Monday, April 29, 2013

I don't think you can spend your whole life questioning whether language can represent reality. At some point, you have to believe that the inadequacies of the words you use will be transcended by the faith with which you use them. You have to believe that poetry has some reach into reality itself, or you have to go silent.

--Christian Wiman

Saturday, April 27, 2013

What are virtues in a person can be liabilities of poems. Diffidence, gentleness, satisfaction with one's self, a certain sort of immediate sympathy for the troubles of the world and of others: all these can keep a poem from rising above the merely pleasant. Frost once remarked that poetry was a way of taking life by the throat, but for so many contemporary poets it seems a way of taking life by the hand. Certain tactics become deadeningly familiar: the privileging of specific subject matter ("Relate to me," you can almost hear some poems cry); the primacy of personal experience and the assumption that language can contain it; the favorite foreign country that becomes a sort of grab bag for subject matter; the husk of anecdote cracked for its nut of knowledge; the serious intellectual and psychological issues that do a soft-focus fade-out into imagistic unknowingness; the ease, even pride, with which the poet accepts such unknowingness. much of this poetry isn't "bad," exactly; you wish it were worse, in fact, because then you could more clearly explain to yourself why a large dose of it--a batch of books to review, say, or an hour spent browsing magazines--leaves you feeling not simply numb but guilty for that numbness, as if you were the only tainted thing in a world where everything was perfectly clear, perfectly pleased with itself. Intensity is the only antidote--of language, of experience, of ambition. In the presence of that intensity, all that is merely pleasant falls away.
--Christian Wiman, Ambition and Survival

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Audio: ZW and Rachel Lebowitz in Tatamagouche

Finally got around to uploading and editing the audio from the reading Rachel and I did at Fables Club in Tatamagouche, NS, earlier this month. Not a huge crowd, but a very attentive one. Fables is such a great venue.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Christian Wiman on poets who review

I'm not at all sure what causes or enables some poets to persist. ... Less generous motives are not difficult to imagine. it's easier to make a name for oneself as a reviewer than as a poet, though anyone who would value this lesser recognition is probably not a real poet anyway. Then, too, there are always those who are keen on accumulation "power" in the poetry world, and reviewing may be just one more means of doing so. One hardly knows what to say about this. Wielding power in the poetry world is roughly the equivalent of cutting a wide swath through your local PTA.
--"A Piece of Prose," from Ambition and Survival: Becoming a Poet