Friday, March 07, 2008

 

PEN America
is trying to get
China
to free nearly 40 writers
rounded up in advance of
this year’s Olympics

You can help:

Sign the petition to the Chinese government

Sign the petition to the U.S. Congress

Sign up to receive updates & breaking campaign news

Information on 38 currently imprisoned writers
(plus four others already released)
with actions you can take
to help each
are on the Penn American Center site!

Penn’s letter to the Chinese government

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Thursday, March 06, 2008

 

The Children
by Philip Whalen & Aram Saroyan

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Linh Dinh, talking with Charles Alexander (MP3)

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Becoming collected:
the emerging collected works of
Jack Spicer, Robert Duncan, Barbara Guest & Robert Creeley

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David Lau on John Ashbery

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Jean Valentine is the New York State Poet

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Elaine Equi & Jean Valentine
among finalists for LA Times Book Award

Erin Mouré, C. Dale Young & Cole Swensen
are among many finalists in poetry
at ForeWord’s Book of the Year Awards

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Alan Davies on Michael Gottlieb

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Michael Dirda on Roberto Bolaño

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The question of book thieves

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Designs for the Bush Presidential Library

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Aestheticism & anxiety in the arts

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Michael Scharf on Stacy Doris

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Julio Cortázar & the poetics of exile

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Tom Pickard’s Ballad of Jamie Allen

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Josef Kaplan on Jeffrey Jullich

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Reading Stephen Burt
reading Robert Creeley

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our most thrilling poet

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Tisa Bryant on President of the United Hearts

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Is Things Fall Apart “immortal”?

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Allen Grossman, poet’s poet

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“Like the Beatles, Beach Boys &
Diana Ross and the Supremes
rolled into one…”

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Yoshimoto Taka’aki’s What is Beauty for Language?

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Who wrote Emily Bronte’s poems?

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Talking with Paul Muldoon

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The Complete Poetry of Jack London

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Charles Shere on
the shock of recognition

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Talking with Orhan Pamuk

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Edward Limonov:
the poet-politician opposing Putin

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Bookshelves for a post-literate world

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War Papers: Poems 2
compiled by Halvard Johnson

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Four texts by Brenda Hillman

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Was Shakespeare a poet who wrote plays,
a playwright who wrote poems,
or a pornographer who wrote both?

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Everyman’s Library recalled

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Malaysia’s first ever slam

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The shop floor poetics of Lisa Beatman

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Boyd Spahr’s The Julias

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Thomas Lux God Particles

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Talking with Bruno Latour

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Being judgmental

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The dark Larkin

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Li-Young Lee & octogenarian poetics

Li-Young Lee on the PBS News Hour

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Nikki Giovanni reads
in a wine shop in
Vacaville

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Restoring the artwork of e.e. cummings

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Robert Frost’s Collected Prose

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Talking with R. Reuben Appelman

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John Rybicki’s We Bed Down in Water

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The scene in Willow Glen

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Penguin audiobooks to drop © protection

§

Cowboy poets in Lewiston, Idaho

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Bradford, Yorkshire gets a poet laureate

“I…have been asked not to be negative

§

Simin Behbahani
wins a prize for Persian literature
from Stanford

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Billy Collins: English majors are
majoring in death

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AWP redux

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Poetry, narrative, database

Plus more on datapoetics

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John Rechy, 45 years after
City of
Night

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Is literary sex always bad?

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Emily Apter: What is translation?

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Text in social networking websites

Social networks are like the eye

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What’s in a newspaper?

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Nicholson Baker on Wikipedia

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More consequences than love here

Is it a mode of slumming?

The why of it

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Rambling with Richard Serra

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Walt Disney vs. Claes Oldenburg & Coosje van Bruggen

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Another Dia director bites the dust

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The future (if any) of Spiral Jetty

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The mystery of music

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John Zorn’s critique of the critics

Two possible responses

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Make it newish

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Merce Cunningham without dance

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The LA Times drops dance criticism

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Another take on Shen Wei Dance Arts

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Foucault Beyond Foucault

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Can culture save Cleveland?

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An election where the arts matter?

§

Rem Koolhaas utopia on the water

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The architecture critic is a star

§

A tip of the wing to
Sustainable Aircraft,
the terrific new critical ezine

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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

 

Recently Received

 

Books (Poetry)

Marianne Boruch, Grace, Fallen From, Wesleyan University Press, Middletown, CT, 2008

Elena Karina Byrne, Masque, Tupelo Press, Dorset, VT, 2008

Thomas Fink, Clarity and Other Poems, Marsh Hawk Press, East Rockaway, NY, 2008

Franco Loi, Air and Memory, translated by Andrew Frisardi, Counterpath Press, Boulder, CO 2008.

Johannes Göransson, A New Quarantine Will Take My Place, Apostrophe, Johnson City, TN & Jersey City, NJ 2008

Hillary Gravendyk, The Naturalist, Achiote Press, Berkeley, 2008

Anthony Hawley, Autobiography / Oughtabiography, Counterpath Press, Boulder, 2008

Richard Krech, In Chambers: The Bodhisattva of the Public Defender’s Office, Sunnyoutside, Buffalo, 2008

C. J. Martin, Lo, Bittern, Atticus Finch Books, Buffalo 2008

Kristi Maxwell, Realm Sixty-Four, Ahsahta Press, Boise State University, Boise 2008

Ben Mazer, The Foundations of Poetry Mathematics, Cannibal Books, Brooklyn 2008.

Raymond McDaniel, Saltwater Empire, Coffee House Press, Minneapolis, 2008

Rusty Morrison, The True Keeps Calm Biding Its Story, Ahsahta Press, Boise State University, Boise 2008

Patrick Pritchett, Antiphonal, Pressed Wafer, Boston 2008

Christopher William Purdom, too many chairs on the grass green hill, 226 Press, no location given, 2008

Chad Reynolds, Victor in the New World, Rope-a-Dope Press, Boston 2008

Lola Ridge, Light in Hand: Selected Early Poems, edited by Daniel Tobin, Quale Press, Florence, MA 2008

Tomaž Šalamun, Woods and Chalices, translated by Brian Henry, Harcourt, Orlando, Austin, New York, San Diego, London 2008

Morgan Lucas Schuldt, Verge, Parlor Press, West Lafayette, IN 2007

Paul Siegell, Poemergency Room, Otoliths, Rockhampton, Australia, 2008

Dale Smith, Susquehanna, Punch Press, Buffalo, 2008

Frank Barry Smith, Pop Smoke & Pray, LRS X Press, San Francisco, 2008.

Cole Swensen, Ours, University of California Press, Berkeley, 2008

Lewis Warsh, Inseparable: Poems 1995-2005, Granary Books, New York 2008

 

Books (Other)

Oisίn Curran, Mopus, Counterpath Press, Boulder, CO 2008.

G. Emil Reutter, Broken Shells & Hope, StoneGarden.net Publishing, Danville, CA 2008

Wade Savitt, March-and-Fiesta: Four Short Plays, Green Zone, Brooklyn 2008

Arianne Zwartjes, (Stitched) A Surface Opens, New Michigan Press, Grand Rapids, 2008.

 

Journals

A Sing Economy, flim forum press. Slingerlands, NY, 2008. Includes Kate Schapira, Barrett Gordon, Jennifer Karmin, Stephanie Strickland, Mathew Timmons, Kaethe Schwehn, Harolod Abramowitz & Amanda Ackerman, Jessica Smith, David Pavelich, Laura Sims, Michael Slosek, Keven Thurston, a. rawlings & françois luong, more.

Low Rent, no. 1, no location given, 2008. Includes Trevor J. Houser, Tracy Jo Barnwell, Marc McKee, Ciaran Berry

Obsidian, vol. 7, no. 2, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC, 2007. Jay Wright feature. Includes Afaa Weaver, Lenard D. Moore, Colie Hoffman, Kegura Macharia, Tim Botta, Reginald Betts, Tyrone Jones, more.

Work, no. 1, Oakland, CA 2008. Includes Rodney Koeneke, Samantha Giles, Ariel Goldberg, Chris Stroffolino, Spencer Selby & Liu Shasha.

 

Other Formats

John King, Atkinson Gallery, Santa Barbara City College, Santa Barbara, CA 2008, text by Bill Corbett.

Richard Krech, 3, Meat Broadside No. 4, Rose of Sharon Press, Los Angeles 2008

 

 

Just a few more of the items received since January 11
-- to be continued

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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

 

Early this evening, I will wend my way over to The University of Pennsylvania to help record the eighth PoemTalk, a series of podcasts jointly sponsored by the Poetry Foundation, Kelly Writers House & PennSound. The show’s host is Al Filreis and I know that Rachel Blau DuPlessis & Charles Bernstein will be other discussants. I’m not sure exactly who else will be there or just how long we can go on. One of the advantages of the web as format is that it need not be always quite as rigid as broadcast radio in its time constraints, tho otherwise a lot of the same dynamics apply. The programs I’ve heard thus far easily would fit into a half-hour radio spot. And Al functions as a very active moderator, probing with question after question after question. It’s remarkable how much can be said in the time given once any dead air is edited away.

The premise of the show is simple. A group of readers, predominantly poets, close read a text. To date, there have been shows on poems by William Carlos Williams, Adrienne Rich & George Oppen. Allen Ginsberg singing William Blake went up on the PoemTalk site just yesterday. Others are “in the can,” I guess, and working their way to audiocast: Ted Berrigan, a Jaap Blonk sound poem & something by Jerry Rothenberg. An Ashbery text is also on the horizon, but has not yet been brought into the studio. An interesting mix albeit still completely white & very male.

Each poem is read by the poet in question as part of PennSound’s voluminous archives of modern and contemporary poets. Indeed, if you listen to the Oppen show, you will hear Oppen reading lines over & over as the poets hone in on the meaning of this word, that nuance. In another show, the respondents go so far as to criticize Williams’ own “easy” style of reading – they use two separate recordings of the same poem – which tended to remove moments of multiple meaning.

Our text for this evening – it’s no secret – is Rae Armantrout’s “The Way,” from Veil:

Card in pew pocket
announces
”I am here.”

I made only one statement
because of a bad winter.

Grease is the word, grease
is the way

I am feeling.
Real life emergencies or

flubbing behind the scenes.


As a child,
I was abandoned

in a story
made of trees.

Here’s a small
gasp

of this clearing
come “upon” “again”

You can hear Rae read the poem here, and discuss it here. You should really hear Rae’s own take, which is both straightforward & remarkable for all that it doesn’t say. The text, as she describes it, proceeds by gathering together four seemingly arbitrary elements, which are then followed by two comments of her own.

But I don’t think that’s how we read it all. Armantrout is that most curious of language writers – the post-avant whose work has been accepted in such pre- or even anti-avant venues as The New Yorker without sacrificing its fundamentally radical nature.¹ This poem is a good example of how she manages this, and of how the parsimony principle functions in contemporary poetics in general. That principle, a term borrowed from cognitive linguistics, argues that readers will invariably seek out an interpretation that connects the dots, so to speak, in the simplest conceivable manner. I demonstrate how the effect works in The New Sentence, using as it happens a passage from an earlier poem by Armantrout, “Grace”:

a spring there
where his entry must be made

signals him on

The first section of a short, three-part poem, it’s always instructive to go about a class, asking people “what this means.” Almost always, readers respond with some narrative configuration that “explains” each of the parts. The most common, I’ve found, seem to entail theater and diving. In the former, the reader envisions an actor about to go onstage, taking a step into character. In the latter, the spring is literally that of a diving board. Neither construction is wrong (tho neither is the author’s own, either), but how one reads what then follows must flow from this first interpretation.

Armantrout wrote “Grace” over three decades ago. “The Way,” which was written around 2000, shows how she has grown more comfortable over time with indeterminacy & disjunction. In some ways, this new poem functions not unlike a David Salle painting with five or six major images set beside one another that may not seem “apparent” in their junctures. A lot of this, I think, will have to do with how the reader takes that most crucial of shifters, the word I. It occurs four times in the text, only once according to the author in anything akin to her own voice. Yet I think it is impossible not to hear it pulling the text’s elements together, even as we know – it is “obvious” – that in the first instance I literally figures the Lord, albeit one reduced to a pew card tag line. Armantrout goes so far as to revise her appropriation of Frankie Valli’s lyrics from the title song for Grease to bring in the first person singular.

To see how the I in the poem (pun intended) functions, it’s useful to look at the two places where it does not appear. The first two sentences are coterminous with their stanzas, setting up a stanza = sentence expectation that is then broken with the way Armantrout then continues onward with couplets – with one notable exception – so that the third sentence continues on past “its” stanza, a third line setting up what I think of as the poem’s “hinge.” In both of the first two stanzas, the word I appears at formally critical moments – first word of the last line, first word of the first line. But it doesn’t appear at all in the third stanza tho it does in third sentence. Thus the third I simultaneously functions as the first word of the sentence’s last line & the first word of the new stanza’s first line. Double whammy.

Then, in the fourth sentence – again bridging stanzas – the word suddenly is entirely absent as is any main verb. What we get are two parallel noun phrases – Real life emergencies, flubbing behind the scenes. The two items are hardly equivalent. The first sounds urgent, even threatening, the latter comic – I don’t see how it can’t possibly call up the I of the first sentence & equate it with the character of the wizard from Oz, but that’s my own interpretive supplement here, how I personally hear it. But without an I & lacking a main verb, this sentence, which begins in the middle of a couplet & ends with its last line dangling on its own, feels profoundly static. That stasis is at least partly due to the absence of a primary verb, but I think we are set up by Armantrout to hear it principally as the absence of the I.

And that solo line, all by its lonesome? It functions, I think, as a clearing – the only moment in the poem in which any phrase is given its own stanza. Thus it foretells what happens narratively two sentences later. One might make the argument that the key word in this text is not I but flubbing. A very Armantrout term.

The second half of the poem proceeds very differently. Each sentence is two couplets long, each feels personal, each narratively feels as tho it follows. The flow is completely different. The connections between sentences, which seemed angular or disjunct before, feel much smoother. In the first sentence, the I occurs as the first word of the last line of the first stanza. The second stanza is again devoid of an I, but it doesn’t feel like an absence. It is, in fact, only the second couplet in which this happens in the text. The first time reading this poem, we might not even be aware yet that we have already passed the first person singular for the last time here.

The last sentence is thus the second one without an I. It is also the most depictive sentence in the text, carrying forward the image of trees from the prior couplet (where it is clear that the trees are figurative rather than figured). The key term here, tho, is the least literal – gasp – a unit of breath – gasp / of this clearing. No matter how many times I read this stanza, this sentence, this poem, that word always feels to me like a version of I, tho in reality what is being described would seem to be the clearing itself. This equation of subvocalic breath with I is, to my ear, the ultimate “move” being made here. It returns us to the god in the pamphlet of the first stanza, but this time inside out. I also think that the subvocalic is what is being signaled by those very Alice Notley-esque quotation marks in the final line, a double consciousness inhabiting each word precisely because it is double.

There is a lot more to be said about this poem, some of which I may or may not get to say “on air” later today. One of the poem’s mysteries for me is the word trees. It signals not only fairy tales – Rae Armantrout as Gretel or some such – but the idea of wood pulp & books. To my ear, it also invokes the word threes. I don’t see any good “justification” for this, but I’ve never been able to shake that reading, perhaps because it points back to my sense of the poem’s first half as fitting together more in the manner of a collage (tho in actuality it is four elements, albeit with three of the first person singular). That slippage, from trees to threes is, again to my own ear, yet another dimension of the word gasps in the next stanza.

Yet another aspect to this poem as pure craft is how long ē sounds – Grease, feeling, emergencies, scenes, trees – all bind the middle of this text. The sound is not present at all in the first two stanzas, nor the last two, but clearly dominates those three interior sentences. It’s a small detail, but one of those elements that shows the degree to which Armantrout controls what on other levels could look (or sound) to be a very disjunct text.

Having said all this, what I don’t know – have no clue about – is what I’ll say tonight. It will be fun to find out. To hear what others have to say. And to see if I still think & feel this same way about this poem tomorrow.

 

¹ Thus see Stephen Burt’s discussion of Armantrout in The Boston Review about which he notes, of “The Way,” that “Armantrout can sound less like other ‘Language writers’ than like an improbably terse stand-up comic.”

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Monday, March 03, 2008

 

A festschrift for Phil Whalen’s Collected Poems

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Barrett Watten on Lytle Shaw’s Frank O’Hara

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Talking with Ken Edwards

Edwards’ No Public Language:
Selected Poems 1975 – 1995

Edwards’ “UK Small Press Publishing Since 1960

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A history of the Bolinas scene, 1967-1980

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Reginald Shepherd thinking (at length)
about categories & implications

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70 million tune in
to Million’s Poet finale

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The man who begat
William Burroughs & Kathy Acker?

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Several responses to Kitasono Katue’s
Oceans Beyond Monotonous Space

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The St. Marks’ Poetry Project
has begun archiving
its Newsletter online

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A profile of Terry Ehret

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Eléna Rivera’s In Respect of Distance

In Respect of Distance (PDF)

Rivera reading the text (MP3)

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The poems of John Newlove, Robin Skelton
& Fraser Sutherland

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A profile of Staceyann Chin

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Poets & fish

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Pinsky quits Poet’s Choice

Mary Karr takes over

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The strangest list ever on which to find Robert Frost

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An Anthology of Bay Area Women Writers
(Part I)

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Pound’s birthplace

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A “poetry partner” for Philip Glass

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A profile of Shihan

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Bringing the bookstore into the curriculum

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Today’s death-of-a-bookstore article
comes from Vineland, NY

The end is near in Putney, VT

& more about Dutton’s in Brentwood

& then there’s Las Vegas

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Abandoning print, keeping peer review

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No tears for the Quill Awards

§

The center of the universe

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Mahmoud Darwish’s Now, As You Awaken

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Robert Crawford’s Full Volume

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War and Peace by e-mail

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Responding to d.a. levy

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On discovering Patrick Kavanagh

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The Freudian poetics of
Promad Kumar Mohanty

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Republican appoints Robert Bly
Minnesota Poet Laureate

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Looking for more political poetry
on op-ed pages

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Ask Nabokov

§

Robert Lowell at 91

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Against professionalism in the arts

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Why creative writing classes suck

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What are the best short poems?

§

Crime writers worth reading

§

A theory of bookshelves

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The importance of not writing

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What should boys read?

§

Reading:what’s that?

§

Horton hears an online profit?

§

Hey, why aren’t we following the screenwriters?

§

The bard of West Hollywood

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Talking with Campbell McGrath

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Poet campaigns for patron

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Hippos on Holiday

§

What is a number?

§

Jane Dalrymple-Hollo’s
game without rules

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A farewell to feminism?

§

Krens quits the Guggie

Krensoverstayed his welcome

§

Art consultants & their clients

§

Touring Chelsea

§

The eclipse of Bach

§

Amusia

Oliver Sacks on amusia

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Scrabble with Stephen Malkmus

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TEDblog

§

Daniel Libeskind’s patrons

§

The New College death spiral
moves toward an end

The WASC Commission Report (PDF)

§

Some exaggeration may have occurred

§

Metaphor Fest

Plus a masters in metaphor

§

Buddy Miles c’est mort

§

Many links today
from the new
& truly terrific
Big Bridge

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