Of Little Goats and Alcoholics

Appropriately enough, Kaveh Akbar's collection, Portrait of the Alcoholic, is dedicated quite simply "for drunks." It's not surprising, then, that you get poems dealing with issues of addiction. One has the catchy title, "Besides, Little Goat, You Can't Just Go Asking for Mercy." Well, he could, but it would do him little good if he …

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Metaphoric Push-Ups

Easily the most difficult exercise you can practice in poetry is the metaphoric push-up. Leave your like's and as's in the cupboard, why don't you, and point-blank tell the world how this is that, knowing full well that this isn't that, but the audacity of saying so works. Somehow. Against all odds. Thus, the burn …

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When Wrong Place & Wrong Time Means Forever

Gun violence. Poetry. Yes, please, to some sanity. I just finished Joseph J. Ellis's new book, American Dialogue, where, among other interesting things, he traces the history of the Second Amendment, which was, according to the Founders, all about militias vs. individuals, not that this stops some people in modern-day from rewriting history. Ellis goes …

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Pain, Sickness, and the Desire To Be “Adamantly Elsewhere”

In honor of the passing of Tony Hoagland in October, I'm sharing "Arrows," with its allusion to Saint Sebastian and his arrow-ridden body. The arrows in Tony's case, of course, would be the cancer that eventually took him. But for others, the arrows could metaphorically equate to many things that torment us, body and soul, …

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The Power of a Moment: What Snakes Can Teach Us

According to Christian Wiman, "the hunger that gives rise to art must be greater than what art can satisfy." That alone says it all for me: Art as the itch that can never entirely be scratched. But Wiman keeps going: "The hunger must be other than what art can satisfy. The poem is means, not …

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What’s in a Name? More Than You’d Think.

Lead-off batters. In baseball, they're the table setters. The speed. The possibility and the hope facing a first pitch. In a poetry collection, the first poem is no small matter, either. St. Billy of Collins says it is damn near everything when it comes to the Department of Importance (a branch of the Department of …

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