Over the past five years, poet, physician, and fellow member of Highgate Poets Norbert Hirschhorn has immersed himself in Yiddish folk song, seeking to free them from “dutiful, stilted” scholarly translations into re-imaginings as English-language poems for his newest collection To Sing Away the Darkest Days (Holland Park Press, 2013). In doing so, Hirschhorn brings much of himself into these pieces, often journeying far from the source text, through his cultural past and personal present, to infuse these poems with immediacy and relevance.
“What a lark! What a plunge!”-Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway
For England, it has been hot, and nobody has air conditioning. While waiting for it to cool down enough to sleep, Val and I have been taking turns reading poems to each other in the evenings, and none more enjoyable than those from Tim Krcmarik’s new collection The False Lark. So when Andrew Philip asked what was topping my Summer reading list, I had this to say.
I reviewed Tim’s first short book, The Heights, several years ago. His work has only improved, like a mature extra terrestrial, becoming more fully and strangely itself. Rarely is poetry un-put-down-able, but here is some. Aptly, it is due out soon from Houston’s Diabolical Genius Press.
You have been warned.
Today I received copies of Silk Road Review Issue 10, containing a feature on British Poetry that I edited for the journal. It features a wide range (in terms of age, occupation, background, and geography) of poets whose work I have come to admire in the two years since I relocated to the UK.
From the introduction:
So what is “British” about these poems? First, there is a unique focus on language, its heft and chewiness. To some extent, all good poetry takes up this cause. But in Great Britain, one’s use of language is intimately tied to one’s place of origin. A phenomenal number of dialects, accents, and several distinct languages coexist in close geographic proximity. Place is therefore invoked the moment one opens one’s mouth. From Patience Agbabi’s cold fusion of hip-hop and Chaucer, to Liz Berry’s private defense of her father’s Black Country accent, to Andrew Philip’s Scots-language-infused quatrains — when it comes to place, language is as important as the soil (or concrete) under foot.
Furthermore, in a culture where two strangers can meet and converse for hours before finally (if ever) divulging their own names, deeply confessional poetry is eyed somewhat askance. Yet each poem can still be read as a precise autobiography of the poet’s innermost life. In lieu of the self, these poems are populated with eccentric characters, for the damp climate here seems as conducive to whimsy as it is to mushrooms. From shopkeepers to skeletons, “bear-solemn” organists to the figure of Pippi Longstocking cross-bred with Frankenstein’s monster, antic figures dramatise a panoply of selves.
You can order single copies or subscribe at the Silk Road website.
In my latest poetry review on Huffington Post UK, I look at the newest collections of three poets with decidedly unique worldviews. More than this, what excites me about the trajectory in each collection is that in addressing gender, they have moved beyond postmodern deconstruction and disillusionment, expressing integrated perspectives whose reconciliation feels earned. That is, they do not simply open the wound for the sake of it, but to cleanse and thereby better heal.
A nun spikes her drinks with sacramental wine and wears red lace underwear. A soldier’s wife sits by the bed of a man whose legs have been blown off, and writes his story. In the hands of the poet, Sleeping Beauty has an MRI and Red Riding Hood becomes a femme fatale. Though rich in social commentary, these three American women poets tell their stories, not in generalisations, but through each well-honed line. As Wallace Stevens admonished, “Conceptions are artificial. Perceptions are essential.” The perceptions of these three are sensuous, evocative, and riveting.
“These fragments I have shored against my ruins”-T.S. Eliot, “The Wasteland”
As I have said before, it is a strange and wonderful thing to read the results of someone reflecting deeply and at length upon your own work. Irish poet Afric McGlinchey does just that in her review of The Silence Teacher for Sabotage:
Peake’s descriptions brim with sensibility, but the sensibility does not obstruct or abstract the lucidity of the seeing. Associations infiltrate the scenes of his poems like groundwater.
My short poetry collection The Silence Teacher is now available from Poetry Salzburg. It distills nearly seven years of writing about love and loss into just thirty-two pages, and is dedicated to the memory of our son.
The poems in this collection were written in both America and England. They encompass the two years of my MFA in Writing degree at Pacific University, wherein the encouragement of my mentors Sandra Alcosser, Marvin Bell, and Joseph Millar, alongside many gifted students and friends, helped me to take up William Stafford’s challenge to revise, not only my work, but my life.
Many thanks to Dr. Wolfgang Görtschacher and Andreas Schachermayr, not only for selecting this manuscript, but for working very diligently and efficiently since then to bring it to publication. Pre-orders are now shipping from Austria and, if you have not already, you can order your own copy here.