Saturday 31 January 2009

New book acquisitions

Here are the most recent arrivals on my desk:

Mount Clutter by Sarah Lindsay arrived this week. I've read her other collections with great delight, and so far this one is every bit as good as the others. She's a fantastic poet, smart and readable. She cuts no corners when it comes to craft and always delivers something that's entertaining for the reader. What more could one ask for?

Okay, so it's not poetry, but I've really been enjoying Roberto Bolaño's poetry, and as promised, I will now be reading his fiction, starting with The Savage Detectives. I can't wait.

Hooked by Carolyn Smart takes as its subject matter the lives of seven famous or infamous women -- Myra Hindley, Unity Mitford, Zelda Fitzgerald, Dora Carrington, Carson McCullers, Jane Bowles, and Elizabeth Smart -- each of whom was at some point possessed by addiction or obsession, so it should make for heady, and intriguing, reading.

Friday 30 January 2009

"Alien vs. Predator" -- a poem by Michael Robbins

Okay everybody, let's all love poet Michael Robbins....


A couple of weeks ago, Michael Robbin's poem "Alien vs. Predator" appeared in The New Yorker, and all kinds of wonderful hell broke loose. I'm arriving a little late to the dance, and lots of interesting things have already been said about it, but for those who haven't encountered this story yet, I've collected the essentials.

First of all, go to The New Yorker and read the poem. But here's a taste:

Praise this world, Rilke says, the jerk.
We’d stay up all night. Every angel’s
berserk. Hell, if you slit monkeys
for a living, you’d pray to me, too.
I’m not so forgiving. I’m rubber, you’re glue.

That elk is such a dick. He’s a space tree
making a ski and a little foam chiropractor.
I set the controls, I pioneer
the seeding of the ionosphere.
I translate the Bible into velociraptor.

.... The rest is here.

Zach Baron weighs in.

Zach Baron interviews Michael Robbins.

Carl Wilson weighs in.

I can't wait for a full collection of poems by Michael Robbins; I think it's safe to assume he's not the same Michael Robbins who wrote the collection of spiritual/healing poems Love Like This. His biographical note at Columbia College says he's writing his "dissertation on the perseverance of the lyric subject after confessionalism & Language poetry" which means he's a good egg in my book.

Monday 26 January 2009

Writing advice from the professionals

Tony Hoagland on delivering the accident:

Martin Amis on avoiding the cliché:

Garrison Keillor on getting out of the house:

Wednesday 14 January 2009

More Sarah Lindsay

Clearly, I have been on a Sarah Lindsay (pictured) kick lately. It's official: I'm a fan. In case my enthusiasm is at all contagious, perhaps you would like to read this wonderful review by Daisy Fried in Poetry Magazine of Lindsay's latest book, Twigs & Knucklebones.

Twigs & Knucklebones is a rare thing in poetry—a very good read. Fans of Sarah Lindsay's previous books, National Book Award finalist Primate Behavior (1997) and Mount Clutter (2002), will find here what they found there, only more so: freaks of nature and freakish nature, far-flung and underexplored places, things scientific and sci-fi, real things that seem invented, imaginary things that seem real. Orchids that grow underground. The introduction of starlings to America. Cities of the dead. Life on Jupiter's moon.

Lindsay's poems are as narrative as poems can get—they tell elaborate stories—but aren't at all confessional. Lindsay uses the word "I" to refer to herself or a poet-speaker in very few poems. Her voice in Twigs & Knucklebones is omniscient yet intimate, super-literate and flawlessly graceful, like a really good lecturer who knows how to entertain an audience while speaking on complex subject matters. In a sense these are "Research & Development" poems. One suspects Lindsay reads an article, for example, about a species of extinct zebra, then writes "Elegy for the Quagga." But the R&D never overwhelms insight or music. "Krakatau split with a blinding noise," writes Lindsay, of the volcanic island's 1883 explosion. "Fifteen days before, in its cage in Amsterdam, / the last known member of Equus quagga, / the southernmost subspecies of zebra, died." A little later, "Who needs to hear a quagga's voice?"

The poet does, and by the end of the poem, so does the reader—and can't. It feels like a kind of wound:
Even if, when it sank to its irreplaceable knees,
when its unique throat closed behind a sigh,
no dust rose to redden a whole year's sunsets,
no one unwittingly busy
two thousand miles away jumped at the sound,
no ashes rained on ships in the merciless sea

Read the rest of the review here.

Thursday 8 January 2009

New Book Purchases

This year, I have decided to try to record all my new book purchases on my blog, at least new poetry and poetry-related books. We will see how long this lasts, but since I bought two new books yesterday, now seems like a good time to start.

First, we have Primate Behavior by Sarah Lindsay. I loved Lindsay's most recent book (Twigs & Knucklebones, Copper Canyon, 2008) so much, I decided to order her previous books. Primate Behavior is her first collection, and it was published by Grove Press in 1997. Her second collection, Mount Clutter (Grove, 2002), is still on order.

So far, her first collection is anything but a disappointment. The more of her poems I read, the more I like her as a poet. I read her work with excitement and a small amount of envy. She is quickly becoming one of my favourite contemporary poets.

Next, we have The Romantic Dogs by Roberto Bolaño. Bolaño is a hot commodity these days, as translations of his novels are increasingly popular with English-speaking readers. Bolaño admitted he thought of himself as a poet first and foremost, saying, "The poetry makes me blush less." With this in mind, I have decided to make his poetry my personal introduction to his works.

This book contains 44 poems in the original Spanish and in English translation on facing pages. So far, so good.

I ordered this last year, but it arrived in 2009. My Vocabulary Did This to Me: The Collected Poetry of Jack Spicer is a must have, in my opinion. He is my favourite poet of the Berkeley Renaissance. It's been a pleasure since it arrived, and it will remain so for a long, long time.