A Carnival of Losses, A Big Top of Gains

I just finished poet Donald Hall's second (and final, given his death last year) collection of essays, A Carnival of Losses: Notes Nearing Ninety. His prose style is concise and entertaining, proving compression (i.e. "the art of poetry") has pay-offs for the essay writer, too. Make that "especially." For fans of poetry, two of the …

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Poetry in Strange Places (e.g. a Farm or Abattoir)

Last week, via her poetry column in the New York Times' Magazine, Rita Dove introduced me to the poet Jenny George, who published The Dream of Reason (Copper Canyon Press) just last year. Being the sort to pass along good news when I read it, I shared George's poem "One-Way Gate" on these pages---a poignant piece …

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Beasts Made Sophisticated by Their Simplicity

I've been poking around Robert Bly's bodaciously-big, newly-released Collected Poems, and enjoying his versatility. For instance, poems from his 1975 collection Morning Glory are descriptive gems that would have served as comfort food to Henry David Thoreau out in his cabin by the lake. Of course, in our politically-fraught times, nature poems like these are frowned upon …

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Random Thoughts, December Edition

With the Winter Solstice now securely in the rearview mirror, people can take good cheer: The days are getting longer! (Not that anyone notices at this hectic time of year.) Here in New England, the Solstice was celebrated with sheets of rain and pillowcases of wind, temps in the 60s Fahrenheit. All fore of our …

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The Mysterious Equations of Narrative Poetry, Where “Less Is More”

Story. Cavemen loved them, apparently, as do the so-called civilized types we call ourselves today. Tell me a good story, and I'm your captive till the happily ever after. Words to live by. Especially if your name is Sheherazade and your pretty life depends on it. The last entry from my reading of Gregory Orr's …

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“The Art of Faith, The Faith of Art”

Voice. It's that magical je ne sais quoi that draws us like magnets. To people, yes. But to writing, too: people heard through the medium of paper and ink. From the earliest pages of Christian Wiman's new book He Held Radical Light, I found myself attracted to the voice. To me, it seemed the voice …

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One Poetry Editor’s Epiphany

Christian Wiman, former editor of Poetry magazine and a poet himself, has been there and back. Not just the highs and lows that come with the life of a poet who gets hosannas one second (via acceptances) and brickbats the next (via rejections), but the more soul-searching variety---the one that comes with cancer, bone marrow …

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