“Pepper Trees Brushing the Roof Like Rain”

Charles Bukowski is one of those enviable poets known even to people who think poetry is a joke. Although I had never read much of his work (until this week, thanks to The Pleasures of the Damned, which collects his poems from 1951-1993), I knew enough to consider him one of those characters who carefully …

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Bukowski’s Cat

We've all heard of Schrödinger's cat. He's sealed in a box, poor thing, with radioactive material and something called quantum superposition. That's geek speak for an experiment centered on being "simultaneously alive and dead," which is a tricky business, even for 9-lived felines who ain't feeling so fine. Less famous is Bukowski's Cat, apparently quantum-free. …

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Twin Poetry Peaks: Terrance Hayes and Jericho Brown

These past few weeks I have been reading and rereading poems from two contemporary poets of note, Terrance Hayes and Jericho Brown. Both Hayes' book, American Sonnet for My Past and Future Assassin, and Brown's, The Tradition, mix personal poetry with political, specifically living as a black man in post-Obama America. For the curious, here …

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“The Mix of Flag Blood & Surprise Blurring the Eyes”

All politics is local, they say. And all poetry, too, seen in a certain slant of light. Sometimes it's bright and obvious. Other times, you have to work in the dark a bit to see it. As I continue to slowly read (and reread) Terrance Hayes' American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin, I …

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The Ever-Evolving Sonnet

Sonnets. You remember them from school, right? In this corner we have the Petrarchan (or Italian) sonnet, and in that corner we have the Shakespearean (or English) sonnet. Sonnets loved rules: Fourteen lines. Ten beats per line. A rhyme scheme. But that was your great-great-etc. grandfather's sonnet. The new sonnet has only one rule (and …

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Tony Hoagland Gives His Blessing

Yesterday I picked up Tony Hoagland's posthumous book and, I assume, the last, The Art of Voice: Poetic Principles and Practice. The purpose of this 168-pager is to promote ways writers can add "voice" to their poetry, and it doesn't hurt that the essays enclosed have plenty of voice themselves. "Voice" is one of those literary …

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Tips on Those Pesky Line Breaks: Part Two

Yesterday, instead of building March snowmen and creating March snow angels, I wrote a post about line breaks from Diane Lockward's book, The Crafty Poet, sharing Wesley McNair's (pictured above) first five tips on where to break your poems' lines. Today we have the remaining five: #6. Break so your reader sees how to say your …

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