Sunday, January 28, 2007

Is it too late to say Happy New Year? I am going to do it anyway: Best wishes for a creative, productive and fun year ahead. Mine has started out wonderfully:

Witter Bynner Poetry Translation Residency
I am honored to receive a 2007 Witter Bynner Poetry Translation Residency from the Santa Fe Arts Institute (SFAI). The award will let me travel to Santa Fe in the fall to translate Hélène Sanguinetti’s latest work, Le Héros (Flammarion, 2008). SFAI brings together emerging writers with artists such as John Baldessari, Elizabeth Murray and Laurie Anderson to create engaging residencies and community outreach. Everyone seems to call Santa Fe "magical." If you have any must-dos or must-sees, please let me know!

Homophonic Translation
Poet and teacher Kevin Pilkington often gives students a poem in another language and asks them to "translate" it based on its sounds. This is the idea behind Circumference’s Homophonic Feature. In Circumference 5, you can read my take on a Polish poem. The exercise is a freeing one and even I was surprised with what emerged.

Meg Lindsay at Sarah Lawrence Library
Abstract painter and poet Meg Lindsay’s paintings—a menagerie of sheep, owls, dragonflies and dogs—take images we recognize and make them electric with color. The more she cuts loose with big brushstrokes, the more extraordinary her work: You can see the vivid influence of her teacher, colorist Wolf Kahn. My favorites: "Progression of Three Owls in Orange", "Mystic Triangles" and "The Hudson Seen Through Slender Tree Trunks." Through March 3lst.

Toadlily Press Reading at HVWC
The Hudson Valley Writers Center is hosting a Toadlily Press reading on Friday, February 9, at 7:30pm. Toadlily poets such as Myrna Goodman will read, followed by a reception. You might also catch a beautiful nighttime view of the Hudson. The Hudson Valley Writers Center is located in the restored Phillips Manor RR Station, 300 Riverside Drive, Sleepy Hollow, NY. (914) 332-5953.

Greenburgh’s Poet Laureate on airwaves tomorrow
Brenda Connor-Bey will be on WVOX, 1460 AM, on Monday morning, 11 a.m. or on the live web stream at

More great stuff from Poetz
Kudos also to Jackie Sheeler, the Poet Laureate of Riker’s Island, for her informative and generous e-newsletter which is chockfull of opportunities, readings and contests for poets. Sign up at

How to create a poetry book
Thanks to Linda Simone—and congratulations on winning Special Recognition in the 2006 Helen Schaible Shakespearean/Petrarchan Sonnet Contest—for giving me Ordering the Storm: How to Put Together a Book of Poems (Cleveland State University, 2006), edited by Susan Grimm. This essay collection illuminates the murky science of book-making—such as Wanda Coleman’s revelation that Sci-Fi anthologies serve as her blueprint. I am enjoying many asides on the poet’s path: What we artists want to do more than anything else, says Liz Rosenberg, is to "become most perfectly ourselves".

Book reviews
Cole, Henri. Middle Earth (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2003). Cole explores familial memories by balancing delicate lyricism and concrete image. In "Swans," he recalls scattering his father’s ashes which, "we flung hard/into the green water slapping against the pier" and later remembers "being a sunburned boy napping between hairy legs." The flash of memory intrudes on the poem much like it does in thinking. I like his family remembrances best and sometimes feel the monotonal voice of other poems strays dangerously close to Jack Handey.

Glück, Louise. Averno (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2006). A critic described this book as a masterpiece and I agree: Glück ties together the Persephone myth, her own familial mythology and philosophical inquiry—all in her famous casual tone. As you may recall, Persephone was abducted by the god of death from a field. In "Persephone the Wanderer," Glück dares to ask, "What will you do/when it is your turn in the field with the god?" She also turns the myth upside down by suggesting Persephone’s true prison was not Hades—but her relationship with her mother.

Kalytiak-Davis, Olena. And Her Soul Out of Nothing (University of Wisconsin Press, 1997). Many recommended this book, and I was not disappointed: Kalytiak-Davis juxtaposes original metaphors with calculated space in between: The pleasure is in the delightful turns of thought. In "The Scaffolding Inside You", she writes "Your thoughts have hung themselves from nails/like work shirts." Toward the back, most likely earlier work doesn’t achieve the magic of the front poems: Even this is instructive in terms of understanding a poet’s evolution.

Skloot, Floyd. The End of Dreams (Louisiana State Press, 2006). If you’re like me, you may get fed up with all the lyric narrative out there. I want to shout, even about my own poems, "Enough already!" Skloot gets dispensation: Here is someone who handles it well. I love when he writes about artistic giants such as Bach and Cézanne. A poem to cherish is "Whitman Pinch Hits, 1861" about the poet watching, then joining, a baseball game played by a group of young men:

[…] and he came toward them like a bather moving through
thigh-high breakers, time stopping and then
turning back
letting him loose at last amid the spirits that greeted him
as the boys pounded his back, as they turned him around
and shoved him toward the field [….]

I leave you with this lovely image of the great poet. As Whitman did, may you become—through your art—"most perfectly yourself."