Story of a Poem

Story of a Poem
Matthew Zapruder

Unnamed Press, 2023
ISBN: 9781951213688

“Anyone who lives on earth must never be considered an outsider anywhere. Anyone who lives in the world belongs to the world.”

Matthew Zapruder had an idea: to write a poem as slowly and intentionally as possible, to preserve its drafts, and record the painstaking, elusively transcendent stuff of its construction. It would be the capstone to a new collection of poetry, and a means to process modern American life in a time of Covid, mega fires, and sobriety. What Zapruder didn’t anticipate was that this literary project would trigger a deeply personal aspect as well: a way to resolve the unexplored pain and unexpected joys he was confronting in the wake of his son’s diagnosis with autism. The result is a remarkable piece of writing, one that explores not just what it means to be a poet, but also what it means to be alive during the Anthropocene—to be on this planet—during this extraordinary time.


The Poet's Tomb

The Poet’s Tomb
Martin Corless-Smith

Parlor Press, 2021.

The Poet’s Tomb contains five interconnecting essays that explore the idea of consciousness in poetry, tracking work from Anne Carson and Sappho to W.G.Sebald’s and artist Paul Nash’s take on Sir Thomas Browne’s Urne Buriall. Using a mixture of contemporary theory, philosophy, poetry, and art, the book explores ideas of the dichotomy of mind and body, determined to locate consciousness (the soul) and the sublime in the deictic articulations of the material. The central essay, The Poet’s Tomb, discusses the fixation of locating a poet’s body as a desire to place the uncanny “living” aspect of the poem in the body of the poet, and eventually in the place of internment. Exploring the work of poets ranging from Virgil to Alice Notley, the essay attempts to unpick the nostalgia for origins of poetic consciousness in the person of the poet and to see poetry as a communal apparatus that provides an exosomatic material realm of consciousness, something akin to Heidegger’s description of language as the house of Being.


Rhyme's Rooms

Rhyme's Rooms
By Brad Leithauser
Published by Knopf, 2022

We treasure our greatest poetry, Brad Leithauser reminds us in these pages, “not for its what but its how.” In chapters on everything from iambic pentameter to how stanzas are put together to “rhyme and the way we really talk,” Leithauser takes a deep dive into that how—the very architecture of poetry. He explains how meter and rhyme work in fruitful opposition (“Meter is prospective; rhyme is retrospective”); how the weirdnesses of spelling in English are a boon to the poet; why an off rhyme will often succeed where a perfect rhyme would not; why Shakespeare and Frost can sound so similar, despite the centuries separating them. And Leithauser is just as likely to invoke Cole Porter, Stephen Sondheim, or Boz Scaggs as he is Chaucer or Milton, Bishop or Swenson, providing enlightening play-by-plays of their memorable lines.

Here is both an indispensable learning tool and a delightful journey into the art of the poem—a chance for new poets and readers of poetry to grasp the fundamentals, and for experienced poets and readers to rediscover excellent works in all their fascinating detail.


Jersey Breaks

Jersey Breaks
Becoming an American Poet
by Robert Pinsky

"Truly the voice of the Jersey Shore." —Bruce Springsteen

In late-1940s Long Branch, a historic but run-down Jersey Shore resort town, in a neighborhood of Italian, Black, and Jewish families, Robert Pinsky began his unlikely journey to becoming a poet. Descended from a bootlegger grandfather, an athletic father, and a rebellious tomboy mother, Pinsky was an unruly but articulate high school C student, whose obsession with the rhythms and melodies of speech inspired him to write.


Thought and Poetry

Thought and Poetry
Essays on Romanticism, Subjectivity, and Truth
John Koethe

Bloomsbury Academic, 2022.

Addressing objective and subjective views of the self and the world in philosophy and poetry, this collection brings together a chronology of John Koethe's thoughts on the connections between the two forms and makes a significant contribution to unsettling the oppositions that separate them.

The essays traverse the philosophical conception of the self in modern poetry and locate connections between poets including William Wordsworth, Wallace Stevens, and John Ashbery alongside philosophers including Kant, Schopenhauer, and Wittgenstein. Koethe pays special attention to romantic poetry and notions of the sublime, which he maps onto subjective individual experience and the objective perspective on the natural world. Koethe further explores this theme in a new essay on romanticism and the sublime in relation to the mind-body problem. Using an associative and impressionistic style to write philosophically about poetry, Koethe defends his own approach that such writing cannot and should not aim for the rigor of philosophical argumentation.


Prose Poetry: An Introduction

Prose Poetry: An Introduction
Princeton University Press, 2020
Edited by Paul Hetherington and Cassandra Atherton

Prose Poetry is the first book of its kind—an engaging and authoritative introduction to the history, development, and features of English-language prose poetry, an increasingly important and popular literary form that is still too little understood and appreciated. Poets and scholars Paul Hetherington and Cassandra Atherton introduce prose poetry’s key characteristics, chart its evolution from the nineteenth century to the present, and discuss many historical and contemporary prose poems that both demonstrate their great diversity around the Anglophone world and show why they represent some of today’s most inventive writing.


Poetry's Possible Worlds

Poetry's Possible Worlds
Lesley Wheeler
Tinderbox Editions, 2022
208 pages
$ 20.00

In her debut essay collection, award-winning poet and critic Lesley Wheeler tells the story of her father’s unraveling. While she studies poetry in New Zealand on a Fulbright fellowship, his dishonesty smashes her parents’ marriage and destroys their savings. Nothing is resolved, even after his death. The past and present keep shifting.

Reading contemporary poetry helps Wheeler negotiate the crisis. Cognitive scientists use the term “literary transportation” to describe getting lost in a book—and poems can transport a person, too, not despite but because they are brief and full of gaps. Wheeler’s frank, lively essays demonstrate how traveling through a poem’s pocket universe can change people for the better.


The Knowledge: Where Poems Come From and How to Write Them

The Knowledge: Where Poems Come From and How to Write Them
by David Kirby
Flip Learning (July 29, 2021)

A five-time teaching award winner and author of 35 books, David Kirby has written a lively and inviting guide to writing poetry for college students. The Knowledge: Where Poems Come From and How to Write Them, utilizes Kirby’s hospitable, inspirational, and expert voice to help students learn the complex, playful, and meditative art form of poetry.

The book’s four sections (“How to Write a Poem,” “How to Write a Really Good Poem,” “Immortality is Within Your Grasp,” and “You Graphomaniac, You”) are staggered to gradually build student confidence and skill, and include works from over 70 poets—including Joy Harjo, Terrance Hayes, Marilyn Nelson, Franny Choi, Emily Dickinson, and Natalie Diaz—to illuminate key points and spur student reflection and writing. The Knowledge, writes Kirby, helps students craft poems the way Jimi Hendrix talked about making music—“Learn everything, forget it, and play.”

Each chapter is brimming with tips and suggestions for writing great poems and concludes with summative talking points and dozens of unique prompts to nudge students to contribute to an art form that is “thrumming with life.”

To order: click HERE.


Fishing for Lightning

Fishing for Lightning

ISBN: 9780702263378
Pages: 296

Fishing for Lightning gathers together acclaimed poet and critic Sarah Holland-Batt’s celebrated columns on Australian poetry. In fifty illuminating and lively short essays on fifty poets, Holland-Batt offers a masterclass in how to read and love poetry, opening up the music of language, form, and technique in her casual and conversational yet deeply intelligent style. From the villanelle and the verse novel, to the readymade, the remix and the sonnet, Holland-Batt’s essays delve into the richness of poetic and literary history, connecting the contemporary to the ancient.


On Becoming a Poet

On Becoming a Poet
Susan Terris, Editor
Marsh Hawk Press, Inc., 2022

25 ORIGINAL ESSAYS and INTERVIEWS. An innovative anthology of essential information about the development of the writing craft—memoirs and interviews of outstanding poets from diverse backgrounds who recall the ways by which they made their start as writers.

Contributors include Jane Hirshfield, Arthur Sze, Denise Duhamel, David Lehman, Alfred Corn, Phillip Lopate, Sheila Murphy, Mary Mackey, Indigo Moor, Kim Shuck, Philip F. Clark, Gail Newman, Basil King, Denise Low, Sandy McIntosh, Jason McCall, Geoffrey O’Brien, Lynne Thompson, Burt Kimmelman, Eileen R. Tabios, Dennis Barone, Rafael Jesús González, Tony Trigilio, Stephanie Strickland, and Julie Marie Wade.


Open Form in American Poetry

Open Form in American Poetry
by Burton Hatlen
ISBN 978-0-89101-131-6
310 pages, with 7 color plates; hardcover

"Burt Hatlen was a passionate critic, and a believer in the passion and commitments of the artists about whom he wrote. And this was an amazing list—among them Pound, Williams, Oppen, Zukofsky, Reznikoff, Rakosi, Bunting, Olson and Duncan, but also Boyle, Retallack, Stevens, Dorn, Enslin, H.D., Levertov, and Spicer. Despite being among the first people to write assiduously and systematically about the Objectivists, he always produced a 'second order' criticism—subtle, nuanced, sophisticated and deeply engaged (rather than a first order criticism of simple—if necessary—introduction and gloss). His perspicacity, accuracy, and penetration have been models for all critics who have followed his work. He was an authentic lover of poetry and of the hard poem. He was instrumental in putting writers and a whole part of U.S. poetry on the critical agenda. . . . Burt Hatlen was one of the critical minds who pioneered this field. He also brought critics and poets together to discuss poetry—while this move was not absolutely unique when he did it, it was still pioneering. We are all in his debt for the institutions he built and helped to build. . . . He did—in fact—several careers’ worth of writing, editing, thinking, and he was a major citizen of the profession, a figure of commitment and intensity.”
–from “Tribute to Burt Hatlen” by Rachel Blau DuPlessis, Professor Emerita, Temple University, published in PAIDEUMA 40 / SAGETRIEB 20

Scholar, poet, and professor Burton Hatlen (1936–2008) taught at the University of Maine for many years. He also was the Director of the National Poetry Foundation, where he oversaw its long list of book and journal publications, including editing the ground-breaking collection, George Oppen, Man and Poet. Although Professor Hatlen’s scholarly writing and poetics were well-known through his many essays in literary journals, he never compiled a volume of his own essays, always anticipating a new area of research with new insights. Open Form in American Poetry is thus the first published one-author collection of Burton Hatlen’s scholarly writing.

Student and lifelong friend of Burton Hatlen, poet Bruce Holsapple earned a PhD from SUNY Buffalo. He worked for many years as a speech-language pathologist in central New Mexico. He is the author of seven books of poetry, the most recent, Wayward Shadow, published by La Alameda Press. Holsapple is also the author of the award-winning study, The Birth of the Imagination; William Carlos Williams on Form, published by the University of New Mexico Press.


Library of Small Happiness

Library of Small Happiness
Leslie Ullman
ISBN: 978-0-9972011-2-3
3: A Taos Press, 2017

In acclaimed poet Leslie Ullman’s fifth and newest book, she offers a glorious hybrid collection of essays, poems, and writing exercises. Inviting writers and serious readers into the spaces poetry can open up around us and inside us, Library Of Small Happiness focuses on aspects of craft while embracing a holistic approach that makes accessible the unique intelligence of poetry. The essay section of the book addresses subjects such as the interactive role between silence and utterance, finding the center of a poem, and the Golden Spiral as it applies to the structure of a work and the process of its creation. The exercise section offers prompts that can be used by writers, teachers, and students to generate surprising language, fresh imagery, and innovative territories for crafting poems.


Vertical Art

A Vertical Art
Simon Armitage

A Vertical Art gathers the expansive and spirited public lectures delivered by Simon Armitage during his acclaimed four-year tenure as Oxford University Professor of Poetry. Armitage tries to identify a ‘common sense’ approach to an artform that can lend itself to grand statements and vacuous gestures, questioning both the facile and obscure ends of the poetry spectrum, asserting certain fundamental qualities that separate the genre from near-neighbours such as prose and song lyrics, examining who poetry is written for and its values and use in contemporary society. Above all, these are personal essays that enquire into the volatile and disputed definitions of poetry from the point of view of a dedicated reader, a practising writer and a lifelong champion of its power and potential.


Subjects in Poetry

Subjects in Poetry
by Daniel Brown
Louisiana State University Press
160 pages / Paperback / 9780807176092 / November 2021

Daniel Brown’s Subjects in Poetry is the first book to examine the broad and imposing topic of poetic subject matter, probing both what poems are about and how that influences their content. It comprises one poet’s attempt to plumb the nature of his art, to ask how the selection of material remains a crucial yet unexplored area of poetic craft, and to suggest the vast range of possible subjects for poems.

The book begins by venturing a novel definition of “subject,” derived from Robert Frost’s dictum that poetry constitutes an “art of having something to say.” Brown posits that a poem can say something by expressing, evoking, or addressing. He considers each of these ways-of-saying in turn, first defining it and then looking at poems in which it predominates. Brown next makes a wide-ranging case for the value of subjects to poems, poets, and the art of poetry, especially at a time when many poems appear subjectless. He concludes the book with practical guidance on finding subjects, improving them, and realizing their potential.

Replete with thoughtful readings of poems both classic and contemporary, Subjects in Poetry should appeal to poets across all levels and readers interested in understanding the art and practice of poetry.


How to Start Writing (and When to Stop)

How to Start Writing (and When to Stop)
by Wisława Szymborska
Translated from the Polish by Clare Cavanagh

In this witty “how-to” guide, Wisława Szymborska has nothing but sympathy for the labors of would-be writers generally: “I myself started out with rotten poetry and stories,” she confesses in this collection of pieces culled from the advice she gave—anonymously—for many years in the well-known Polish journal Literary Life.

She returns time and again to the mundane business of writing poetry properly, that is to say, painstakingly and sparingly. “I sigh to be a poet,” Miss A. P. from Bialogard exclaims. “I groan to be an editor,” Szymborska responds.

Szymborska stubbornly insists on poetry’s “prosaic side”: “Let’s take the wings off and try writing on foot, shall we?” This delightful compilation, translated by the peerless Clare Cavanagh, will delight readers and writers alike.
Perhaps you could learn to love in prose.


Beginnings Of the Prose Poem

Beginnings of the Prose Poem-All Over the Place
Edited by Mary Ann Caws and Michel Delville

Paperback, 155 pages
Published March 7th 2021 by Black Widow Press

With its very title and its form based on contradiction, the prose poem is suitable to an extraordinary range of perception and expression, from the ambivalent (in content as in form) to the mimetic and the narrative (or even anecdotal). It has been suggested that the prose poem, like its not-so-distant cousin, free verse, was born in France out of a sense of frustration with the strict rules of 18th-century French neoclassicism. If so, these rules are to be thanked since the prose poem occasions even now a rapidly increasing interest. For the vast majority of poets and critics, its principal characteristics are those that would insure unity even in epiphanic brevity and poetic quality even without the line breaks of free verse: high patterning, rhythmic and figural repetition, sustained intensity, and compactness.

We are hoping that the readers of this anthology will both encounter something new, and feel inspired to remember other texts admired and loved, perhaps more poetically than prosaically. Even as the prose poem occupies a controversial space, hovering between genres, its reach is vast, as is the selection here from Blake in the late 18th century to Kharms in the 1920s. The multiply diverse tones range from the ironic and sharp-witted to a lyric flow, and the poets, from the more familiar to the less so, from the occidental to the oriental, from the expected, like the cubist prose poets Jacob and Reverdy, and from the well-known writers, like Colette, Wilde, Rilke, and Kafka, to the less expected: novelists like Joyce and Woolf, and the lesser-known in a joyous mixture of voices. —from the Introduction by Mary Ann Caws and Michel Delville


Seen From All Sides

Seen From All Sides: Lyric and Everyday Life
by Sydney Lea
Green Writers Press, 2021

This book is a compendium of newspaper columns Sydney Lea composed in his tenure as Vermont Poet Laureate. He says he hopes these columns will continue to be of interest to poetry lovers and students, but above all to the common reader. Seeking at every turn to avoid jargon, he explores how the making of a poet’s art resembles the making of any reader’s life. For Lea, poetry and everyday life are deeply entangled.


The Dharma of Poetry

The Dharma of Poetry
How Poems Can Deepen Your Spiritual Practice and Open You to Joy
by John Brehm

In The Dharma of Poetry, John Brehm shows how poems can open up new ways of thinking, feeling, and being in the world. Brehm demonstrates the practice of mindfully entering a poem, with an alertness, curiosity, and open-hearted responsiveness very much like the attention we cultivate in meditation. Complete with poetry-related meditations and writing prompts, this collection of lively, elegantly written essays can be read as a standalone book or as a companion to the author’s acclaimed anthology The Poetry of Impermanence, Mindfulness, and Joy.


Next Word, Better Word

The Craft of Writing Poetry
Stephen Dobyns

St. Martin's Griffin, 2011, 288 pages.

This accessible writer's guide provides a helpful framework for creating poetry and navigates contemporary concerns and practices. Stephen Dobyns, author of the classic book on the beauty of poetry, Best Words, Best Order, moves into new terrain in this remarkable book. Bringing years of experience to bear on issues such as subject matter, the mechanics of poetry, and the revision process, Dobyns explores the complex relationship between writers and their work. From Philip Larkin to Pablo Neruda to William Butler Yeats, every chapter reveals useful lessons in these renowned poets' work. Both enlightening and encouraging, Next Word, Better Word demystifies a subtle art form and shows writers how to overcome obstacles in the creative process.


Red Comet

Red Comet: The Short Life and Blazing Art of Sylvia Plath
by Heather Clark
Knopf Publishing Group, 2020
Hardcover, 1152 pages

The highly anticipated new biography of Sylvia Plath that focuses on her remarkable literary and intellectual achievements, while restoring the woman behind the long-held myths about her life and art. With a wealth of never-before-accessed materials--including unpublished letters and manuscripts; court, police, and psychiatric records; and new interviews--Heather Clark brings to life the brilliant daughter of Wellesley, Massachusetts who had poetic ambition from a very young age and was an accomplished, published writer of poems and stories even before she became a star English student at Smith College in the early 1950s.

Determined not to read Plath's work as if her every act, from childhood on, was a harbinger of her tragic fate, Clark evokes a culture in transition, in the shadow of the atom bomb and the Holocaust, as she explores Plath's world: her early relationships and determination not to become a conventional woman and wife; her conflicted ties to her well-meaning, widowed mother; her troubles at the hands of an unenlightened mental-health industry; her Cambridge years and thunderclap meeting with Ted Hughes, a marriage of true minds that would change the course of poetry in English; and much more.


Into a Light Both Brilliant and Unseen

Into a Light Both Brilliant and Unseen
Conversations with Contemporary Black Poets
Edited by Malin Pereira

This volume includes unpublished interviews Pereira conducted with Wanda Coleman, Yusef Komunyakaa, Thylias Moss, Harryette Mullen, Cornelius Eady, and Elizabeth Alexander, as well as conversations with Rita Dove and Cyrus Cassells previously in print. Largely published since 1980, each of these poets has at least four books. Their influence on new generations of poets has been wide-reaching.

The work of this group, says Pereira, is a departure from the previous generation's proscriptive manifestos in favor of more inclusive voices, perspectives, and techniques. Although these poets reject a rigid adherence to a specific black aesthetic, their work just as effectively probes racism, stereotyping, and racial politics. Unlike Amiri Baraka's claim in "Home" that he becomes blacker and blacker, positioning race as a defining essence, these poets imagine a plurality of ideas about the relationship between blackness and black poetry. They question the idea of an established literary canon defining black literature. For these poets, Pereira says, the idea of "home" is found both in black poetry circles and in the wider transnational community of literature.


The Craft of Poetry

The Craft of Poetry: A Primer in Verse
by Lucy Newlyn

A wonderfully accessible handbook to the art of writing and reading poetry—itself written entirely in verse.

How does poetry work? What should readers notice and look out for? Poet Lucy Newlyn demystifies the principles of the form, effortlessly illustrating key approaches and terms—all through her own original verse. Each poem exemplifies an aspect of poetic craft—but read together they suggest how poetry can evoke a whole community and its way of life in myriad ways.

In a series of beautiful meditations, Newlyn guides the reader through key aspects of poetry, from sonnets and haiku to volta and synecdoche. Avoiding glosses and notes, her poems are allowed to speak for themselves, and show that there are no limits to what poetry can communicate. Newlyn’s timeless verse will appeal to lovers of poetry as well as to practitioners, teachers, and students of all ages.


The Lyric Now

The Lyric Now

128 pages | Paper $18.00
ISBN: 9780226716046
University of Chicago Press, 2020

In poet and critic James Longenbach’s title, the word “now” does double duty, evoking both a lyric sense of the present and twentieth-century writers’ assertion of “nowness” as they crafted their poetry in the wake of Modernism. Longenbach examines the fruitfulness of poetic repetition and indecision, of naming and renaming, and of the evolving search for newness in the construction, history, and life of lyrics. Looking to the work of thirteen poets, from Marianne Moore and T. S. Eliot through George Oppen and Jorie Graham to Carl Phillips and Sally Keith, and several musicians, including Virgil Thomson and Patti Smith, he shows how immediacy is constructed through language. Longenbach also considers the life and times of these poets, taking a close look at the syntax and diction of poetry, and offers an original look at the nowness of lyrics.


Max Jacob

Max Jacob
A Life in Art and Letters
by Rosanna Warren
Norton, 2021 ISBN: 978-0-393-07885-5

A comprehensive and moving biography of Max Jacob, a brilliant cubist poet who lived at the margins of fame.

More than thirty years in the making, this landmark biography offers a compelling, tragic portrait of Jacob as a man and as an artist alongside a rich study of his groundbreaking poetry—in Warren’s own stunning translations. Max Jacob is a nuanced, deeply researched, and essential contribution to Modernist scholarship.


The Power of Adrienne Rich

The Power of Adrienne Rich
By Hilary Holladay
Hardcover | $32.50
Nov 17, 2020 | 496 Pages
ISBN 9780385541503

The first comprehensive biography of Adrienne Rich, feminist and queer icon and internationally revered National Book Award winning poet.