Posted on: October 1st, 2013

On “Spring” (at the Poetry Society of America)

The same poem can serve several purposes. At my most single-minded, I began to understand this, against my will, in the years after my mother left the earth on May 22nd, 2008. For a time (and I’m not sure whether this time has actually ended, or will ever end) everything that felt like poetry also [...]

Posted on: August 27th, 2013

Acts of Mind: On Tomas Transtromer (at Boston Review)

In the 1989 poem “Golden Wasp,” Tomas Tranströmer provides a telling remark about his project: “We’re in the church of keeping-silence, of piety according to no letter.” Tranströmer’s particular piety requires only receptivity as an active principle of personal engagement with the world. It places images together in unexpected and beautiful ways and holds them [...]

Posted on: August 27th, 2013

The Suffering World: On Anne Carson, Dana Levin & Gjertrud Schnackenberg (at Boston Review)

Recently I heard an established male poet read from a book of elegies. The poems were beautiful, tense, melancholy, and minimalist, with the smallest margin of sentimentality. It was only days later that I realized that in none of them did the speaker bring anyone medication, a glass of water, or a meal. The poet’s [...]

Posted on: August 27th, 2013

Restless: On Carl Phillips (at Boston Review)

“The Raft,” one of the finest poems in Carl Phillips’s latest book, begins this way: Color of rust, russet. Color of fall. I can lay my head on the wet sand that is nobody’s chest now—not a chest at all—or I can lift it. Why not lift it? More fugitive than lost, more spent than [...]

Posted on: July 25th, 2013

On the Poems of Heaven (at like starlings)

“I’m spending the summer at a ranch that is also a school in the High Mojave, at the edge of the Great Basin, on the California border with Nevada, in a valley ringed with mountains and accessible by two passes. The more tortuous of the passes brings you from California, taking about thirty-five minutes from [...]

Posted on: July 25th, 2013

On Robinson Jeffers (at At Length)

Robinson Jeffers lived on California’s Big Sur coast and his poetry is full of the energy of that sublime landscape. Big Sur has had many visitors since Jeffers, and most of them go for landscape, though now you can get a massage at Esalen and an overpriced meal nearly everywhere. But Jeffers loved ruined majesty. [...]

Posted on: July 25th, 2013

New Nature: Women Poets Escape Family– And Convention (at Boston Review)

“Women have always written poetry that does not have the traditional narrative of family and children at the center. The poems of Jorie Graham and Brenda Hillman (both mothers) never forget a larger political world. Louise Glück (also a mother) does the same with the aesthetic apparatus of myth. They follow in the footsteps of [...]