Joyfully Ambushed

One theme touched on in Matthew Zapruder's Why Poetry is "associative movement," a term he rather dislikes as being too "clinical sounding," but uses anyway because its meaning is so vast that it's hard to label and shelf as something else. What can it mean? Lots of things, but for my purposes, I'll call it … Continue reading Joyfully Ambushed


Make It Strange

In Chapter 4 of his thought-invoking book, Why Poetry, Matthew Zapruder quotes a Russian literary scholar, essayist, novelist, and memoirist no one's heard of: Viktor Shklovsky. Viktor's eureka moment? He claimed that the language of artistic texts is no different than the language of texts used to convey information. Asterisk. Make that BIG asterisk. In … Continue reading Make It Strange

The Only Tool Needed To “Get” Poetry

I spent most of yesterday afternoon and evening sick in bed. My bedside companion was not Nurse Nightingale, but Matthew Zapruder's book, Why Poetry. Books read when your fogged brain has one lobe in Kubla Khan's rich-scented gardens are always memorable, and this one distracted me mightily despite my dizzy spells and headache. I plan … Continue reading The Only Tool Needed To “Get” Poetry

Wallace Stevens: When Weird Is Grounded in Normal

"The greatest poverty," Wallace Stevens once wrote, "is not to live in a physical world." This observation came decades before the SmartPhone, the Internet, and the iPad, meaning, if Stevens were to return today, he'd find the entire planet a "third-world nation"--impoverished, indeed! Ironically, Stevens used the physical world for fantastic leaps by using metaphor … Continue reading Wallace Stevens: When Weird Is Grounded in Normal

Cold Comfort: Poems That Make the Big-Time

Reading published poems--especially poems published in the heavyweight division, where you find periodicals like The New Yorker--can be both frustrating and edifying. Before I count the ways, let me share a poem published in the The New Yorker's Aug. 28th issue: SON by Craig Morgan Teicher I don't even know where my father lives. I … Continue reading Cold Comfort: Poems That Make the Big-Time

Tony Hoagland’s America: Look Familiar?

If you're tired of empty phrases like "Build a Wall" and "Make America Great Again," you might consider Tony Hoagland's America for respite. At least you'd be a realist, and at most a decent judge of political poetry. Tony Hoagland's view of America is subtle, though. No in-your-face pronouncements. Just creative and philosophical riffs that … Continue reading Tony Hoagland’s America: Look Familiar?