I glanced at today's edition of the Onion and found "Elie Wiesel Mortified After Rereading Night". I don't think an explanation of the content is necessary. The delightful spoof interview was prompted by the Oprah Book Club adding Night to its list, which is evidence enough that Wiesel stands behind his memoir. However, authors turning on their earliest work is not uncommon. Rumor has it Louise Gluck wanted to burn all copies of her appropriately titled Firstborn. And didn't Pablo Neruda balk at his oft-quoted Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair? Whole classes are taught on "Late Works." But isn't the embarrassing material in "Early Works" what makes them so valuable? In the first of the love poems, Neruda writes, "But the hour of vengeance falls, and I love you" (tr. Mark Eisner). I can see any writer's workshop striking it for its "vengeance" and its "love." Then they'd probably strike the five exclamatory sentences that follow, leaving, well, not much. Eventually writers lose their rawness, grow some skin, and we're not afraid to look at them anymore. But that flush of discomfort when someone doesn't get something just right can be as much emotion as we get from something perfectly rendered.
Full text: ForeWord Magazine
Teaser: In his 2002/2003 Frost Medal acceptance speech, Lawrence Ferlinghetti described three types of poetry, the last and most important being standing poetry, “the poetry of commitment, often great, often dreadful.” Sean Thomas Dougherty is a standing poet. He tackles socially aware subjects and draws his inspiration, not from the literary canon, but from music and spoken word. In his latest collection, Broken Hallelujahs, Dougherty demonstrates that he is a master of momentum. He does not pause to catch his breath and thus catches his readers right along with him. The opening poem, “The Sentence,” announces the poet’s belief in the power of language: “The sentence is a chanteuse, unretired, stirring with a strong sigh, a suffering sparrow, outside a gray downtown Nativity scene, this last sentence: a small, winged thing rising—” The sentence, the poem, flies off the page. It is not a trick, but rather language’s possibility to change and perhaps to promote change.
Full text: ForeWord Magazine
Teaser: Throughout Naomi Guttman’s latest collection, Wet Apples, White Blood, the poet demonstrates an enthusiasm for history and motherhood. From the Virgin Mary to Medea, Guttman examines the full spectrum of mothers, with herself somewhere in that gray area between saint and murderer. Although these poems pay their respects to a variety of historical figures (fictional and otherwise), it is the mother whose wisdom is paramount: Because the child knows in its soft bones the details of his mother’s day a pregnant woman must avoid funerals and mourning, ravaged bodies persons crippled by disease and poverty.
Full text: Guernica blog
Teaser: When I first made the discovery that living poets existed, John Ashbery was the reigning rock star. My well-meaning mentors hurried me away from his work and put W. S. Merwin in my hands. Pound for pound, it was a fair trade: both Pulitzer Prize winners; both born in 1927 (along with Galway Kinnell and James Wright). And I saw their point. I didn't really fit in with the NYU hipsters, with their worn copies of Lyn Hejinian's My Life and opinions on when exactly poetry had died. ("Died?," I would inquire with same tone I would at a later date ask, "See other people?") My head was filled with The Lice not Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror, all "bowing not knowing to what" not "sucking the sherbets, crooning the tunes, naming the names." And it would take me several years to form an equal attachment to Ashbery, partly because of his unfair reputation for being "difficult." He is not.