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Posts Tagged ‘W.B. Yeats

Attention Span 2011 | Philip Metres

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Going through my notebooks over the past year, I was stunned to see how few poetry books I read. 2010 was my year of unremitting pain, in which I spent far too many hours in physical pain and psychic suffering, thinking about pain and reading about pain and how to free myself from its grip. I wonder if poetry—that intensest of genres—simply evaded my pain-flooded brain, or if something else was at work. (I also noticed that I may have read more unpublished manuscripts than poetry, and the increasing digitization of my reading has meant that I’ve spent a lot more time reading poetry online—something that, just a couple years ago, would have seemed impossible.) Still, here were a few books that I found myself returning to, or rooting around for months, in the following categories, roughly related to obsessions from the past year: Irelandiana and Questions of Travel, Strange Gods, The Wars, and Anthologies.

Irelandiana and Questions of Travel:

W.B. Yeats | Selected Poetry | Scribner’s | 1996
Seamus Heaney | Opened Ground: Selected Poems 1966-1996 | FSG | 1998

Teaching Northern Irish history and literature, then spending two weeks in Belfast, I wanted to revisit some of the giants of Irish poetry. I found Yeats crazier and more beautiful than I remembered (he’s far more interesting than the patrician and aristocrat that occasionally butts into the poem). Heaney’s charms, on the other hand, which had largely evaded me over the years, became more evident. In the past, I found him, by turns, boring, quaint, or quotidian; in the context of Northern Irish history, I now see his work as fiercely loyal but not clannish, honoring the local but addressing the global. Decidedly unsexy poetry, but faithful and lovely all the same.

Kazim Ali | Bright Felon | Wesleyan | 2009

To date, my favorite book by a voluminously productive and intriguing poet still at the beginning of a great career.

Jennifer Karmin| Aaaaaaaaaaalice | flim forum | 2010

A kind of secret travelogue by way of Alice in Wonderland and Japanese language text books, Karmin’s first book casts herself as a perceptive and naïf traveling through the dreamscape of the Far East, searching for what home might mean.

Strange Gods:

Franz Wright | God’s Silence | Knopf | 2008
Christian Wiman | Every Riven Thing | Farrar | 2010

Wright and Wiman are two of the best contemporary spiritual poets at a time when matters of the spirit tend to take second place to matters of the flesh; these poets wrestle with what God might mean, in light of the problem of suffering and silence.

Arseny Tarkovsky | Selected Poems | Various Russian Editions

In an interview toward the end of her life, Anna Akhmatova called Arseny Tarkovsky the one “real poet” in the Soviet Union. In her words, in 1965, “of all contemporary poets Tarkovsky alone is completely his own self, completely independent. He possesses the most important feature of a poet which I’d call the birthright.” In his spiritual and poetic independence, he outlasted the dross of totalitarianism. If Whitman’s spirit of embodied pantheism were harnessed to Russian forms and weighed down by Russian history and politics, it might sound a bit like Tarkovsky.

Two Young Poets:

Dave Lucas | Weather | Georgia | 2011
Nick Demske | Nick Demske | Fence | 2011

Shout out to two young poets as different as one might imagine. Dave Lucas has the same devotion to doomed places (his place: Cleveland) as Heaney or Levine, and sounds often like a prophet beyond his green years. Nick Demske, who insists on signing his emails “nicky poo,” writes fractured sonnets that would make John Berryman eat his own beard. I was moved by his description of how his mother’s dying had everything to do with the fracture of his forms. The body, he said, was bad form for our souls. Amen to that, brother Nick.

The Wars:

Susan Tichy | Gallowglass | Ahsahta | 2010
C.D. Wright | Rising, Falling, Hovering | Copper Canyon | 2008
Jehanne Dubrow | Stateside | Triquarterly | 2010

Tichy’s taut collages, Wright’s meditative jumpcuts, and Dubrow’s formalist explorations of a wife with a husband at war combine to create a picture of what it feels like to live on the homefront of empire.


Ilya Kaminsky and Susan Harris, eds. | The Ecco Anthology of International Poetry | Ecco | 2010
Neelanjana Banerjee, Summi Kaipa, and Pireeni Sundaralingam, eds. | Indivisible: An Anthology of Contemporary South Asian Poetry | Arkansas | 2010

These anthologies dilated my sense of the world’s poetry, and the world of poetry.


Philip Metres’s recent books include abu ghraib arias (2011), To See the Earth (Cleveland State 2008) and Behind the Lines: War Resistance Poetry on the American Homefront, since 1941 (University of Iowa 2007).

Metres’s Attention Span for 201020092008. Back to 2011 directory.

Attention Span 2011 | David Trinidad

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A.R. Ammons | Garbage | Norton | 1993

I’m in the middle of this now, and liking it a lot. Book-length poem in run-on couplets. Ammons has a very friendly, welcoming mind; I trust his meanderings. I think he wants us to think his wisdom is homespun, but in fact it’s wizardly. “have some respect for other speakers of being and / for god’s sake drop all this crap about words, // singularity, and dominion: it is so boring”

Jeanne Marie Beaumont | Burning of the Three Fires | Boa | 2010

Her third book, and a leap forward. I felt, reading poem after poem, that here is a poet at the height of her powers. Awe-inspiring. Witchy, in just the right way. The magic of her own peculiar and deep being.

Elaine Equi | Click and Clone | Coffee House | 2011

Fabulous new book by one of my favorite poets. For thirty years her work has never failed to surprise and delight. No one does what she does. She makes life bearable, makes everything seem shiny and bright. Store-bought and oracular. Click and Clone. You can’t help but snap your fingers to it.

Denise Levertov | The Letters of Denise Levertov and William Carlos Williams | New Directions | 1998

Read this while traveling; couldn’t put it down. WCW to DL: “It must be in the words themselves and what you find to do with them and what you have the spirit and trust to rely on the reader to find what you have put among them. Where is it? In detail. Microscopically.” Also read and loved Levertov’s O Taste and See (1964).

Arthur Rimbaud, trans. John Ashbery | Illuminations | Norton | 2011

I’ve never been able to grasp the beauty of Illuminations (and over the years I’ve tried). But in Ashbery’s new translation the beauty comes through loud and clear. His sent me back to the Louise Varèse translation; I found her introduction extremely helpful.

Jane Roberts | The Nature of Personal Reality | Amber-Allen | 1974

We create our own reality—did ya know. “Your thoughts blossom into events . . . Your beliefs grow as surely in time and space as flowers do. When you realize this you can even feel their growing.” Jane Roberts’ Seth books changed—continue to change—my life.

Maxine Scates | Undone | New Issues | 2011

I wish more contemporary poets were as self-realized as Scates. Her poems really hit the vein. A true sense of interiority (of time spent alone, seeing and thinking and feeling and remembering), illustrating how the past and the present exist simultaneously in us. Beautiful and devastating.

Nick Twemlow | Your Mouth Is Everywhere | Racquetball | 2010

Long overdue first chapbook by a terrific poet. He manages to make me laugh and scare me at the same time. Slick, deep stuff. Happily, his first full-length collection is forthcoming.

William Carlos Williams | Paterson | New Directions | 1995

The Great Beast. I’ve always wanted to read this, and this summer I finally did. In a reading group with four others—every Thursday night for five weeks—which made it that much more of an experience. This led me to WCW’s Selected Letters and his amazing The Desert Music (1954). There are few poets I admire as much as Williams. “unless I find a place // apart from it, I am its slave”

W.B. Yeats | Mythologies | Touchstone | 1959

I actually only read the first book in this collection: The Celtic Twilight, which was published in 1893. Fairy tale-like stories of the supernatural: village ghosts, enchanted woods, faery glamour. Letters of fire that vanish before they can be read.


David Trinidad is the author of Dear Prudence: New and Selected Poems (Turtle Point Press). He is also editor of A Fast Life: The Collected Poems of Tim Dlugos (Nightboat Books). He teaches poetry at Columbia College Chicago, where he co-edits the journal Court Green and is the 2011-2013 Distinguished Faculty Scholar. This is his first contribution to Attention Span. Back to 2011 directory.

Attention Span 2011 | John Palattella

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Annie Dillard | Pilgrim at Tinker Creek | Harper | 1974

The electron is like a muskrat; it cannot be perfectly stalked.

T.S. Eliot, eds. Valerie Eliot and Hugh Haughton | The Letters of T.S. Eliot, Volume 2: 1923–1925 | Faber | 2009

…the Editor has to combine and reconcile principle, sensibility, and business sense. That is why an editor’s life is such a bloody sweat.

Merrill Gilfillan | The Bark of the Dog | Flood | 2010

Sprigs for sunrise,
sprigs for Taos, and soldiers
on the steep blue sea.

Peter Gizzi | Threshold Songs | Wesleyan | 2011

And my body also
a commotion of sound
and form. Of tides.

Tony Judt | Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945 | Penguin | 2005

The much-anticipated transition from capitalism to socialism had been theorized ad nauseum in academies, universities and coffee bars from Belgrade to Berkeley; but no-one had thought to offer a blueprint for the transition from socialism to capitalism.

James Longenbach | The Iron Key | Norton | 2010

Hephaestus, carve me a hollow cup!
The dark earth drinks, and the trees drink the earth.
The sea drinks the wind,
The sun drinks the sea.

Jennifer Moxley | Coastal | The Song Cave | 2011

A muggy sunny day, better for plants than people.

Lorine Niedecker, ed. Jenny Penberthy | Collected Works | California | 2002

Ruby of corundum
lapis lazuli
from changing limestone
glow-apricot red-brown
carnelian sard
Greek named
kicked up in America’s
you have been in my mind
between my toes

David Rieff | Swimming in a Sea of Death | Simon & Schuster | 2008

My mother’s “default mode” had always been the transcendental, or, perhaps more accurately, that of the exemplary student who also aspires to be the exemplary soul. Don’t laugh or smile condescendingly, dear reader: there are more ignoble ambitions.

Marilynne Robinson | The Death of Adam: Essays on Modern Thought | Houghton Mifflin | 1998

Economics, the great model now among us, indulges and deprives, builds and abandons, threatens and promises. Its imperium is manifest, irrefragable—as in fact it has been since antiquity. Yet suddenly we act as if the reality of economics were really reality itself, the one Truth to which everything must refer. I can only suggest that terror at complexity has driven us back on this very crude monism. We have reached a point where cosmology permits us to say that everything might in fact be made of nothing, so we cling desperately to the idea that something is real and necessary, and we have chosen, oddly enough, competition and market forces, taking refuge from the wild epic of cosmic ontogeny by hiding our head in the ledger.

W.B. Yeats | The Poems | Macmillan | 1983

We had fed the heart on fantasies,
The hearts grown brutal from the fare;
More substance in our enmities
Than in our love; O honey-bees,
Come build in the empty house of the stare.


John Palattella is the Literary Editor for The Nation. Palattella’s Attention Span for 201020092008200720062005. Back to 2011 Directory.