Category Archives: Writing

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

“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

Reflection on Oliver de la Paz’s Requiem for the Orchard

An Important Announcement on Plagiarism

Oliver de la Paz’s collection, Requiem for the Orchard, relies on two organizing threads throughout. Those are the “Requiem” poems, which originally appeared as one extended poem in Guernica Magazine, and the “Self-Portrait” poems which appeared in various places. De la Paz confronts the construction and obfuscation of identity and self through these two threads of interrogation, and it is important that the collection resolves with the two threads together. Continue reading

Reflection on Into These Knots

An Important Announcement

            How does one write poetry about grief, or heartache? Allen Ginsburg’s “Howl” and “Kaddish” might be one approach, but it is a rare poet who can operate in the verse-libre and still convey the absolute misery without devolving into melodrama. Many poets resort to form, which forces a constraint upon poems. In the case of Ashley Anna McHugh, the constraint of form has allowed her to explore loss in great detail. Continue reading

Reflection on Ching-In Chen’s The Heart’s Traffic

As other secondgeneration immigrant writers, Chin-In Chen addresses the American experience from a position of both belonging and not-belonging, which is clearly evident in her collection The Heart’s Traffic. The collection crosses embodies boundary-crossing beyond the typical use of plot (though that is present as well), and results in a comingled impression of life from the perspective of an immigrant and her family. As with many poetry collections, the evidence of the collection’s conceptual identity (in this case, border-crossing and existing in multiple realities concurrently) presents initially with the cover of the book. However, the reader will notice quickly that Chen’s collection follows through with these concepts in nearly every poem. Continue reading

What Makes for a Successful Literary Submission?

So many submissions come in to the literary magazine I help staff – a relatively new literary magazine – that examining the framework of a “successful submission” becomes a lesson in self-reflection. From my experience working on various literary journals, the submissions that find a way through the editorial process have similar characteristics, even though the journal, the editors, and the submissions may be vastly different. For the most part, this framework can relate across different literary journals with different scopes as well. At the broadest level, I see the framework resting upon awareness. Continue reading

A Short Reflection on Laura Kasischke’s “Space, in Chains”

Even the cover reflects the contents of Kasischke’s poetry collection.  Both the title – Space, in Chains – and the Rothko abstraction on the front point at the nearly ungraspable poems in between the covers.  But the reasoning behind the ungraspable-ness may be the ungraspable subjects and themes Kasischke meditates on through these poems.  That is, the poet approaches and interrogates the unknowable, and attempts to enlighten through the medium of abstracted understanding.  Continue reading