I know, I know, the Anthology has been gathering cobwebs for a little over a year now. Have now fear, dedicated readers, I plan an active return in the coming weeks (maybe even days!).
I am excited that Rick Mullin will be reading tonight at First Wednesday Formal. Rick’s poems often refer to pop culture, and I have posted links to some of those here in the past — Spirit of ’76 and two of the Stones Jones Canzones. But he as also written about artists less well-known than rock stars, including two brilliant book-length biographic poems, Huncke and Soutine. Rick is himself an accomplished painter, and his sensitivity to Soutine’s work adds great dimension to his masterpiece about the 2oth Century Jewish expressionist, in which he masterfully draws connections between his subject’s life, his own experience, and reflections on art, culture, and humanity. Here is the first chapter of the first book of the poem, which among other things displays Rick’s impressive sense of craftsmanship and narrative.
Soutine, Book I, Chapter 1 by Rick Mullin (from The Nervous Breakdown)
Today is the 110th anniversary of Theodor Geisel‘s birthday. Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, was one of the most important authors of books for young children ever. He was a distinct and stunningly talented stylist as both writer and illustrator, and a pioneer in the belief the the youngest children deserved and benefited from quality, thought-provoking literature.
Too Many Daves, from The Sneetches and Other Stories, is a personal favorite of mine. I have always been drawn to it in part because of my name, I admit. But it also is a perfect example of the peerless Seussian inventiveness, his impeccable sense of meter and rhythm, and his constant celebration of individuality and creativity.
Too Many Daves by Dr. Seuss (from the Poetry Foundation)
Here is a shameless periodic reminder that my book, The Wild Geography of Misplaced Things, released by White Violet Press last year, is still available for purchase.
“Rosenthal sets his carefully chosen words in the silver chains of his lines, and the effect is lapidary.” — Timothy Murphy
If you are a teacher (or know someone who is) the middle section of the book mainly comprises poems drawn from my experience as a teacher.
“How lucky David Rosenthal’s students are! They have a teacher whose perception of the physical world is as fresh, genuine and immediate as their own…” — Rhina P. Espaillat
But there are also poems on a wide range of other subjects.
“David Rosenthal’s The Wild Geography of Misplaced Things takes us beyond the established borders of our ordinary lives into memory and its defiance of time…” — Lynne Knight
Read more about the book, including sample poems, here.
Maxine Kumin died last Thursday at the age of 88. She was a past U.S. Poet Laureate and recipient of most other honors available to American poets. Her ability to combine deceptively plain language with precise diction, rhythm, and music is brilliantly exemplified in Looking Back in My Eighty-First Year. The honesty and directness of the first few lines in no way foreshadows the poem’s conclusion, and saves that conclusion from sentimentality to leave us with as good a Valentine’s Day poem as I could have hoped to post.
Looking Back in My Eighty-First Year by Maxine Kumin (from Poets.org)
Elizabeth Bishop was born on this day in 1911. She was an important figure in Twentieth Century poetry, and her villanelle, One Art, is one of the most anthologized poems of that century. It is often used as one of the exemplary accomplishments in that difficult minefield of a form, and rightly so — she deftly uses the repetition to highlight the layered meanings and mounting sentiment of the poem. But even if one approached this poem unaware of the form’s structure and history, it would be hard not to recognize the poem’s genius for tying together the mundane and the monumental in an expression of insight that is both introspective and undeniably resonant.
One Art by Elizabeth Bishop (from the Poetry Foundation)
I didn’t make a post to this blog for the entire month of December. That is only the third time since I started the Anthology that a month went by without a post. The others were June and October of 2013. Which means that after 24 consecutive months with posts, I have missed three of the past seven months, including two of the last three. It seems like I am tapering off. The last seven months have been busy, to be sure, but so have other months. In any case, I do not intend to taper off, and I plan with this post to begin posting more regularly.
Burning the Old Year by Naomi Shihab Nye is as good a re-commitment poem as any, and is especially apropos this time of year. I appreciate the liberating declaration that “So much of any year is flammable,” and the idea to “begin again with the smallest numbers.” In the final lines, Nye reminds us yet again what we should really know well by now — that what is most difficult to burn away, and most susceptible to regret, is not what we have done, but what we have not done.
Burning the Old Year by Naomi Shihab Nye (from the Poetry Foundation)
Today is Thanksgiving. Tonight will also be the second night of Hanukkah. It is extremely rare for Thanksgiving to fall within Hanukkah — the last time it happened was 1888 and the next is likely to be more than 79 thousand years from now. Below I am reposting the entries for both holidays from the past few years. Two years ago for Thanksgiving, I posted the lyrics to Stephen Foster’s Hard Times, with a link to Mavis Staples singing it. Last year I posted Charles Reznikoff‘s Te Deum. Two years ago I posted two more by Reznikoff for Hanukkah, and reposted them again last year. In the sentiment of these poems you can find a fair amount of overlap.
Hard Times (Come Again No More) by Stephen Foster (from Wikipedia)
Te Deum by Charles Reznikoff (from Poets.org)
Notes on the Spring Holidays III by Charles Reznikoff (from Poets.org)
Night-Piece by Charles Reznikoff (from the Poetry Foundation)
Today would have been Craig Arnold‘s 46th birthday. He went missing in 2009 while hiking near a volcano on an island in Japan, and was presumed dead shortly thereafter. His first book, Shells (1999), which won the Yale Younger Poets award, displayed among other virtues deft formal craftsmanship. For me at that time, finding a formal poet near my age always seemed to be a rare thrill, and I felt instantly connected to him.
Shells contains some of my favorite examples of contemporary sonnets, but Hot, which is probably Arnold’s best known poem, as a little masterpiece to me. It displays Arnold’s impeccable balance of sobriety and humor, his ability to hover between narrative and lyric, and his uncanny talent for slant rhymes. I have read it dozens of times and it remains fresh and energetic every time.
Hot by Craig Arnold (from avoision.com)
Brian Turner served in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1999-2000 with the 10th Mountain Division, and then as an infantry team leader in Iraq with the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division in 2003-2004. His acclaimed book Here, Bullet is based on his service in Iraq, and was one of the first and one the most important literary work by a returning soldier from the Iraq war. The Hurt Locker from that collection, and the title poem, Here, Bullet, exemplify the delicate, human, yet unflinching tone of Turner’s poetic reportage in a work that belongs to the great and indispensable tradition of soldier-penned war poetry, the tip of the iceberg of which I mentioned in this anthology entry a couple of years ago. Turner’s second book, Phantom Noise deals largely with the struggles of returning combat soldiers. At Lowe’s Home Improvement Center is from that collection, depicting the chilling severity of the effects of combat experience. Another earlier entry featuring poems from Jehanne Dubrow’s Stateside, might make a fair companion to Turner’s work. Other related entries include this Memorial Day post from a few years back, and this post from last year.
The Hurt Locker by Brian Turner (from the Poetry Foundation)
Here, Bullet and At Lowe’s Home Improvement Center by Brian Turner (from the GreenHouse)