The Spoils: January 2013

2013 began in a state of panic and pressure, as I struggled to finish my thesis, at least in a form ready for defense. At the end of my efforts: a 24-page poetics essay for an introduction and a 13-page appendix with some “notes on composition” bracket 56 poems. If that seems short, the prose section especially, it’s only because I had to wrestle all sorts of ideas out of my paper in the hopes of streamlining what was an unwieldy beast I could barely control back then. Now I can somewhat breathe again, this draft of my thesis with my critic, who will point out any revisions that have to be made before giving me the green-light for defense. Now I can finally rave about the great titles I received in January:

Useless Landscape or, A Guide for Boys by D.A. Powell

and, part of my wife’s Christmas gift to me, three books each from three small presses:

 

Top row: Canarium Books

  1. Madame X by Darcie Dennigan
  2. The Invention of Glass by Emmanuel Hocquard (translated by Cole Swensen and Rod Smith)
  3. I Am Your Slave Now Do What I Say by Anthony Madrid

 

Middle row: Factory Hollow Press

  1. Beauty Was The Case That They Gave Me by Mark Leidner
  2. Experiments I Should Like Tried At My Own Death by Caryl Pagel
  3. Crash Dome by Alex Phillips

 

Bottom row: Octopus Books

  1. Balloon Pop Outlaw Black by Patricia Lockwood
  2. Hider Roser by Ben Mirov
  3. Dear Jenny, We Are All Find by Jenny Zhang
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at Length’s Short Takes on Long Poems

I want to write the long poem, but I’m not sure I can.

Lately, I’ve been working with a particular form I’m tempted to call the singsong skinny sonnet and dismiss as hokey, but I don’t want to be ungrateful to something that’s been goading me to write more poems quickly. In addition, there’s also a commonality in the material that triggers these poems: they mostly have a specific focus on a pop-cultural artifact I barely remember or misremember (unintentionally or intentionally). That intrigues me, as it wasn’t part of the design. Finally, it’s also forcing me to think/write in shorter lines, which I wasn’t wont to do before, despite how much I enjoy reading, say, Graham Foust.

I don’t know how I’ll arrange these in my thesis. I can put them one after the other and call it a series; that would be justifiable. However, there may also be an advantage to spreading them out across the collection. We’ll see. I’ll think about these after writing more poems, whether in this form or another, as well as the critical essay.

(One worry that I do have is how I’m beginning to doubt my abilities to write in the jagged irregular-lined free verse poem I used to be comfortable in. Never satisfied, c’est moi.)

Anyway: I’ve loved at Length ever since I first read Jee Leong Koh’s ghazal sequence Barthes tribute “A Lover’s Recourse” some time back. I hope to submit something with length and quality to them someday. In the meantime, I’m very pleased they asked FIFTY writers to offer “Short Takes on Long Poems.” This is research, scoping out the landscape. Except that I wonder if a long poem is a mountain, because one reads it vertically on the Web, or a horizon, because it stretches in my mind as I read it.

  1. Short Takes on Long Poems, Volume 1 (Dana Levin on Anne Carson‘s “The Glass Essay“)
  2. Short Takes on Long Poems, Volume 2 (David Caplan on T. S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”)*
  3. Short Takes on Long Poems, Volume 3 (Michael Collier on John Berryman’s “Homage to Mistress Bradstreet”)**
  4. Short Takes on Long Poems, Volume 4 (Darcie Dennigan on Brigit Pegeen Kelly’s “Three Cows and the Moon”)

Some brief comments:

  1. I could have sworn I’ve read Levin before, but nothing strikes me as strongly familiar. That said, I love “The Glass Essay,” and I’m glad they chose that over, say, the book-length works Carson usually likes writing.
  2. While Caplan’s first experience with this poem matches my own, it’s a little weird that this would be the Eliot poem discussed for this series of articles instead of, say, The Waste Land or Four Quartets.
  3. Choosing this over The Dream Songs works, partly because of my relative familiarity with Dream Songs over Bradstreet.
  4. I’ve never heard of Kelly before this, but I love Dennigan, so this is great reading.