Randall Jarrell on “the age of anthologies”

This is so much the age of anthologies that it is surprising that poets still waste their time on books of verse, instead of writing anthologies in the first place. If you are about to print a book of poems, don’t: make up a few names and biographical sketches with which to punctuate your manuscript, change its title to Poems of Democracy, and you will find yourself transformed from an old pumpkin, always in the red, to a shiny black new coach.

Randall Jarrell, cited in The Oxonian Review » A Space Filled With Moving.

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Timothy Donnelly on Wallace Stevens

With Stevens, even before understanding any of his poems, I just felt that my thoughts wanted desperately to sound like his poems, at least on special occasions—those cadences, that composure. Even just the example of the tercet alone, actually, was important to me when writing these two poems you mention, and many of the others in the new book, too. The fall of thoughts through tercets the way he does it has always seemed just so right to me. They’re dynamic enough to keep things feeling always like they’re moving forward and yet they convey something of a solidity, a groundedness considerably greater than the couplet’s, yet not so very stable as the quatrain’s.

from Coldfront » spotlight: Timothy Donnelly.

All Roads Lead to Jane Hirshfield

(This has happened before, here and elsewhere.)

  1. A few weeks ago, I bought a copy of the 2007 Best American Poetry edited by Heather McHugh (TOC). Recognizing the reference to Kant, I read my first Jane Hirshfield poem: “Critique of Pure Reason.” (Scroll down to read it here.) I remember being especially taken with the following: “Perimeter is not meaning, but it changes meaning, / as wit increases distance and compassion erodes it.
  2. A few days ago, a friend of mine updated his Facebook status with the final five lines from “A Blessing for Wedding”: “Let the vow of this day keep itself wildly and wholly / Spoken and silent, surprise you inside your ears / Sleeping and waking, unfold itself inside your eyes / Let its fierceness and tenderness hold you / Let its vastness be undisguised in all your days
  3. Last Tuesday, my teacher mentioned, in passing, Hirshfield’s book of poetics essays as being very good. It was my first time to know that Hirshfield employs a Zen Buddhist approach to much of her work, although “nine gates” brought to MY mind something more, well, diabolical. I’m really not very Zen.
  4. The same Hirshfield book, by the way, also appears on the syllabus of a former teacher of mine, who is currently teaching a course on “Myth and Literature.” I initially considered signing up for that course this semester, but ultimately chose a Fiction Workshop instead.
  5. Also on Tuesday, Poetry Daily chose Hirshfield’s “The Egg Had Frozen, An Accident. I Thought Of My Life.” It didn’t impress me as much as the previously-mentioned poems I read, but it was interesting given how the teacher I mentioned in number 3 is a poet who privileges image as a key poetic device. This poem by Hirshfield is certainly a textbook example of imagery and metaphor. (That textbook quality may be what leaves me cold though.)
  6. Although I found a copy of “A Blessing for Wedding” at the Poetry Foundation’s site, I only realized yesterday that the December 2010 issue of Poetry contains two new poems by her, both very good: “Sonoma Fire” and “Sentencings”

Like I said, I’m not very Zen in my poetry, or any other aspect of my life, but I’m now fascinated. Drawn towards Hirshfield by synchronicity and/or serendipity–I’m not sure which.