Sunday 30 August 2015

First Contemplation

Alice Spawls reminds us that, besides poetry, Elizabeth Bishop's other great love was painting:
Throughout her life Bishop remarked that she wished she had been a painter and in her letters more often enthused about art and artists than writers, once telling Robert Lowell that he was the one living poet she could bear to read. Yet it was only when an exhibition of her paintings was organised in 2011 that those who don’t pay attention to the credits of book-cover artists (Bishop’s paintings adorned three of her collections) discovered that she did indeed paint, even if she didn’t consider herself a ‘painter’. The 40 or so surviving works inevitably drew comparisons with her poems. They are mostly small, 8 x 10 inches or less—the size of an exercise book, painted with gouache or watercolour on thin paper and torn around the edges or beginning to disintegrate. Their scenes are quiet and usually peopleless: a tea set, a lamp, an empty room, flowers, buildings. Many were given as gifts, others are records of places and things. A lifelong stipend from her father (he died not long after she was born) allowed Bishop to travel and she would complain if she came across something she admired and didn’t have her paint box. Though her paintings are of settled scenes rather than fleeting moments, their freshness suggests a desire to preserve the first contemplation.

Friday 28 August 2015

Trust in the Daemon

Harriet blog invited writers to identify female poets "of intense, even transformative value." Stephen Burt picked Louise Bogan:
It seems almost incontrovertibly true that the practice of poetry requires a kind of irrational commitment, a belief that whatever you find in the language, and whatever you find in yourself, matter in ways that other people cannot or do not or do not yet understand—you can call it, if you like, a trust in the daemon, or a faith in the language, or a devotion to something no one can quite name. And it seems true as well that you can’t make good poetry—except by accident—unless you think hard and patiently, sometimes with all the learning you can find, about what you’re writing, about what you’re rewriting, and about what other people wrote before you were born. If you are looking for a poet, a critic, a writer whose lifework contains both truths—who found the hot and the cold, the knowable and the unknowable, and who respected both—you could do a lot worse than to read all the poems and at least some of the prose brought into the world by Louise Bogan, who came from a hard early life amid mill towns in Maine to become the author of several handfuls of perfect, and frightening, epigrammatic and lyric poems; she was also, for decades, the in-house poetry critic at the New Yorker, explaining as best she could the poetry that she felt was best (and was modern) to readers for whom it was all (still) new.

Nobody in the history of American poetry has come closer to the effects created by W. B. Yeats: sometimes these effects made her imitative, but sometimes they made her terrifically memorable. Some of her poems (including a self-lacerating one called “Women”) addressed gender directly; many of them addressed what she took to be a woman’s (a cisgender straight woman’s, in today’s terms) attitudes towards romantic and erotic love. Bogan brought her critical gifts to her poetry, but she knew that without passion and weirdness—without the capacity to surprise yourself—those gifts were not enough: if you want to shock your students, or your teachers, or yourself, try her four-line advice to aspiring writers, “Several Voices Out of a Cloud.”

Tuesday 25 August 2015

Going Long

Sharon Thesen provides a fascinating run-down of the long poem's seemingly limitless range and abilities:
Long poems are often stories, explorations, or accounts of one sort or another; and in this way long poems participate in the prose tradition of writing; indeed, many long poems are written in prose stanzas or prose sentences—I’m thinking of writers like Daphne Marlatt, Roo Borson, Sarah de Leeuw. Long poems can be poems about stories. They can fictionalize the “I” of the poem, as in persona poems; and use unreliable narrators, such as Ondaatje’s Billy the Kid. While not being narrative poems as such, in the epic sense, most long poems do engage narrative as a mode or energy that propulses them forward, as in filmic montage. There is something filmic, performative, and theatrical about the long poem, which also collects the long poem into the traditions of ritualistic verse drama, itself deconstructed in Poet’s Theatre texts popular among the American language poets. In Canada, Patrick Friesen’s work comes to mind; in England, Alice Oswald’s. Indeed, her book length poem Dart is I think one of the most astonishing and satisfying book-length poems—a poem about a river and those who live with it, beside it, on it, in it. She researched for years, interviewing and recording the voices of the riverside dwellers—fishermen, trappers, farmers, kids, vagrants, and others. The long poem’s capaciousness and adaptability extends to its use of genres such as biography and investigative journalism deploying historical documents. The American poet Ed Sanders, who writes what he calls “investigative poetry,” has written verse biographies of Allen Ginsberg and Anton Chekhov, as well as verse biographies of the year 1968 and of the history of America. These are fascinating because of Sanders’ typically engaged, lyric, subjective, opinionated voice. In a similar way, Nourbese’s Zong “documents” the massacre, in 1781, of 150 African slaves who were thrown overboard as surplus cargo during transport to England. Inarticulacies and silences render the unspeakable unspeakable; as does Sakiklar’s Children of Air India with its imposition of redactions, its incompletenesses, its rumours. This is like detective work, forensic work upon cultural memory.

Sunday 23 August 2015

Sunday Poem


I am all that is wrong with the Old World,
and half of what troubles the New.

I have not seen Spain or the Philippines,
Holland or Indonesia. In the other room,

my grandfather nods off in front
of Wheel of Fortune. I have seen his Japan

in photos—the last good suit he wore,
grey, tailored in Kyushu. Believe

Pat Sajak is a saviour: he divines new riches
like water hidden from a dowser’s

willow switch, trembling through
unfamiliar territories, proffered

like a makeshift cross. The same strange
faith should be proof enough

of my current crisis. There was a game
we once played. I’m in it now.

The wheel turns, strobes its starlight
across another centrifuge, that spinning globe,

a kid’s finger skimming its surface,
waiting for it to stop. This is where I’ll live.

Friday 21 August 2015

Critical Talk

James Wood's recent Slate conversation with Isaac Chotiner has made news because of his admission that he might have come down too hard on David Foster Wallace. But the exchange was fascinating for other reasons as well. Here are five of its best moments:

On how Wood's jump to The New Yorker in 2007 influenced his criticism:
There was no doubt for me that when I moved from the New Republic to the New Yorker, from a smaller magazine to a larger magazine, that I had to rethink a little about the way I was going to write. And indeed that was part of the attraction of the change. Small magazines partly survive on militancy. And that’s very important. And there might be a part of me that would want the New Yorker to be more militant, and to have something more of the small magazine pugilism, but I was aware that my approach to writing criticism would change, and I was happy for a change. There was a sense of repeating myself, of digging deep into the same groove again.
On the use of "passionate re-description" as a critical strategy:
I was trying to talk about the larger tradition of literary criticism and literary journalism. Henry James said “The critic’s life is heroically vicarious,” or something like that. We might have our doubts about the heroism, but that “vicarious” is absolutely right. You are living vicariously but you also serve a function for the reader who might never read the book you’re writing about. And that’s where a long quotation of the kind that would seem inert in a properly scholarly paper comes into its own. I certainly see a connection here between writing and teaching. I do find that in the classroom—and students will say this to me—that the simple act of reading, spending half the class reading passages out loud, and bringing them alive, is its own pedagogy. It is actually half the business of making the thing comprehensible.
On what bugs him about John Updike's reviews:
The redescription in Updike’s criticism is obviously of a high order, and [of] a certain kind of generosity, too—that’s to say, he was a very patient and hospitable quoter of other people’s texts. But I always felt that there was a certain kind of ungenerousness in Updike’s work, too. The maddening equilibrium of his critical voice—never getting too upset or too excited—enacted, I always felt, a kind of strategy of containment, whereby everything could be diplomatically sorted through, and somehow equalized and neutralized, and put onto the same shelf—and always one rung below Updike himself.
On the difference between British and American literary journalism:
The British tradition was always rich, traditionally rich, in newspapers and therefore short-form criticism. When I was growing up, the Observer’s main fiction reviewer was Anthony Burgess, who was writing once a week at 900 or 1200 words max.... In America it was the other way around. The newspapers here weren’t especially interesting sources of criticism. But the place was absolutely rich in magazines and small magazines, and it was a place where long-form journalism was flourishing. And so I think it’s not surprising that you get these two very different traditions.
On what happens when a critic ages:
With criticism I think the odds are that you should get better and better because a lot of it is about the slow appreciation of knowledge. Much of being a critic is simply the comparative business. I’ve had to spend 30 years reading and writing about books to get close to having theories about the novel. I feel I’m always anxious about generalizing because I don’t quite know enough, and the counterexamples will spring out from the bushes and ambush me. But there’s no doubt that there’s a certain confidence to be had from feeling that you have some grasp on the tradition, and that things are beginning to make sense. And look at a critic like Frank Kermode. He was handing in his last reviews to the London Review of Books two weeks before he died and it was as good as anything he had written in the last 30 years of his life.

Tuesday 18 August 2015

Needless Foreignness

The task of bringing into English the first volume of Éric Plamondon’s 1984 trilogy forced Dimitri Nasrallah to confront his own ambivalence toward translation:
I’m always a little let down when, in reading a literary translation, I come across a passage that appears, in its new language’s context, to be little more than a carbon copy of the original. This in itself, I feel, is a difficult idea to translate, but anyone who’s read literature in translation must surely be aware of the vague discrimination I’m referring to: a sense that though specific words have been dutifully rendered into English, some deeper and arguably more significant import of the thought process has been left behind in the original language, creating a needless foreignness to the narrative.

Of course, translation is the conflicted act of overcoming and preserving that foreignness. I hesitate to use a more prevalent word like exoticism in this case, which strikes me more as a trending perception (or merely a misperception) of what a distant reader’s imagination perceives to be the attractions of a book’s source culture. The foreignness I have in mind has more to do with hegemonic values that exist in cultures, society-specific patterns of thought and rationalization that rise up into the way an author writes, unconsciously. What is a translator to do with these undercurrents that suffuse the language but are not ably represented by the word, when a language and its idea threaten to separate?

(illustration by David Plunkert)

Sunday 16 August 2015

Sunday Poem

1er Palais Royal

A foreign city in a foreign language:
Errors you will find your way around
Less by misconstruction of an image
Idiomatic as the underground
Than by reference to the lost and found
Out-of-date semantic luggage
And archaic sentimental slang which
Used to mean so much. Take care of the sound!
Dog-eared volumes of experience rebound ,
Sense can take care of itself. Abandoned baggage,
I sought to celebrate you, not confound;
Apart from the smarts you brought me, grand dommage,
A throne’s stowaway, you still astound
The razor’s edge dividing youth from age.

Xe Gare du Nord

Haunted by arrivals and departures ,
The desperate farewell of handkerchiefs,
This dingy greenhouse architecture nurtures
An exotic growth of greetings, griefs
And brief encounters under iron arches
Overlooked by smutty petroglyphs.
Having said goodbye to make-beliefs
And all a single backward glance can purchase,
Through the unsympathetic crowd one searches
Among reunions, tears and tiffs
And unfamiliarity that tortures
The traveller with interminable ifs
For those extraordinary features
Familiarity enfiefs.

XIVe Observatoire

Obvious from the Observatory,
After the abdication of the moon
Heaven explicates a bedtime story
Full of incident and interest, humane
Like anything significant to man,
The everlasting, transitory
Celestial phenomenon
In all its superannuated glory,
A roman fleuve that one is seldom sorry
To see abridged by dawn. The stars remain
Secure in their orbits, never in a hurry,
Worlds superior to yours and mine,
Dispassionate, explanatory,
Suggesting more than they can ever mean.

From The Essential Daryl Hines (selected by James Pollock, Porcupine's Quill, 2015) 

Saturday 15 August 2015

Written in Blood

M. Travis Lane fires the inaugural salvo in Anstruther Press's new Manifesto Series. Her pamphlet, Truth or Beauty, is, among other things, a call for poetry that can give us "the truth about what it is to be human."
Recently a new literary magazine, whose name I omitted to write down, declared that it would “eschew” publishing the “overly personal.” But the personal is where all poetry begins. There are, I agree, some subjects not suitable for public chatter, but poetry and prose fiction, demanding as artworks more of our private attention, should not be so confined. Should we censor the musings of Leopold Bloom? (Perhaps what the magazine meant by “overly personal” were feminist subjects like menstruation?) There are no subjects and no emotions unsuitable for poetry. There are only two kinds of poetry: poetry that seems to have been written with ink, and can be intelligent, charming, serious or cosy—but always cool, and poetry which seems to have been written in blood: passionate, personal, and sometimes uncomfortable. As Walt Whitman writes in Leaves of Grass, “Who touches this, touches a man.”

Friday 14 August 2015

Matador of Art

Daryl Hine's poetry is often praised for its brio. James Pollock—whose "essential" selection of the late poet's work just been released—reminds us that there's much more to Hine's style:
The struggle of art against death is Hine’s great subject. As Edward Hirsch puts it in his book The Demon and the Angel, "highly formal and traditional work deepens immeasurably when one feels the primal murkiness threatening to swell up underneath the geometric clarity, the verbal concision and the ironic wit," and this is precisely true of Hine’s best poems. It is not so much that they "have duende" as the Spanish say; they are not inspired by death, exactly. Rather, they are engaged in what Hirsch calls "a hard-fought battle with the duende through formal means, in a formal arena ." In this sense Hine is like Horace and Paul Valery and Anthony Hecht: a matador of art, fighting the toro of death with consummate style.
Pollock also corrects other misconceptions about those "formal means."
Hine’s poems are almost always written in some exact meter, and very frequently in rhyme, and they tend to favour a fairly complex syntax and erudite choice of diction, though the variety of his meters, stanzas, rhyme schemes, forms, sub-genres and verbal registers is spectacular. Precisely because of their prosodic formality and grammatical complexity, they should be read naturally, conversationally, and aloud. The mistake readers not used to this kind of verse often make is to overemphasize the regularity of the meter; in fact, Hine’s lines are full of metrical substitutions, enjambments and syntactical cadences that play against the meter in a counterpoint that Robert Frost called ‘the sound of sense’. It is not at all that Hine "composed in the sequence of the metronome", to borrow Pound’s phrase, but rather that readers raised on a steady monodiet of free verse sometimes mistakenly read him that way, if only at first. The pleasures of reading Hine well are so great that it is more than worth the effort to learn how. And the more one reads his best poems, the greater the pleasure.

Thursday 13 August 2015

Bold Prose

Chigozie Obioma contends that the "literary humility" many writing workshops enforce is killing our prose. His message? Be audacious.
It is not that the “less is more” nugget is wrong, it is that it makes a blanket pronouncement on any writing that tends to make its language artful as taboo. When sentences must be only a few words long, it becomes increasingly difficult to execute the kind of flowery prose that can establish a piece of writing as art. It also establishes a sandcastle logic, which, if prodded, should crash in the face of even the lightest scrutiny. For the truth remains that more can also be more, and that less is often inevitably less. What writers must be conscious of, then, is not long sentences, but the control of flowery prose. As with anything in this world, excess is excess, but inadequate is inadequate. A writer must know when the weight of the words used to describe a scene is bearing down on the scene itself. A writer should develop the measuring tape to know when to describe characters’ thoughts in long sentences and when not to. But a writer, above all, should aim to achieve artistry with language which, like the painter, is the only canvas we have. Writers should realize that the novels that are remembered, that become monuments, would in fact be those which err on the side of audacious prose, that occasionally allow excess rather than those which package a story—no matter how affecting—in inadequate prose.
He continues:
Our prose should be the Noah’s ark that preserves language in a world that is being apocalyptically flooded with trite and weightless words. “The truest writers,” Derek Walcott said, “are those who see language not as a linguistic process, but as a living element.” By undermining the strongest element of our art, we are becoming unconscious participants in the gradual choking of this “living element,” the life blood of which is language. This we must not do. Rather, we must take a stand in confirmation of the one incontestable truth: that great works of fiction should not only succeed on the strength of their plots or dialogue or character development, but also by the audacity of their prose.

Tuesday 11 August 2015

Gunn Fail

Andrew McMillan believes Thom Gunn still hasn't been given his full due:
It would be easy to imagine that a combination of Gunn’s craft and depth of subject, his radiant handsomeness and his magnetism, would put him at the head of any table where the poets of the latter half of the 20th century were gathered. Yet he is oddly forgotten, half-forgotten at least; too American in style for the English establishment, too English and reserved for the American tradition. There is no full-length biography of Gunn, nor a full critical appraisal of his work; his legacy has not sunk, but seems to flounder somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

Creative Activism

Stephen Collis—who last year was one of two protesting SFU professors hit with a multi-million-dollar lawsuit by energy company Kinder Morgan—talks about the "nexus" between poetry and politics in his own literary practice.
I have, slowly, come to think of this nexus as less about the content of poetry—not even a matter of the form of poetry—so much as it is a question of distribution and reception. Poetry’s political function has more to do with the contexts in which it is performed, heard, and read. My work as both a poet and political activist/organizer has come to be one in which I imagine myself as an embedded poet: I write and perform poetry, yes, but I do so increasingly within the context of an active social movement (a grassroots climate justice movement, organized alongside and in collaboration with Indigenous land defenders attempting to stop new fossil fuel extraction on and infrastructure crossing their traditional lands). I am a “poet,” but that is inseparable from the work I do as an “activist,” and when I am writing and performing poetry I am doing so as part of an active social movement. My commitments, in writing, are less and less, specifically, to a community of poets and a literary history than they are to a community of resistance and a history of social struggles.

Sunday 9 August 2015

Tart Words

Mark Levine recalls his first experience reading "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock."
The spirit of the poem is punky and irreverent, spot-on in its mockery of the starched language of authority and smeared with the grime of its churned-up dream life. I don’t know a thing about Eliot, but I know a teenage wasteland. This poem feels like home: Not the one I live in, but the one that lives in me.

‘‘Prufrock’’ would become the poem that lent my adolescent self protection from the wounds of chronic alienation and gave me tart words to wield against the insipidness of the world. Eliot himself was barely out of his teens when he wrote it, uncannily in touch with the exquisite torments of hypersensitive youth, and with the peculiar burden of seeing through everything without having experienced much of anything. This was a different species of verse. It exuded cinematic urgency rather than exam-ready ‘‘messages’’ and ‘‘themes.’’ It was full of sudden rhythmic jolts and colliding tones, and could make emotional pirouettes on a vowel. Unapologetic, brash, discontinuous, ‘‘Prufrock’’ taught me the thrill of disorientation in language. No matter how often I returned, it was never tamped down by classroom-style explanations. It grew. It seemed to understand me more than I understood it.

Sunday Poem

My dream began in a park near a lake
that was fed and drained by culverts under
the fields depressed to gullies where willows
that had been pruned to stumps were beginning
to sprout again. The barn swallows circled
dogs who gave idle chase and who wagged
their frothed-out joy nonetheless. A man
who untangled a fishing line pressed a cell
to his ear with his free hand. Two women
in visors walked backwards. A deflated ball
bobbed on the yellow reeds. It was the one
frozen onto the lake in December. A shepherd
broke through the ice trying to get it. Gone. 
Then late in the summer as a stretch of heat
drove me into the basement. I behaved
as predictably as another argument ending
nothing inside our little house of mirrors.
I unrolled the mattress and a sleeping bag
onto the floor. I opened all the windows
and the door. I had finally reached the point
where I was willing to risk burglary, even
a personal injury to get some kind of breeze
into the house. And sure enough, sometime
during my sauna of sleep came the mercy
of pressure falling and of clouds gathering
into the glory of rain's hush onto the trees. 
After many days, the little lake spilled over
willow roots, gravel paths, knolls. The old
streams thought of salmon, the deft swipe
of a bear's claw. An eagle's ink-tipped talons
stretched for you—for me. Still our fierce selves
and still together in the fading light of dusk,
we stepped from the shore into the dark water,
but we knew that everyone must swim and dream
alone. Summer's bare sun returned; it heated,
simmered and stayed. People were begging—
some of us on our knees—for a good hard rain,
so we pleased each other like a deep blown
breath, because everyone feels better after that.
From Foreign Park (Anvil, 2015) by Jeff Steudal
(Painting by Mandy Budan)

Saturday 8 August 2015

Fascinating Permutations

Marilyn Hacker doesn't think the sonnet form needs an algorithm to make it interesting:
I admit to a lack of interest in computer-generated poetry. The sonnet form is adaptable to near-infinite variations made by human beings, most of which include some kind of implicit dialogue with previous practitioners of the form. It intrigues me into how many disparate languages the form has travelled. Mahmoud Darwish included in one of his later book a series of sonnets in Arabic, which may (I could be wrong) be the first passage of the sonnet into that language, but which is entirely indicative of Darwish’s own continual dialogue with other poets and poetries, Lorca being one of his interlocutors. One of my favorite contemporary sonnet-writers in English is George Szirtes, now British, born Hungarian, who also translates widely from the Hungarian — and the sonnet is vital in contemporary Hungarian poetry, including the “heroic crown” of 15 sonnets in which the last sonnet is made up of the first lines of the 14 others. A lovely English example of that feat of legerdemain is British-Iranian Mimi Khalvati’s “Love in an English August”. But so, in another register, and in the United States, is Marilyn Nelson’s A Wreath for Emmett Till, which brings the sonnet back to (as it happens) one of the horror/martyr stories of American racism also commemorated by Gwendolyn Brooks. Karen Volkman’s linguistically surreal sonnets in her new book Nomina are a fascinating permutation of the form.

Friday 7 August 2015

Seeing Poetry

The Dice Player (A visual poem) لاعب النرد from Nissmah Roshdy on Vimeo.

Martina Pfeiler celebrates visual poems like The Dice Player (embedded above) for helping to keep "the legacy of writers alive":
Poetry films resist clear-cut categorizations and challenge preconceived notions about what poetry is or should be, while providing numerous answers as to why poetry continues to matter today. In fact, they have become one of the most thriving and imaginative forces within the creative realm of 20th and 21st centuries’ media technologies, teaching us how to circulate poetic voices and powerful visions in a globalized world.

Wednesday 5 August 2015

Straw Poet of His Mind

Unhappy with Sean O'Brien's review of Jack Underwood's Happiness, Dave Coates pens a damning response, eviscerating the piece paragraph by paragraph. The whole thing is well worth a read. A taste:
The review is a patronising mess, a collection of unsubstantiated accusations and aesthetic prejudices, and it doesn’t take a clever Freud with a calculator to see why O’Brien has jumped at the chance to take Underwood down a peg. His poetry is barely under discussion here. O’Brien summoned the straw poet of his mind and set fire to it, all under the banner of a national daily newspaper.

Testing Limits

Joanna Scott makes the case for difficult fiction—fiction that promotes "good, active, creative reading."
Think back on our country’s rich literary traditions in fiction: from Hawthorne to Melville, through Poe to James, Stein, ­Ellison, and Faulkner, just to cite a few. Their books make use of circularity, fragmentation, and elision, and at their most extreme reject coherence in an effort to produce new meaning. Their wildness has played an important defining role in our culture’s literary identity. Some of those writers went unheralded in their time. There are writers at work today who go unheralded. Yet this is a big country. There is as much room as there is need for both simplicity and complexity, for fiction that is spare and crystalline along with fiction that is messy and difficult. There is space for writers who do not sell a lot of books but may end up playing a defining role in our culture’s literary tradition. If we want to make sure this important tradition continues, we have to sustain the curiosity to care about work that, at first glance, might seem difficult.

Difficulty is neither a virtue nor an evil. If it is going to earn our patient attention, it must make itself an essential element of a text’s expressive powers. In the adept hands of a masterful writer, demanding techniques enhance rather than impede comprehension, strengthening our abilities as readers. The familiar criticism that difficult literature is elitist assumes that the reading public is not capable of learning more than it already knows. Do we need our athletes to explain the value of testing their limits? It is both logical and democratic to defend those books that test ours. The difficulties of a literary text, just like the subtleties, require educated readers to be appreciated—and that is essential. Education offers the potential for independence and empowerment, so let’s not replace difficult novels with easy ones, or pretend that the two are the same. Let’s not give up on the intricacies of ambitious fiction. Let’s not stop reading the kind of books that keep teaching us to read.

Tuesday 4 August 2015

Font Trends

Adrienne Raphel talks about a "font subculture" that took root at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop:
One poet arranged her tiny capital letters in text boxes, adjusting the serifs for every stanza. Another persisted in stoic, twelve-point Times New Roman; as she put it, “Anything else seemed like putting a dress on top of a dress.” Font trends went viral. One semester, we gradually started using smaller and smaller typefaces: eleven-point, then ten, then nine, disappearing into the page.
Typographer and poet Robert Bringhurst, however, has the last word:
Bringhurst draws a bright line between graphic design and writing a poem. “The relation between a poem and its font is often neurotic fixation,” he wrote to me in an elegant fifteen-point Constantia. “Only a writer with nothing to say should find himself distracted by the letters in which he says it.”

Saturday 1 August 2015

Never Become Complacent

Christina Cooke is guest-editing (along with Nailah King) the upcoming Women of Colour issue for Room magazine. Here she challenges some shibboleths surrounding racial inequality in publishing:
Many organizations use the excuse of not knowing any writers of colour to shirk the responsibility of changing the status quo. But quite frankly, you don’t need to know us in order to publish us. You don’t need to be able to “find yourself” (i.e. find something relatable to whiteness) in order to accept a piece as strong and legitimate. What is required, in my opinion, is an openness beyond liberal double-speak (i.e. reveling in discussing race theory, but standing dumbfounded when confronted with a racialized person). If blackness is something you struggle to understand, be honest with yourself and others about that fact. From there, seek out the resources necessary to broaden your understanding (books, articles, anti-oppression workshops, etc. Google is your oyster). But don’t just take that information and pat yourself on the back. Seek out actual people of colour and include them at every level of the field: as writers, editors, critics, and consumers. Real people will always have additional bits of wisdom that haven’t yet made their way to books. But most importantly, never become complacent. Never stop trying. There’s no way we can completely undo centuries of trauma with a few new friends and spiffy new books.

It Rings True

Lee Harwood—who John Ashbery called his "favourite English romantic poet"—died on Sunday, July 26. (Some tributes have been collected here). In a 2014 interview with PN Review, he discussed how his notion of audience influenced his poetry.
It always has to be like a spoken language. Even though it may not appear totally like it. So one has always got to be talking to somebody real, first of all. The conversational tone of having someone in mind. Jack Spicer said the poem is like a stone thrown into a pond: you write the poem just for yourself, and then the rings go out. The first one would be someone you’re in love with; the next one would be your group of friends; and then if it gets to anyone beyond that it’s an accident. It’s put clumsily, but I know what he means. Once you start talking in that public voice, like Adrian Mitchell about Vietnam, you lose a humanity. It’s rhetoric, it’s speechifying. Whereas if you keep it close, keep it personal, it rings true.