As the year comes to a close, I find myself in a reflective mood. Having compiled a list of the more than 350 poets I have mentioned on my website since I began writing about poetry in 2003, I was curious to discover which poets I have mentioned most often in the last ten years.
What follows is that list of poets — most alive, some dead; most writing in English, some not; many I have met, some I won’t and never will. Click on the name or image for a brief summary of who each one is and and what they mean to me, and to read what I have written about them over the years.
I just discovered that one of my poems is now available in the Fall 2009 issue of PoetryBay Online. This issue is loaded with good poems from wonderful poets from the Pacific University MFA program — like my illustrious colleague and alumna pal Michelle Bitting, the ever-stunning Ellen Bass, tough-and-tender Dorianne Laux, and my esteemed former faculty advisers Joe Millar and Marvin Bell. Not to mention Robert Bly, Kim Stafford, Lyn Lifshin, and Nick Carbó — the list goes on. As online journals go, this one is a heavyweight, and I feel lucky to appear in such good company. Enjoy!
“Genius in the arts consists of getting in touch with your own wiring.”
Joseph Millar and Marvin Bell, both former faculty advisors during my study at Pacific, conducted a roundtable discussion around the theme of what writing poetry teaches one about poetry itself. At the forefront of their message was: write! As in, do it.
They focused on the necessity of the process to their lives (not the product) — the quality of humility necessary when coaxing out new work (Millar), and the freedom necessary to write long enough, and bad enough, to get better (Bell).
In this sense, Marvin’s admonition that poetry is a way of life, not a career, and Joe’s analogy that keeping on writing limbers one’s muscles to be flexible and receptive to the dance, renders complimentary angles to a simple but profound message: writing is about writing. Talk is talk. Publication is nice; a fleeting pleasure. Writing.
Hearing about the importance of process, and the transitory pleasure of product, reminded me once again of this great little animation of a recording by Alan Watts.
Joe Millar’s talk on the elegy this morning slit me open like a fish. Loss was one motivator for committing to my writing in a greater way by undertaking this MFA, and the possibilities he opened up in this ancient form — not to mention his analysis of the psychological and mythical dimensions — have my head spinning.
Michael tagged me with a meme involving flipping to page 123 of the nearest book at hand. Apparently he got it from Ivy. It chagrins me to discover that none of the five books currently resting on my desk reach as far as a page 123. On further inspection, four of those five books happen to be by Pulitzer Prize winning poets. The fifth is by Joe.
When I was writing technical articles regularly, my blog was an invaluable tool. I could float ideas to a global audience and get great feedback that would help shape my thoughts before my writing went to press and international distribution. Given I have enjoyed dialog with a number of readers and writers whose poetic sensibilities seem similar to my own (Nick, Pearl, Michael, Collin, Carol and Jenni just to name a few), and given Pandora For Poetry doesn’t exist yet, I thought I might likewise solicit feedback on part of my reading list for my upcoming semester at Pacific. Here’s what I have so far:
B.H. Fairchild, Early Occult Memory Systems…
Robert Wrigley, In The Bank Of Beautiful Sins
Gregory Orr, Concerning the Book that is the Body…
Renate Wood, The Patience Of Ice
Li-Young Lee, The Winged Seed
Louise Glück, Ararat
Dorianne Laux, What We Carry
Joseph Millar, Fortune
Joan Aleshire, This Far
As well as a number of books (at least one each) from faculty members with whose work I am less familiar. I strongly suspect I will really like those books as well, but the ones above are an even stronger suspicion based on previous experience with the author.
So, given that list, what else would you recommend? Or do you think some other book by one of the above authors is stronger, or more in line with the rest? Or, if you’ve been following my blog for awhile and think you know what I like, what else might you recommend that has nothing to do with the above list, but still is something you think would inform my study of poetry? Or what do you like, that doesn’t have anything to do with what I might like, that you still think I just have to read?