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James Galvin – Everything We Always Knew Was True Copper Canyon 2016 Page Length: 75 Retail: $16   How is it possible for the work of James Galvin, the face of the most famous poetry program in the world, to be so wildly underappreciated? One could spend a lot of time trying to understand this: is it because of his association with the Iowa Writers’ Workshop that critics have largely ignored his work, especially over the last twenty or so years? Or is it because his style walks so boldly in the footsteps of the many celebrated American poets who have taken as their central subject the natural world, and have done so with a language we can loosely call “plainspoken”? A combination of these theories would view Galvin as [...]

      Jen Fitzgerald is a poet, essayist, and native New Yorker whose work has been featured on PBS Newshour and Harriet, as well as in Tin House, Salon, PEN Anthology, and Cosmonauts Avenue, among other places, and is forthcoming at Colorado Review and Public Pool. She is the host of New Books in Poetry Podcast as part of the New Books Network, and a member of the New York Writers Workshop. Her first collection of poetry, The Art of Work, is forthcoming with Noemi Press in September 2016.

During 2016, the Spotlight Series (usually) focuses on two poets per month whose work and consciousness move us, challenge us, inspire us. This month’s surprise!-special-feature third poet is Jen Fitzgerald.   Fox Frazier-Foley: Talk to me about the core of your creative drive and the expression it finds through poetry. There are lots of ways to be creative in this world—what motivates you to write poems, specifically? Additionally, what motivates you to navigate the poebiz landscape? Jen Fitzgerald: My creativity makes me feel as though I am functioning at my highest level of “human.” It comes, entirely from within me (I of course recognize inspiration and stimuli), it forms inside of me, and then I am the means by which it finds its form outside of me. It is something that I [...]

Michael T. Young: Thank you, Barbara, for agreeing to an interview. Your newest collection is called Other People’s Stories. I wondered if you could tell us a little about the significance of the title and how it relates to the theme of the collection. Barbara Elovic: Other People’s Stories serves as the title and the underlying theme of my poetry collection for a few reasons. As a young poet I wrote mostly confessional material. As I got older I found myself less interesting as subject matter and was intrigued by the idea of telling stories that weren’t about me. Philip Levine said long ago in an interview that even though the audience for poetry is small he wanted his poems not to be so recondite that someone had to be [...]

My Wife Says That If You Live 20 Years Without having to go to a funeral, you are really lucky. The girl on TV is no older than I was when everyone in my quivering home learned to hustle one more ghost into our already overflowing pockets & even though it is not real, she is being swallowed by a carnivorous grief that is howling & escaping through  the screen on all fours, pacing around at our feet & begging us to move. Pissing on the blanket sewed by a grandmother’s hands. Hands that were once a salve for every wound, hands that once clapped along with the  good gospel in a church shack & once cupped a child’s crying face & once broke bread & then one day just  [...]

During 2016, the Spotlight Series focuses on two poets per month whose work and consciousness move us, challenge us, inspire us. This month’s second poet is Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib.   Fox Frazier-Foley: Talk to me about the core of your creative drive and the expression it finds through poetry. There are lots of ways to be creative in this world—what motivates you to write poems, specifically? Additionally, what motivates you to navigate the poebiz landscape? Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib: So, at the core, I believe myself to be a storyteller. I think of myself as someone who sits in the tradition of black storytelling, and I think poetry is the best way that I can get those stories outside of myself and into the world where they can (ideally) meet other people who see themselves [...]

Cup Your Body into Someone Else’s Longing   In Emily O’Neill’s Make a Fist and Tongue the Knuckles, (Nostrovia! Press, 2016) the boys are sweet even when they are leading you by the hand to the back of the bar and the girls always know better. These poems are intimacy laid out on a conveyor belt—all parts are deconstructed and rebuilt. The intimacy is cataloged from kissing a stranger on a porch, to admiring a lover’s freckle colony, to justifying one’s job when meeting a date’s parents for the first time. O’Neill’s imagery travels around the block a few times and doesn’t apologize for it: her poems are harsh, gritty beauty.   O’Neill begins her dark walk with the poem “World’s Smallest Woman.” Her words are almost like those of [...]

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Confession or the poetry of witness, not in the Plath, Sexton, Lowell, Snodgrass, and next generation Sharon Olds sense, but in the sense of St Augustine and Roseau and Wordsworth’s preludes (modeled on Roseau to some extent) and the poetics of those who have been othered or cut out of the normative discourse. Confessional in this respect combines narrative, conversational lyric and introspection with larger social and ontological implications.

kiss the sound i make with my feet. i am far from everything but i try.
 i can’t read what people say about trans women anymore or i stop feeling for months. such is life. soon i will turn 28. i am approaching the sky. every birthday after 30 will feel like a statistical anomaly because it will be. it’s okay to feel what is true in your hands and in your teeth. it doesn’t have to heal you or set you free. it just has to remind you that you exist. i hardly exist and it’s fine. i’ve climbed out of too many windows to care but i care. i do. i care so much i can’t get out of bed some days. crying helps, but not enough. why [...]

During 2016, the Spotlight Series focuses on two poets per month whose work and consciousness move us, challenge us, inspire us. This month’s first poet is Joshua Jennifer Espinoza.  Fox Frazier-Foley: Talk to me about the core of your creative drive and the expression it finds through poetry. There are lots of ways to be creative in this world—what motivates you to write poems, specifically? Additionally, what motivates you to navigate the poebiz landscape? Joshua Jennifer Espinoza: My drive to write mostly comes from my inability to understand and deal with my own emotions as a trans feminine/mentally ill/traumatized person in a world that kind of hates all of those things. With poetry I can attempt to subvert the language of the world that has been inscribed on and within me against my will. [...]

Dinner Table Refuge by Benjamin Schmitt Punks Write Poems, 2015 Paperback, 118 pages, $14 ISBN: 978-0986170737 Clocking in at over 100 pages, Benjamin Schmitt’s Dinner Table Refuge tackles a number of issue— death, politics, homelessness, love, punk rock nostalgia, and even zombies and robot takeovers. The collection is not only wide in scope, but wide in its array of forms. Collage poems mix with straight-forwarded narratives, but the work resonates the most when the poems are clear, when they recall the idealistic punk rockers of the poet’s youth, or offer meditations on love in the book’s final section. There is a thread of memory, images of slam dances and sweaty punk clubs that reoccur in the book. The poem “1997,” for instance, transitions between the past and present well. Set [...]

Bad News, Again    after the June 2015 Charleston AME church shooting after Mary Oliver 1. There are so many reasons to stay inside, to lock the room around my heart. I don’t even like it, my heart. Bitter little fruit, little lead stone, carnation blooming from a Sunday dress. What does the world mean if you can’t trust it to go on?   2. Listen: birdsong (whippoorwill, maybe) broken by the wail of a woman prowling barefoot down the street.   3. Sometimes, before light breaks, I lace my shoes & race outside. I try to touch everything— my neighbor’s rusty wind chime, the fallen trees. My soles drum the concrete, hands strum each metal fence.   4. Listen: hasn’t my body felt like the body of smoke before? [...]

During 2016, the Spotlight Series focuses on two poets per month whose work and consciousness move us, challenge us, inspire us. This month’s second poet is Cam Awkward-Rich.    Fox Frazier-Foley: Talk to me about the core of your creative drive and the expression it finds through poetry. There are lots of ways to be creative in this world—what motivates you to write poems, specifically? Additionally, what motivates you to navigate the poebiz landscape? Cameron Awkward-Rich: Well, I’ll answer in reverse: I don’t know if I do navigate the “poebiz landscape.” Obviously I must, but it feels pretty unintentional, almost exactly like standing in the corner of a party full of people who are unbearably too brilliant and too beautiful (or just unbearable), but this party is where all of your friends [...]

Anand Prahlad – As Good As Mango Stephen F. Austin University Press 2012 Page Length: 90 Retail: $15.95 Much of contemporary American poetry centers on expressions of “identity politics.” This mode of poetics, which has taken many diverse and brilliant forms, is most commonly articulated in assertions of identity: celebrations of self in its various guises against the dominant hegemony of the culture of the oppressor. In Anand Prahlad’s brilliant collection, As Good As Mango, we encounter a poet who, while participating in the liberation from oppressive cultural forces so central to the poetics of identity, accomplishes this individuation by subverting the common relationship between poet and text. Prahlad is a poet less interested in expressing “self” than allowing self to be expressed by the very world in which the [...]

          Cortney Lamar Charleston is a Cave Canem fellow, finalist for the 2015 Auburn Witness Poetry Prize and semi-finalist for the 2016 Discovery/Boston Review Poetry Prize. His poems have appeared, or are forthcoming, in Beloit Poetry Journal, Gulf Coast, Hayden's Ferry Review, The Iowa Review, The Journal, New England Review, Pleiades, River Styx, Spillway, TriQuarterly and elsewhere.

During 2016, the Spotlight Series focuses on two poets per month whose work and consciousness move us, challenge us, inspire us. This month’s first poet is Cortney Lamar Charleston.  Fox Frazier-Foley: Talk to me about the core of your creative drive and the expression it finds through poetry. There are lots of ways to be creative in this world—what motivates you to write poems, specifically? Additionally, what motivates you to navigate the poebiz landscape? Cortney Lamar Charleston: I’ve got a lot of things to say about the world. I’ve always had a lot of things to say about the world, but haven’t always been confident enough to say them, smart enough to articulate them, artful enough to make them strike the chord I wanted them to, at least before poetry. People [...]