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Features from the Poetry Northwest‘s deep archive.

Srikanth Reddy: “Voyager, Book 3 (Chapter 6)”

Probably the first thing to say about this “poem” is that I didn’t write it.  All the words here belong to Kurt Waldheim, the former Secretary General of the United Nations who was later discovered to have been, also, a former SS officer in Hitler’s Germany.  (So if you don’t like the writing here, blame Waldheim, not me).  I composed this text by deleting words from Waldheim’s memoir, In the Eye of the Storm, and closing up the spaces left by my “erasure.”  Then I took the liberty of visually arranging the resulting word-sequences into the “step-down” tercets that William Carlos Williams used for his poetic sequence on the underworld, but I didn’t rearrange the order of words in Waldheim’s original text. The second thing to say, I think, would be that this is an excerpt from a longer passage in my book, Voyager, that depicts Waldheim’s imaginary descent into the underworld.  I was trying to find a story under the surface of the story—about the United Nations and Cold War geopolitics—that Waldheim tells in his memoir.  …

Robert Wrigley: Two Poems

It may be that the only thing these two poems have in common is that they were written by the same poet, and that they were published in Poetry Northwest, one a quarter century or so ago, the other quite recently. “Dust” was written about the time I was, you might say, entering into the possibilities of rhyme (it was accepted, as many were in those days, by David Wagoner, to whom I offer my thanks); “Hanging Laundry On a Windy Day in Assisi,” was written in Italy this past May, and it suggests that those possibilities have stayed with me.  Rilke said, “Rhyme is a goddess of secret and ancient coincidences,” and that strikes me as one of the finest things anyone’s ever said about a poetic technique. Among other things, the first is about getting very dirty; the other is about the joy of clean laundry. But both are very much about the places in which they occur. I am, it has been pointed out, a “poet of place.” That’s not something I …

James Tate: “Leaving Mother Waiting for Father”

Leaving Mother Waiting for Father The evening went on; I got very old. She kept telling me it didn’t matter. The real man would come back soon. We waited. We had alarms fixed, vases of white and purple flowers ready to thrust on him should he. We had to sell the place in a hurry; walked downtown holding hands. She had a yard of blue material in her pocket: I remember that so well! She fell asleep and a smile began to blister her old mouth. I propped her against an old hotel and left without any noise. — James Tate (1943-2015) was the author of more than twenty collections of poetry, including the Pulitzer-Prize winning Selected Poems. His Dome of the Hidden Pavilion will be published in August 2015 by Ecco Press. — “Leaving Mother Waiting for Father” was published in the Summer 1968 issue of Poetry Northwest, and appeared in The Oblivion Ha-Ha. — photo credit: Peace Lily BW | (license)

Stephen Dunn: Five Early Poems

Periodically, we’ll take a tour of the Poetry Northwest archives, spotlighting vital poems and writers from the magazine’s fifty-plus year history.  Previous entries in the series can be found here.  This edition features early work from the Pulitzer Prize winning poet Stephen Dunn, a frequent contributor to the magazine during the seventies, eighties and beyond. Here are five poems as they originally appeared in Poetry Northwest, with the poet’s reflection on what these pieces mean to him now. Before I begin to say anything about these poems that appeared in Poetry Northwest many years ago, a few dating back to 1969, I want to thank David Wagoner for recognizing a quality in them worthy of publication. He was the first editor of an important magazine to regularly publish my work, and therefore helped develop in me a confidence that I might have a little something on which to build. It may not be possible, but I’m going to try to look at these poems as if they were written by someone else. “Affirmation” is amazingly …

Susan Stewart Memory and Imagination: Three Poems

Editor’s note: Every few months, we’ll take a tour of the archives, highlighting poems and writers from Poetry Northwest‘s fifty-plus year history. The first in the series featured poet and essayist Albert Goldbarth. This, the second, spotlights early work by the poet and critic Susan Stewart. David Wagoner, editor of Poetry Northwest for some 35 years, was well-known for publishing new and younger writers beside those more established—a tradition editor Kevin Craft has carried forward. For Mr. Wagoner, one of those young writers was Susan Stewart, whose work when it appeared in the magazine had an immediate impact, winning several prizes awarded by the magazine at the time. Here are three of those poems as they originally appeared in Poetry Northwest, with the poet’s own reflection on what these pieces mean to her now. — My first response to these lyrics is a feeling of deep retrospective gratitude to David Wagoner for publishing them and sending encouragement. Although I had admired his poems and had been reading Poetry Northwest since my college years, David Wagoner …

Albert Goldbarth: “Some Archeology”

Editors’ note: Thumbing through the Poetry Northwest archives, many names appear with pleasing frequency, and Albert Goldbarth’s as often as any—particularly in the magazine’s early days with David Wagoner as editor. One finds already in those early-published poems the strobe of wit and intelligence we’ve come to expect from Albert Goldbarth’s poetry and prose. On the occasion of his visit to Seattle and of the publication of his new book of poems, Everyday People, we bring you five poems as they originally appeared in two vintage issues of Poetry Northwest, featured here with the poet’s own reflection on what these pieces mean to him now. Look for more from the archives in months to come! On Thursday, February 9, 2012, Albert Goldbarth will read as part of the Seattle Arts & Lectures Poetry Series. Details here. — 1971—forty-one years ago! I was twenty-three when “Village Wizard” and “The Death of the Printed Page” appeared in Poetry Northwest, probably twenty-two when they were written. The cells of my body have completely replaced themselves six times since …