Pleased to Meet You: Juliana Leslie

The joys of discovery! I’ve never heard of Juliana Leslie before I came across the following tweet from “Poetry’s Cross-Dressing Kingmaker” (I just love that)

Stephen Burt‘s recommendation didn’t disappoint. Clicking on the Everyday Genius link, I immediately fell in love with the first two lines of “Confluence,” the first of four poems by Leslie:

A patient feeling I heard you say
a patient mouth absorbs the spark of a secret train

Leslie writes great opening lines, and when I say “opening lines,” I don’t only mean this poem and the other three (“Softer More Radiant Signal,” “Two Ideas,” and “Two More Ideas in a Different Mode”). I’m talking about how all four “parts” of “Confluence” have great openings. And middles. And endings.

Let me correct myself then: Leslie writes opening great lines. More examples:

Actually, after reading the prose poems John Gallaher shares here, Leslie writes really beautifully, whether in lines or not. Rob McClennan’s review of Leslie’s debut collection offers more samples of her prose poems and lyrics, both short and long.

Now I’m itching to buy a copy of More Radiant Signal AND its follow-up, Green is for World, scheduled for release this November. In the meantime, I’m going to look for more of her poems online and will just leave you with this short video of her reading some poems.

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Lineation: the Knife Skills of Poetry

Ah, lineation. I handle you constantly, careful one time, clumsy the next. I imagine hope I’m getting better, but sometimes, the slice is too thick or too thin. My fingertips are always bleeding from cuts that I sometimes don’t notice until later. Stigmata of those who write poems?

I really want to get a copy of A Broken Thing: Poets on the Line, and I will, but for now, I’m making do with the editors’ introductions I found on John (“The poem becomes a one-time use definition of line-break, line, stanza, and so forth.”) Gallaher’s blog entry, as well as the following pieces from the book that have been made available online:

Poetry Daily has three:

  1. “The Line as Fetish and Fascist Reliquary” by Gabriel Gudding: He’s no stranger, but Gudding’s certainly gotten stranger: “The line is a vomito-aesthetic concrescence of a larger, mystifying ideology known both as “official art” and its false rival ‘avant-garde art’…”
  2. “Lines and Spaces” by Catherine Imbriglio“If the overall effect of a poem depends on its pace, the way it builds its highs and lows, then this comes from the way the poem distributes its musical energy through its formal configuration of lines and spaces.”
  3. “The Thin Line” by Terese Svoboda: “A line is made to be broken—sometimes shattered. It’s nearly a plane, for god’s sake, practically glass.” Also: “Lines curve in space—that’s the most important thing about line. What you see is the infinite, delicate bending of meaning and sound coming together on the horizon where the line stops, where there’s a gasp, and then the line falls in space.”
The Academy of American Poets has eight:
  1. “Two Lines” by Mei-mei Berssenbrugge: She begins with “A line of poetry on a page exists in space, but I think of it as a kind of timing, a measured flow of poetic energy, a dynamic,” and ends with a form of lineation where line and sentence correspond. Not my thing, but Berssenbrugge is always fascinating.
  2. “Shore Lines” by Camille Dungy: “…I think ideas can rhyme too. I like to end lines this way, following conceptual rhymes, carrying the basic elements of an idea from one line to the next in the same way one might carry a certain element of sound throughout a poem.”
  3. “Tiny Étude on the Poetic Line” by Heather McHugh: “The line is where the wish to go forth in words (along one axis of a journey) encounters the need to break off—or fall out—with words (along the other axis, a vertical).”
  4. “Where It Breaks: Drama, Silence, Speed, and Accrual” by Dana Levin: “I am not interested in the line as much as where it breaks. I am interested in drama. … Of course, to link breakage and drama is to lend enjambment the weight of content: white space as communicative pause.”
  5. “This Is Just To Say That So Much Depends Upon” by Timothy Liu: I love Timothy Liu, so I’m slightly annoyed I couldn’t find a “soundbite” from his piece, but it’s great reading: anecdotal but also technical in its way.
  6. “The Line Is the Leaf” by Donald Revell: “Poems do not acquire meaning; they simply evidence meanings accumulated over time as and through the moving lines.”
  7. “Some Thoughts on the Integrity of the Single Line in Poetry” by Alberto Ríos: Not about the monostich, and I like how this essay seems to respond to Revell’s focus on the mobility of lines in, for instance, ideas like “A line is a moment, and a moment is intrinsically non-narrative,” and “A line suggests, for the moment, lateral, rather than linear, movement.” It gets technical, too, in a good way.
  8. “Croon: A Brief on the Line” by Tim Seibles: You had me at “Beyond their meanings, words are sounds, notes if you will. A line—full of assonance or simply conversational—is, therefore, necessarily a kind of musical construct.”

There are SIXTY other pieces in the book. I must have it.

Reading Reading Between A&B

I’ve only discovered the archives of now-defunct Reading Between A&B site, and while I wish some poems were still up (say, those by Matthea Harvey, Cole Swensen, and Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, to name only three), I’m quite pleased about the poems that are still there. Right now, I’m enjoying:

  1. Brian Teare, particularly for the variable shapes of his poems: linear, structural, and sonic
  2. John Gallaher, particularly for how his themes take form in precise diction and syntax
  3. Mary Jo Bang, particularly for the assonance, consonance, and alliteration she displays

Down The Line And What I Found There

I can no longer recall what I was searching for when I came across Dana Gioia’s “Thirteen Ways of Thinking About the Poetic Line,” but that somehow led me to…

…John Gallaher’s notes on the line, a blog entry occasioned by his having read an issue of Center that featured a “symposium on the line” (time to get a copy!). I’m not sure how I got here though, because oddly, Gallaher doesn’t mention Gioia at all. He does mention…

Annie Finch, whose “Grails and Legacies: Thoughts on the Line” I read. (She mentions Gioia, by the way, but only how he scans “Red Wheelbarrow” as two lines of iambic pentameter broken into lines.) Looking up Annie Finch made me fall in love with a book she co-edited. I hope to order An Exaltation of Forms soon.

Going back to Gallaher, he keeps referring to Michael Palmer’s “Notes for Echo Lake 4” as “the (emblematic) poem of our age.” I’m not sure I’d go as far as he does, but it’s certainly a fantastic poem.

I really like Michael Palmer a lot. I don’t claim to understand everything he does, but he’s brilliant as 123 in his poems, and even essays where he talks about, say, Robert Duncan (I’m trying to look for a way to bridge Language poetry and Robert Duncan, who was a harsh critic of it).

And Duncan has been very inspirational, especially when he talks about how

the artist of abundancies delites in puns, interlocking and separating figures, plays of things missing or things appearing “out of order” that remind us that all orders have their justification in an order of orders only our faith as we work addresses.

I loved reading all of these things, though truth be told, I’m not sure how they helped me complete my poem for tomorrow’s workshop. I feel absolutely certain they played some sort of part in the procedure though.

I feel good now, which I didn’t when I re-read “Subduing the reader” early this morning. I’m always disturbed by the warning it makes about “need[ing] always to be alert to writers who claim that good poetry must be difficult, accessible only to the educated few, and see this claim for what it is–fascist.”

I figure it’s the “must” that gets to Laurie Smith. I too have a problem with such unwavering imperatives, but unlike her, I want to assert that there is much room in poetry for difficulty.