Tag Archives: literature

June Jordan and the Political

Every poet claims that poetry is political – or at least that the act of writing poetry is a political act – no matter what the poem’s contents are. Jane Hirschfield, Richard Hugo, David Orr, Susan Stewart, and Stephen Dunn are just a few of the poets investigated this semester who wrote or intimated this idea. The statement that poetry is political requires a certain understanding of the “political,” meaning an exercise and projection of the voice in the face of the vast ease of being silent. This idea, that saying what needs to be said – whether about a white spider on a sprig of Queen Anne’s Lace, or about the unequal gender treatment in our current society – is a political act opens more than just poetry to political statement, but all fields of art. As a result, the question of which writing is political, and which is not, becomes very important. To hazard one possible boundary, writing which does not offer some access to Truth, or which deliberately obscures Truth (or truth), falls on the far side of the political; these kinds of writing result in either apathetic consumerism, or worse, outright propaganda. Much popular music falls into these categories. The reader (that’s you) may object that even apathetic consumerism or outright propaganda fall somewhere on the political spectrum, and the author (me) may agree. In that case, let us use “political” – in terms of writing and poetry at least – for the positive – seeking awareness and Truth – end of the spectrum, while the previous terms (apathetic and propagandist) can apply to the other, obstructive end. 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

Reading the Writing of Love

Kim Addonizio’s What is this Thing Called Love reaches through the looking glass.

If that is not clear enough, where a confessional poet’s version of these poems might harp on the “woe is me” shtick, Addonizio manages to allow the reader to experience these poems as though they come from inside, and not from the page.  So, not that we are reading a memoir, but experiencing all the love offered to us.  Even reminding the reader in a subtle way of other personal experiences.  Sometimes, I can almost imagine being the speaker.  Whether that is a fault of Addonizio’s writing, or my own empathy, I do not know; but I have an understanding, a connaissance, that is drawn out by the poems in this collection.

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A Response to Who Killed Vincent Chin? and The Cheat

Before you start reading, this post seems to be perpetually popular in my traffic statistics. The question this brings up for me is whether this is one of the few commentaries on these specific texts / films, or if there is another reason. I would appreciate insight, if you care to leave a comment. If not, you should probably read my statement on plagiarism. Thanks! On to the reason you’re here:

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Both Who Killed Vincent Chin?and The Cheat should cause a modern audience to cringe. Because these cringes may be for two different reasons, the visceral reactions to these films deserve some investigation and explication. In the earlier movie, The Cheat, the orientalist approach to the representation of the villain and the exploitation of popular prejudices against Asian people serve to drive the narrative. Looking back on this film from 1915 offers a chance to examine the unquestioned prejudices and expectations of Asian people during early 20th century America. Who Killed Vincent Chin?, on the other hand, is a much more recent production and offers an examination of both the similarities and differences to those prejudices and expectations in late 20th century America. That the changes displayed between the two films mostly offer only superficial effect offers commentary about the distance still remaining to be traveled in treating prejudice and racism in America today.

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Response to Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior

Before you start reading, this post seems to be perpetually popular in my traffic statistics. The question this brings up for me is whether this is one of the few commentaries on these specific texts / films, or if there is another reason. I would appreciate insight, if you care to leave a comment. If not, you should probably read my statement on plagiarism. Thanks! On to the reason you’re here:

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Any person living in the space between two cultures faces risks and rewards for abandoning his or her native culture for the culture of the adopted state. Additionally, that individual faces other risks in the attempt to straddle that liminal space. These risks become clarified in Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior, in which she writes from the perspective of a second-generation immigrant, clearly straddling the cultural divide between China and the United States. One of the primary issues Kingston interrogates is the risk of assimilation, most clearly questioned when she writes, “How can Chinese keep any traditions at all…slipping in a ceremony and clearing the table before the children notice specialness[?]” (185). This interrogation points out the danger of losing custom and culture through the assimilation process.

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On the Control of Movement through Image, pt. 4

Although Ashbery’s “Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror,” Basho’s haiku, and Pound’s “In a Station of the Metro” may be a-logical, each of these is still afforded a movement down the page. These movements are governed by and served by the creation of a networked dialectical space through linked comparisons of image. This space allows for Pound’s “intellectual-emotional complex” to generate intuitive comprehension in a reader at some level.

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