friday roundup with throng of poets, line (again), and a nest


Vincent’s “Still Life with Fife-bird Nests” (wikimedia)

Hello out there. Happy Friday. Friday of AWP for many poets; Just Friday here at the Wee, Small House.

Real-time digression: I love how Vincent Van Gogh signed his paintings “Vincent.” Just Vincent. As if he were a child making art at his mother’s table. As if there were no other possible Vincent who could’ve made the art (ends up he was right about that, I guess). I am just now thinking about the gesture of putting one’s name to a piece of art. I’m wondering: What are the poems we would write if we were just going to sign the poems “(your first name here).” As if we were writing at our mothers’ tables. As if there were no other possible (your first name here) who could write those poems? Are they different than the poems we’d write planning to sign our full, adult, names and all they mean for the self we’ve constructed in the world? If yes, let’s go write them.

[Ok, sorry for that digression but this is how my brain works. On to the roundup:]

“the solitary, the hermetic, the cranky self-taught”  A throng of poets has descended upon Minneapolis, where yesterday it snowed (she said, smugly; forgive her).

[I pause here to remember the moment last year when I reminded a poet-friend that there would also be fiction writers and non-fiction writers at AWP. Her blank stare upon receiving this news will live forever in my memory.]

But back to the poets. AWP, or any throng, can cause anxiety for poets (perhaps other writers too?) — the crowds; the name-dropping; the selfies; the editors who rejected your poems; the Very Famous Poet who walks by causing one to freeze in one’s boots before one can think of something to say; the Very Famous Poet you are standing next to in line for the ladies’ and you think of something to say but then after you think how STUPID it was to say that; the people looking at your name tag, realizing you are just a baby poet, walking on by. Etc.

But I love AWP. I love seeing my tribe in the flesh. I love the worst-attended panels. I love all the books and lit mags that jump into one’s arms. I am not there this year, but I can’t wait for next year’s in L.A. (That is how much I love AWP — I am going to brave L.A., which I know nothing about but whose traffic has intimidated me from afar for years, for AWP).

Here is a little piece by Kay Ryan (Kay Ryan week on the blog, I guess) who is not an avid AWP go-er, but who has gone. And documented her experience. And possibly did not hate it as much as she thought she might. Or maybe did. I usually read this piece on my AWP off-years, so it’s possible I’ve linked to it before. It’s a good piece for reminding us to simultaneously embrace and shun the throng.

line (again)  I know, sorry, but I love line. Or should I say, Line. This week I’m re-visiting James Longenbach’s The Art of the Poetic Line. Two things jumped out at me. Here they are:

1. For those of you who, like me, are forever puzzling about what prose poetry is and what kind of poem belongs in a prose container: In prose poems “the narrative links are supressed.” And “rather than fulfilling the expectations aroused by narrative logic, (a prose poem) foregrounds the disjunctive movement we associate more readily with poetry and in particular with lineated poetry” (parens mine).

Okay, that makes sense to me. I can work with that.

2. “(L)ine is a way of making familiar language strange again.” Yes, yes, yes. And so is poetry. Yes.

nest  I accidentally found another poet this week. Don’t they just pop up out of nowhere, and then you have to have their book(s)!? #bookbudgetblownagain

This poet is Katy Didden, whose first book (which I have duly ordered), The Glacier’s Wake, won the Lena-Miles Weaver Todd Poetry Prize a few years ago (BTW, that prize churns out some really good poetry). While I wait for the book to arrive on my doorstep — I LOVE THIS WORLD! — I’ve been hunting down some of her poems online, and have fallen in love with “Nest.”

Go read it to relish the way it builds sound upon sound, to enjoy its surprising word choices and images, to experience the way it becomes a wild meditation on both life, and the fragile nest of language we create to try to define or explain or document life.

I will never see a camera lens the same way again. “And click. And crack.”

Happy Friday, happy weekend, thanks for reading!

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