‘Fallers’ in Rattle

The postman brought Issue 56 of Rattle this week, with an evocative cover by Jasmine C. Bell.

I’m delighted to be one of the 29 poets represented in the section on mental illness, with my poem ‘Fallers’. I’ve enjoyed reading the issue which has a compelling range of poetry, and there’s an excellent interview with Francesca Bell.

Thanks to Timothy Green!

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Oliver Sacks on writing the present

The most we can do is to write – intelligently, creatively, critically, evocatively – about what it is like living in the world at this time.

— Oliver Sacks, quoted in Bill Hayes, My Life with Oliver Sacks, The Observer, 26 March 2017

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‘The Well’ in Liminality

The eleventh issue of Liminality has gone live today.

I’m very pleased that my poem ‘The Well‘ is included, my fourth appearance in the journal.

Thanks to Shira Lipkin and Mattie Joiner!

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James Wright on the Olympian syndicate

In 1958, in July, [Wright] wrote me a letter (I’m sure similar letters went to others) in which he announced that he was through writing poems. […] The first issue of Robert Bly’s magazine, The Fifties, which he read at this crucial point, arrived like a reproach. (He did not yet know Bly.) He told me: “So I quit. I have been betraying whatever was true and courageous […] in myself and in everyone else for so long, that I am still fairly convinced that I have killed it. So I quit.” In the letter he called himself “a literary operator (and one of the slickest, cleverest, most ‘charming’ concoctors of the do-it-yourself New Yorker verse among all current failures) […]”

A day later he wrote again, admitting that “I can’t quit and go straight. I’m too deep in debt to the Olympian syndicate. They’d rub me out.” (This is Roethke talk, who during mania often alluded to The Mob.)

— from Donald Hall, introduction to James Wright, Above the River (1992), p. 29-30

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‘The Dig’ in Through the Gate

Through the Gate (in its current form) is “a weekly of fantastical poetry”. I’m delighted my poem ‘The Dig‘ is this week’s poem.

Thanks to editor Mitchell Hart!

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Joseph Harrison on writing and Penelope

Penelope’s situation (in Homer, of course, it’s a death shroud she’s weaving) seems to me an interesting figure for the predicament of the writer or artist: making something, ripping it up, making something, ripping it up, all the while vaguely hoping for one’s ship to come in, whatever that would mean, with nobody in the immediate vicinity paying much attention.

–Joseph Harrison, note on ‘The Cretonnes of Penelope’ in The Best American Poetry 1998, ed. John Hollander and David Lehman, p.302

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W. H. Auden on the function of poetry (1938)

The primary function of poetry, as of all the arts, is to make us more aware of ourselves and the world around us. I do not know if such increased awareness makes us more moral or more efficient;I hope not.

I think it makes us more human, and I am quite certain it makes us more difficult to deceive, which is why, perhaps, all totalitarian theories of the State, from Plato’s downwards, have deeply distrusted the arts. They notice and say too much, and the neighbours start talking.

— W. H. Auden (1938) quoted in James Fenton, Auden at Home, The New York Review of Books, April 27 2000

Edited to add: I don’t share Auden’s certainty that poetry “makes us more difficult to deceive”. It’s an interesting assertion, though, and I’m wondering how one might test it…

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