21 Most-Mentioned Poets

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.
Continue reading…

Why Steal Poetry?

DisciplesA new spate of plagiarism incidents in the poetry world has me wondering what satisfaction could possibly come from gaining recognition for a stolen poem.

I believe that it is a symptom of a darker issue at work in contemporary poetry, where we have come to value product over process, poet over poetry, prize over participation, commendation over conversation. How do we get back to the impetus that got us writing in the first place, to the reverence for the written word that makes plagiarism unthinkable?

Click here for reflections on this topic in The Huffington Post.

First Published Translation

“…I’m sure it was a noble, / heavenly poet / heart made mature / by shadow and science.”

-Antonio Machado, “The Water Wheel”

By the time you read this, I will have just landed in London to begin a new chapter in my life. It seems fitting, as a celebration of my Americanness in the broadest sense of that word, that A River & Sound Review today published my new translation of Antonio Machado’s “The Water Wheel.” Like Umberto Saba’s “The Goat,” this poem takes up the sorrow of a domesticated animal as its topic.

I am sure that, if he were still alive, my poet-friend Sandford Lyne would have been pleased to hear this news. His poem “Machado, Lorca, Neruda, Jiménez” captures the sense of respect we both felt for the great Spanish-language poets. It took many years of writing my own poems in English for me to realize that I could combine my love of poetry with my knowledge of the Spanish language to bring new understanding of these poems to myself and others through translation.


The Poetry of Sandford Lyne

“The half-time announcer at the 1969 Superbowl football game gave us this to consider: ‘The band will now execute the traditional designs and symbols of our national heritage.’ As a one-man band, I try to accomplish the same thing in my poems.”

-Sandford Lyne

Loch Raven Review has put together a wonderful online retrospective of the life and work of Sandford Lyne, bringing together scores of poems from several different books, and a few of his letters.

He was a tremendous man.

We became friends over a love of poetry, and a similar spiritual outlook. When James came into our lives, and left so quickly, Sandy was able to offer the inexplicable kinship of one who had also lost a child.

Sandy dedicated his life to working with children, teaching poetry workshops to over 50,000 students in his lifetime. Re-reading so many wonderful poems online, and discovering a few I had not read before, brings a little of Sandy’s purposeful kindness, gentle curiosity, and soft spoken wisdom back to me.


Featured Poet at Artists’ Union Gallery, Ventura

I read a range of poems, many new pieces fueled by the MFA — and even some poems about the passing of our son. It was the first time reading them in public, save for a few I read in workshop at the last residency. It felt necessary — like it was time; another stage of honoring and letting go. I also dedicated the first part of the reading to the memory of Sandford Lyne, opening with one of his poems, reading a couple new translations I had done of Machado and Neruda (two of his favorites) and ending the first section with a eulogy in honor of his great spirit.

The place was packed. Roe, our indefatigable host, joked that the event was a sell-out just like Mary Oliver’s reading last week (though Cambell Hall admittedly does hold one or two more people than the Gallery). Still, it was nice to see standing room only. More high praise and fond support: Doris brought her cookies and of course left with an empty bowl. I could not have had a more supportive group in which to read such intimate and personal poems.

Seeing Li-Young Lee read from his own deeply sorrowful, grief-stricken poems last week gave me a model for what it means to honor the experience and honor the art even though it is deeply personal. I felt in some way that seeing him read gave me the strength to do what I had to do tonight.

In Memory of Poet Sandford Lyne

Earlier today, I heard from my father that Sandford Lyne — poet, teacher and friend — passed away this morning. He went quietly in his own home, having made his peace with this world. I will miss him fiercely.

After graduating from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in the early ’70s, he went on to teach poetry at the University of Virginia and then to lead countless poetry workshops for students and teachers all over the country. Most recently, he led workshops for children sheltering in sports stadiums during the aftermath of hurricane Katrina.

We met through my parents, and bonded in part over a mutual love of Spanish-language poets. One of my favorite poems of his, “Machado, Lorca, Neruda, Jiménez”, is currently still available on his website.

Sandy wrote one of my letters of recommendation to the Pacific University MFA program in which I am now studying. I signed away my right to read it, but he sent me an extra copy anyway. He wanted me to know what he thought. If I ever doubt myself as a poet, I have but to reread that letter.

Sandy touched many lives — over 50,000 children and thousands of teachers as well, and shared his delight in poetry issuing from the mouth of babes in his well-known compilation of children’s poems, Ten Second Rainshowers.

Though we only met in person a handful of times, I still recall his immense kindness and generosity, and that distant, Blakean gaze he took on in moments of quiet reverie. I’d like to think whatever beauty he saw there, beyond the horizon of rational thought, he has now become part of, and more — what Mary Oliver calls the great, unending stream of voices that is poetry.

Thank you, dear Sandy, for honoring us all with your life.