Monthly Archives: February 2012

The Focus Gate Opens: Reflections on Jane Hirschfield’s “Poetry and the Mind of Concentration”

My peers and professors kept recommending Jane Hirschfield’s Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry to me, and with this class I found the ideal exploration space for this collection of essays. I read Susan Stewart’s Poetry and the Fate of the Senses previously, which she wrote in a density close to that of black holes, as well as Stephen Dunn’s Best Words, Best Order, written in a more clear diction. Maybe one reason for putting off Hirschfield’s book was the concern that it would approach Stewart’s complexity as opposed to Dunn’s clarity. I do not shy away from complex theory, I enjoy it, but find that along with that complexity comes a requirement for time spent contemplating. Continue reading

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“So brutal and alive it seemed to comprehend us back.”

I first ran into Tracy K. Smith’s collection Life on Mars through a National Public Radio interview. It fascinated me that there was a poet writing a collection that seemed in the vein of what I want to produce for my thesis, and I immediately ordered it. As an investigation of the human in the face of grief, it is excellent; as an investigation of humanity’s place in the universe, it is a little bit disappointing. While Smith does interrogate a human understanding of life and death, and the process of coming to terms with dying, the collection is much more centered on that issue than the questions I am interested in. These questions aside, there are a couple of poems which question the human locus within the universe, and it is these poems (“Sci-Fi” and “My God, it’s Full of Stars”) I would like to examine more closely here. “Sci-Fi” polishes up the crystal ball and looks into a future of humanity, while “My God, it’s Full of Stars” investigates the question of life elsewhere in the universe, our relationship to it, and concludes with Nietzsche’s abyss staring right back at us. These two particular poems intrigue me because they remain grounded in a perspective from the human-scale viewpoint; it could reasonably be argued that the group of poems I am pursuing currently lacks this perspective. Continue reading

After Reading Sam Hamill’s “The Necessity to Speak”

As poets, as writers, as humans, we cannot afford to ignore the terrifying injustices that proceed around us every day. It may be complacency which drives the majority of our human peers to continue living as though these terrors were simply nightmares – shadows driven by overactive imagination. Or it may be fear of falling through the cultural systems we have developed to a space in which they cannot ignore these crimes we perpetrate against one another – the systems do not kindly treat outliers. A life constantly confronted and challenged by these things is hard, it’s difficult; and difficulty is one thing we in America have forever striven to delay/decrease/divorce. It is clear that a person constantly confronting this madness may go mad – there are plenty of examples. On the other hand, there are plenty of examples of intentional ignorance which also descend into madness. Continue reading