. But it’s poems I read in the hospital. Each week I come home to NYC to see my cats, meet my students. What foresight I had in choosing this semester’s texts:

Mark Doty, My Alexandria: “We’re launched into the darkness” … “twelve dark minutes. Love.”  Mark’s investigations into time/loss/beauty/art, his urge to discover meaning in form, help me feel less alone.

Lynn Emanuel, Then Suddenly: “Halfway Through This Book I’m Writing … my father dies.” Haunting. Nervy. What a book is made when life interrupts the “project.”  And the project talks back.

Alice Notley, Mysteries of Small Houses: This is courage, not to fake a thing. Not “the self,” not grief. Not the least cheat here.

Louise Glück, Ararat: Unflinching, mordant (this is funny, I say in class). Family. Its contraries, paradoxes. Hmm, one student says, maybe you have to be older.

As a kid, I read to escape my family. These days I read to help me be with them, to grieve, hope, imagine it means something. This living. This making.

Let me celebrate Ari Banias’s extraordinary new Anybody. His generous, questioning imagination that assumes nothing. Political. Metaphysical. Exhilarating.

Tell me something from the world, I ask my friend, Marie Howe. She’s reading, she says, Fanny Howe’s The Needle’s Eye.  Later, in my notebook, I find this from Howe’s Wedding Dress: “What I have been thinking about lately is bewilderment, as a way of entering the day as much as the work. Bewilderment as a poetics and a politics.”

Bewildering this hospital. The kind people who hold elevators, help my father down the hall, but don’t really believe all lives matter. Bewildering these corridors. I breathe, repeat my mind’s anthologies: “After great pain,” “Sundays, too, my father got up early,” “Then practice losing farther, losing faster,” “The world is charged with the grandeur of God.”  Here, when a baby is born, they play a lullaby. “There Was a Child Went Forth,” I whisper, pacing.

And because what comforts me, when I finally get home, is the Great British Baking Show, I crawl into bed with Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Cake Bible and read about how to create the perfect genoise.

Shane McCrae
Right now, I’m reading all three of Brigit Pegeen Kelly’s books—because I should have been reading them all along, but each time I read one of her poems I was so stunned that I actually had to rest, and couldn’t read another, and I felt, even before her death might have suggested such a feeling, that she would always be there, living, behind the work, and so I had all the time in the world to connect with her. Deaths have lead me to engage or re-engage with several poets this year, the loss of any one of whom would have been enough for a year, or several years; I find it difficult to fathom that we also lost C.D. Wright and Geoffrey Hill, and I have been reading them both again—a little feverishly.

Recently, for no particular reason I could discern—I mean, in response to no immediate impetus—I found myself wanting to re-read Amy Clampitt’s work. I first read her Collected Poems about ten years ago, and at the time I didn’t really connect with it—well, that’s not entirely true. I enjoyed all of it generally, but I didn’t connect with any particular poem. Clampitt’s poems are among the lushest of the last forty years, and when they’re taken all together, the lushness can be overwhelming. But when I first felt the urge to re-engage with her poems, I went to poetryfoundation.org, actually, searched her name, and re-read “The Kingfisher.” And I felt as if I had never read it before. The lushness seemed no longer to be atmosphere, as I had once thought it was, but instead a necessary component of precise observation. I am now re-reading Clampitt’s Collected Poems, and for the first time reading her essay collection, Predecessors, Et Cetera.

I hadn’t noticed until I began writing this reading list, but I am doing a lot of re-reading. Sara Deniz Akant’s Babette was one of my favorite books of poetry of 2015, and has become one of my favorite books ever, and I just finished reading it again. Immediately after reading it for the first time, I’m re-reading and teaching—because I love it and because it was written by one of my favorite writers in the world—Renee Gladman’s Calamities. Robert Fernandez and Mary Hickman recently read at Oberlin, and so I’ve been re-reading Fernandez’s We Are Pharaoh and Hickman’s This Is the Homeland. And I am just discovering Owen Dodson (one of my students, a wonderful poet named Margaret Saigh, used a few of Dodson’s lines as an epigraph to a long poem she’s working on, and I gasped a little at the final line she excerpted: “The singing that kills the flowers”). Beyond poets and poetry—well, mostly beyond poets and poetry, I’m also reading Barbara Herrnstein Smith’s Poetic Closure (not far beyond, I know), The New Oxford Annotated Bible (yeah, that’s full of poems, too), and I’m about to embark upon Rowan Williams-fest (OK, fine, he has published a few books of poems, but he was also the Archbishop of Canterbury, and he’s my favorite theologian). Oh! And I’m reading the fantastic Jenkins and Watson edition of The Writings of Julian of Norwich. Prose in English from about 1350–1600 is where it’s at.

Leslie McGrath
A friend sent me a copy of Log of the S.S. The Mrs. Unguentine in 2008 when it was reissued. (It was written by Stanley Crawford and originally published in 1972.) I read it, filed it in my bookshelves, and have been haunted by it ever since. It’s a story of a marriage, a voyage, and a barge. It’s a view into the kind of loneliness and cruelty that only two people can build. I kept thinking about it as I read the Neapolitan series by Elena Ferrante this summer—another story that looks with a level eye at the blend of love and cruelty, this time between female friends. I got to thinking about Don Quixote, which I’d read in Spanish in college. The relationship between the knight and Panza, how it moves back and forth along a continuum of power, has always intrigued me. This year marks the 400th anniversary of Cervantes’s death. I was curious about how the thirty-five years since college may have skewed my memory of what I always point to as my favorite book, so I listened to Roberto Gonzalez Echevarria’s class, Cervantes’ Don Quixote, which is available as one of Yale’s open courses online. I’ve just finished reading Ilan Stavans’s Quixote: The Novel and the World and have started Andres Trapiello’s Spanish language “update” of the novel. I’m eager to read Giannina Braschi’s Empire of Dreams, translated by Tess O’Dwyer, which may nudge me toward reading poetry again.

Michelle Mitchell-Foust
Today I am considering the word aftermath as I commute to work between miles of fields of pristine grass. “Aftermath” comes from the prefix “re” plus the old French word “gaain,” meaning the grass growing in meadows that have already been mown. This etymology is a wonderful discovery, considering that I am currently writing in the aftermath of sublime changes in my life. The resulting transformation, after too long a period of silence, is taking place in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, the grass seed capital of the world.

My writing these days takes the form of a sequence, partially dreamed, involving human/animal transformations. I have long been interested in the possibilities of the human body and the human spirit. It’s great when my reading contributes to the conversation that I am carrying on with readers. I am enjoying Hélène Cixous’s Poetry in Painting: Writings on Contemporary Arts and Aesthetics. Her initial discussion of Rembrandt’s The Flayed Ox and The Half-Buried Dog by Goya is gorgeous.

I am also reading Cixous’s Double Oblivious of the Ourang-Outang, whose center is a box she has found that she doesn’t remember filling or shelving. She spends the book considering the aftermath of opening the find and considering the various streams of consciousness that run simultaneously when we encounter the writings of our literary peers and ancestors alongside our own past writings.

I will round out these boxes, these aftermaths, with Anne Carson’s new writings entitled Float. The “box” contains a number of chapbooks that can be read in a free fall. I am carrying these books everywhere, reading and re-reading in no certain order, along with William Stobb’s book Artifact Eleven, Kelly Link’s marvelous dark fantasy stories Get in Trouble, and Andrew Michael Hurley’s haunting novel The Loney, which examines the aftermath of the discovery of the remains of a child on a bleak stretch of beach in the United Kingdom. 

Conor O’Callaghan
Alan Gillis has long been my generation of Irish poets’ poet. Scapegoat and Other Poems (Wake Forest University Press) is a selection from Gillis’s four collections to date and a brilliant book. Its very first poem, “The Ulster Way,” lays out its territory by gleeful disassociation with any illustrious forefathers: “This is not about burns or hedges,” it says. “There will be no gorse.” Here, instead, is a full-throttle headlong mash of hallucinatory pursuits through night cities and the dreamscapes of online identity, Sir Philip Sidney recast for the commuter age, the nefarious shenanigans of post-ceasefire hoods, folk ballads and disco lyrics, Milton and The Human League. These are big, funny poems that—for all their profanity and largesse, their ferocious intellectual energy—are both deceptively lyrical and desperate to make sense of the “spangled diamond bright … helter-skelter hell-raking hullabaloo” of twenty-first-century life. Gillis is the dark star of contemporary Irish poetry, and a major talent.

No less copious, but equally sui generis, is Amali Rodrigo’s Lotus Gatherers (Bloodaxe). A native of Sri Lanka, Rodrigo writes complex iridescent poems that sidestep any routine post-colonial interpretation. She has a gift for the fragmentary. Her book is built around several sequences of exquisite epigrams, the largest of which is a series of free translations of sensuous song-poems inscribed on the walls a medieval pleasure palace: “Wife, ever present, ever virtuous, / how unlike this wild gust / of gold and grace / that uproars the mind.” At the core of her work is the erotic, a vision of “holding firm / tinder’s thirst / for flame.” This is beautiful work, unlike anything out there, wonderfully alive and so deserving of wider attention.

Emily Pérez
As my ninth graders read it for the first time, I’m re-reading Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novel, in which I always find something new about family, rebellion, and growing up as an independent woman. My comedy class is partway through Baratunde Thurston’s How to Be Black, which has led to conversations about the ways comedy can advance our collective thinking about race in the United States. My gender studies students have been reading several articles about sexual assault, including a study of conditions that led to assaults at the U.S. Air Force Academy and the letter the Stanford victim read aloud to her attacker in court. Last week we read a few chapters from Peggy Orenstein’s thoughtful Girls and Sex; she artfully lays out the paradox in which many teen girls find themselves today, simultaneously empowered and objectified.

With my children I’m reading from an anthology of world fairy tales and revisiting favorites from the Curious George collection.

On my own, I’m enjoying Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah, and two poetry collections: Carolina Ebeid’s You Ask Me to Talk About the Interior and Nancy Reddy’s Double Jinx. Two short story collections that I read a few months ago, both from the small press A Strange Object, inspired and are still inspiring a new direction in my poems: Three Scenarios in Which Hana Sasaki Grows a Tail, by Kelly Luce, and Man and Wife, by Katie Chase.

Next up, I am excited to read the poetry collections The Verging Cities by Natalie Scenters-Zapico and Bright Dead Things by Ada Limón, as well as the novels The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead and Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson.

Donald Revell
It is perhaps appropriate in autumn to seek and to celebrate the density, the vivid intensity of retrospect, happy to find that the early colors are colors still, iridescent somewhere beyond the reach of autumn.

The dogs wake me at exactly 5:03AM each and every morning. Once they’ve been tended to and my coffee brewed and poured, I return to reading Geoffrey Hill’s Daybooks (2007-2012). Every passage, dense with allusion, with affection and, properly, sometimes with apprehension, affirms those colors that do not fade. As here—

I can see someone walking there, a girl,
And she is you, old love. Edging the meadow
The may-tree is all light and all shadow.
Coming and going are the things eternal.
—From Al Tempo De’Tremuoti

The rhymes enclose the forward life of retrospect beyond all fear of harm.

Also these mornings I’ve been finding a like iridescence in William Arrowsmith’s beautiful translations of Montale’s The Storm and Other Things. I was blessed to spend a few days with Arrowsmith in Ripon, Wisconsin just when he was working on these poems, back in the 1980s, and his presence and conversation saw me through some very real difficulty. Tempus tacendi.

As when you turned around and, with your hand, the cloud
of hair
clearing from your forehead,
you waved to me—and stepped into darkness.
—From The Storm

Arrowsmith forwards the gentle defiance of Montale’s gesture, and there is no winter then.

And at the end of the day, with teaching and shopping and dinner done, I’ve been reading Jan Swafford’s Johannes Brahms: A Biography. Swafford, with incredible authority and tact, explicates the time signatures and strophes of retrospect that have long made Brahms my favorite composer.

Robin Richardson
I’ve been single-mindedly preoccupied lately with Jungian analyst and fairy tale enthusiast Marie-Louise von Franz. I came to her through Jung, finding his work fell short when it came to the female perspective. Marie-Louise von Franz is in a league of her own, writing original analyses of the collective unconscious through fairy tale archetypes and narratives. Her book Shadow and Evil in Fairy Tales changed the way I perceive my own unconscious, and has deeply impacted my approach to translating that terrain into poetry. I also recommend The Psychological Meaning of the Redemption Motif in Fairy Tales, On Dreams and Death, and The Anima and Animus in Fairytales.

Fanny Howe’s essay on bewilderment touches on the same preoccupation. I discovered it first through Matthea Harvey and it has had an unrelenting influence on my work as I lean away from patriarchal objectivity, towards an exploration of the unsettled, the paradoxical, and the unconscious:

Bewilderment is an enchantment that follows a complete collapse of reference and reconcilability. It cracks open the dialectic and sees myriads all at once. The old debate over beauty—between absolute and relative—is ruined by the experience of being completely lost by choice! Between God and No-God, between Way Out and Far Inside; while they are vacillating wildly, there is no fixed position.

Once you’ve finished the article I recommend picking up a copy of Rebecca Solnit’s A Field Guide to Getting Lost, then circling back around to the original source of bewilderment: fairy tales.

Alison C. Rollins
I just completed reading Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad where, through Whitehead’s innovative approach to reimagining the pre-Civil War era, he has conceived a work of historical fiction that includes an actual Underground Railroad complete with conductors and a secret network of train tracks and tunnels beneath the earth. Reading this novel in conjunction with my current studies in library and information science has pushed me towards examining the genre of historical fiction in my poetry in terms of the evolution of language, imagination, the human condition, and historical memory. I have been interested in learning more about artificial intelligence and the mark this will have on our culture; this would include books like George Zarkadakis’s In Our Own Image: Savior or Destroyer? The History and Future of Artificial Intelligence and Pedro Domingos’s The Master Algorithm: How the Quest for the Ultimate Learning Machine Will Remake Our World. I have been following a project at UC Berkeley where a team of I School researchers are designing a computer system that writes poetry. In addition, I have been exploring the relationship between code and poetry with Ishac Bertran’s project code {poems}. At the moment I am really drawn to work that is manipulating language and pushing the boundaries of human versus machine/robot. Poems like—

“PERSONAL EFFECTS” in Solmaz Sharif’s LOOK:

the weight of your feet
swings you forward,
goose-stepping pendulums

a body less and less yours—
a body, God knows,
is not what makes you

anyway. So the hands
that said they never would
begin finding

grenade pins around their fingers,
begin flipping through this album
with soot under their nails.

“404—Page Not Found” in Justin Phillip Reed’s A History of Flamboyance:

e.g. if several men
die and the sum total mass
of death is greater than or
equal to that of one man
who dies simultaneously
whose death pulled all
surrounding into its void
then at which intersection
is time slowed to a crawl

“Hum of the Machine God” in Jamaal May’s Hum:

but the Machine God, still busy with the lights, ignores
the needle’s morse code prayer while the boy waits
for snowmelt in his mouth to taste of oak and sea.

In terms of philosophy texts to further interrogate some of these works of poetry I have been sifting through, Hans-Georg Gadamer’s Truth and Method and Martin Heidegger’s Being and Time.

Other poetry collections I am finding particularly magical right now are: Safiya Sinclair’s Cannibal, Iliana Rocha’s Karankawa, Yona Harvey’s Hemming the Water, and Rodney Gomez’s Mouth Filled with Night.

Natalie Shapero
For anyone interested in the convergence of art, money, urban development, and urban displacement, I recommend the one-two punch of Sharon Zukin’s Loft Living: Culture and Capital in Urban Change (1983) and Aaron Shkuda’s The Lofts of SoHo: Gentrification, Art, and Industry in New York, 1950-1980 (2016). Both books offer fascinating accounts of the commodification of bohemia on a grand scale. I’ve also been reading a lot of Gary Soto, who writes both plainly and coyly about the smaller-scale circulation of money and goods—the mandate of incessant exchange that presents itself as a second set of circadian rhythms, structuring our days. Black Hair (1985), a book of day jobs and rent checks and yard sales and coffee runs, includes the dynamite poem “How Things Work.” Read it today to someone you love. I guess.

Claudine Toutoungi
I recently read This Is Not the End of the Book, a discussion between Umberto Eco and Jean-Claude Carrière. It’s wildly digressive; the main point seems to be to veer off the point. Maybe because I do this a lot myself, I loved it and lapped up the plethora of non-sequiturs and semi-divulged anecdotes.

Collections I’ve enjoyed lately include The Met Office Advises Caution, a deft and delicious debut by Rebecca Watts, Miriam Gamble’s fleet-footed The Squirrels Are Dead, Hannah Gamble’s brilliantly shifty Your Invitation to a Modest Breakfast (so many Gambles!), Adam Crother’s punchy Several Deer, and Kathryn Simmonds’s lyrical The Visitations. Pamphlet-wise, I greedily devoured Declare by Geraldine Clarkson and Mackerel Salad by Ben Rogers, both terrific.

I took Tony Hoagland’s Application for Release from the Dream on a seaside visit and it made me fall off a wall (no serious injury sustained). Mark Waldron’s Meanwhile, Trees was equally disarming and dazzling. And another holiday companion, Dorthe Nors’s Mina Needs Rehearsal Space was fantastic and unlike anything I’ve read before. You could call it a novella written in status updates but it pushes way beyond quirkiness into intensely soulful territory.

As England turns colder, I’m revisiting Adelia Prado’s The Mysterious Rose, not just because it’s steeped in a warmer clime but because the poetry’s raw, tender, funny and a lot more besides. Lastly, I go back to an interview with John Cheever in The Paris Review at odd moments. His mix of swagger, bashfulness and je m’enfoutisme about the writing process always fills me with hope.

Jack Underwood
I just received Women, Money, Children, Ghosts, a new pamphlet by Emily Bludworth de Barrios, in the post and I’m enjoying that a great deal. This week also saw the launch of Currently & Emotion: Translations, a vital new anthology of contemporary poetry in translation, along with a deeply insightful introduction by the anthologist, Sophie Collins. I’m so excited to read her first collection, out next year, and looking ahead, I’m confident Wayne Holloway-Smith’s debut Alarum will steady the world as the end times threaten.

We’re five weeks into autumn term, so I’ve enjoyed teaching and revisiting my favorite work from 2015: Elaine Kahn’s Women in Public, Jennifer L Knox’s Days of Shame and Failure, Sommer Browning’s Backup Singers, and Juliana Spahr’s That Winter the Wolf Came, as well as amazing performances online: Franny Choi’s “POP!goesKOREA!,” Dominique Christina’s “Karma,” Monica McClure’s “Chiflada,” and the What’s New in Poetry series curated by Bruce Covey for realpants.com; I loved the excerpts from Laura Theobald’s “Bestiary” poem and Heather Christle’s stunning reading, especially her Neil Armstrong elegy taking text from the moon landings.

I’ve been dipping into Sara Woods’s Sara or the Existence of Fire again lately for inspiration (in one poem a dog goes to sleep in a giant salad!), and Lisa Jarnot’s “Song of the Chinchilla,” and “The Winter Sun Says Fight” by Peter Gizzi have both had a few airings aloud too. I would heartily recommend these recent pamphlets: Edwina Attlee’s The Cream, Chloe Stopa-Hunt’s White Hills, from Clinic Presents, and I loved Holly Isemonger’s Hip Shifts and Pro Ana by AK Blakemore, from If a Leaf Falls Press.

There must come a time when I stop going on about Morgan Parker’s amazing collection Other Peoples’ Comfort Keeps Me Up at Night, but it isn’t going to be today.

Ahren Warner
I tend to be reading several books at once and at the moment I have four to hand: Jacques Dupin’s De singes at de mouches, Marcelin Pleynet’s Le Póntos, Yves Bonnefoy’s book-length essay Poésie et photographie, and Ed Atkins’s A Primer for Cadavers, a collection of the artist’s texts and drawings.

Dupin and Pleynet share some common biographical facts: both poets born shortly before the WWII, both art critics—Dupin wrote Miro’s biography, Pleynet published books on Matisse and Motherwell, as well as editing Tel Quel—both are, y’know, French …

Yet (for all that) these two books—which I go back to regularly—are two radically different models for poetic innovation and exploration. The terse concentrate, the gristle of Dupin’s work, which keeps on doing its work by evocation and dialogue, is exemplary. Pleynet’s Le Póntos, on the other hand, deploys the discursive space of lyric prose to fuse an addictive intellectual exploration with real affective force. They’re both amazing, and educational.

Bonnefoy’s essay Poésie et photographie is something else: part essay in poetics, part exploration of photographic ontology, morphing at some point into the most brilliant reading of Maupassant’s La Nuit. Perhaps, at times, it risks the sub-Heideggerian, but the way it proceeds as critical prose built on both poetic sensitivity and the figurative leap leaves you with a real sense of intellectual virtuosity rooted in poetic perspective.

Atkins’s A Primer for Cadavers has just turned up. At first glance: there are drawings, which are quiet but amazingly charismatic, and there are texts. I’ve been reading these and find myself imagining somewhere—in a log cabin or on an oxblood chesterfield—some old grandee of letters asking themselves: “but is it poetry?” To which I’d say: I don’t know, but it’s better than almost all the poetry I’ve read recently.

Javier Zamora
Lately I’ve been thinking of ways to expand the poetic line and how other writers have moved from poetry to fiction. In that regard I recently read all of Alejandro Zambra’s work, starting with Ways of Finding Home, Multiple Choice, and his first two works in Spanish: Bonsai and The Secret Life of Trees. Reading fiction has actually helped me rekindle the freedom in writing poetry.

On my bookshelf is Saifya Sinclair’s Cannibal and Jesús Castillo’s Remains, two debuts I’ve waited a long time to read.