All posts filed under: Features

Featured poems, essays and interviews.

Amit Majmudar: “The Tender-Hearted Hard Science”

Editor’s note: Continuing the Science theme of the current print issue (Spring & Summer 2012, v7.n1), Amit Majmudar reflects on the ability of both poetry and science to “isolate and emphasize important information.” — When I tell people I am a doctor and a writer, the reaction usually has two parts. First comes the mild bewilderment about how I find the time. You get this reaction from other doctors and other writers alike: Both groups know how much dedication is required for competence, let alone excellence, in either field. (I don’t know how other doctor-writers do it, but I don’t sleep much, and when I’m awake, I don’t fool around.) The second part of the reaction is a loss of bewilderment. A little reflection reveals that I am not so special after all—people recall just how many of us there have been, both historical (Sir Thomas Browne, Anton Chekhov, William Carlos Williams) and more contemporary (Robin Cook, Khaled Hosseini, and Michael Crichton, who got famous just in time to avoid a residency). There are a …

Defending the Territory

Editor Kevin Craft discusses Poetry Northwest, past, present, and future, with Catherine Richardson in the November – December 2011 issue of Poets & Writers. Here’s an excerpt: Despite a brief hiatus, Poetry Northwest has been around for a long time. What’s the key to its longevity? Partly it’s the distinct personality of this part of the world and the poets here who have been involved in the magazine. It’s a voice for the community, a forum for dialogue between this region and other parts of the world. We’re all so socially networked now that Seattle and Minneapolis and New York City seem part of the same circuit, but when you’re out here you do feel a long way from the East Coast. Being a flagship magazine calling attention to what’s going on out here has always been an important part of the magazine’s success. Read the entire interview online, here. Photo Credit: Frank Huster

On Kizer: A Letter from David Rigsbee

In recent weeks, we’ve been publishing tributes to Poetry Northwest founding editor, Carolyn Kizer.  For additional features in the series, please visit here.  Below, a letter from poet David Rigsbee recalling a moment with his friend and former teacher. — One day Carolyn called me up and said “Let’s go over to Duke.  There’s an eminent scholar who is going to lecture on Mayakovsky and another poet you may know.”  The eminent scholar turned out to be Harvard professor Roman Yakobson, the world-famous linguist and one of the last survivors to the Soviet Union’s “New Lef” period, which roughly coincided with the flapper era here and ended with the accession of Joseph Stalin, as it did here with the coming of the Great Depression. So we piled into the Camaro and off to Durham we went. The hall was long, narrow, high-ceilinged and ornate, with floor-length curtains.  The whole effect was chapel-like, except for the chairs, which were in a kind of faux-Empire style, with pastel cushions and oval backs, the kind of furnishing my …

Carolyn Kizer’s Voice: A Student’s View

  I am over-the-moon happy that Poetry Northwest is celebrating my friend and mentor, Carolyn Kizer. I am blessed to have had her in my life at Eastern Washington University, where I attended evening grad school and where she served as the guest instructor of poetry workshops. I have loved her since 1989 and own every book she’s written, each lovingly inscribed with some personal notation suited to the time and events of our meetings. Not enough people understand just how kind and funny she is. I remember, once, when several wickedly talented author/instructors joined Carolyn’s class and were all foot-to-foot packed together at one table, she held up a student’s prose poem—every sentence prefaced with the “eff” word—and calmly said: “Well, what we have here is a great poem about salmonberries. We just need to get rid of a bucketful of ‘eff-its.’” After she edited out every four-letter offense it was quite a lovely poem, and our mixed group was a riot of laughter. In Carolyn’s classroom, all writing was treated with dignity served up …

On Kizer: “Her Own Woman”

In recent weeks, we’ve been publishing tributes to Poetry Northwest founding editor, Carolyn Kizer.  We’ll post additional material throughout the spring: for additional features in the series, please visit here.  Here, we continue with a spirited admiration, by Martha Silano, of Kizer’s ability to express and measure the inadequacy of “man’s / Ingenious constructions.” — I was in my mid-20s, living in Portland, Oregon, and newly enrolled in my first poetry writing workshop at Portland State University. My teacher, the wonderfully avuncular Primus St. John, gently broke the news, with each poem I brought to class, that I wasn’t quite yet Sappho. I wasn’t titling my poems, claiming I was following in the footsteps of Emily Dickinson, but when Primus shook his head and laughed at this defense, I took his advice. In retrospect, it makes sense that I would be taking my cues from Dickinson. Having just spent four years at a prestigious liberal art college in the Midwest, I received my BA in English without being asked to read or analyze a single …

On Kizer: “The Substance of Song”

In the coming weeks, we will publish a series of tributes to Poetry Northwest founding editor, Carolyn Kizer.  We’ll post additional material throughout the spring: for additional features in the series, please visit here.  We are very pleased to open with an appreciation by Katrina Roberts of Kizer’s hard, sweet music. — I’ve long been struck by the final gesture in Carolyn Kizer’s poem “Lines to Accompany Flowers for Eve,” addressed to one who’s tried to take her own life: “No Way of knowing its strength, or your own, / Until you lie quite still, your perfect limbs / In meditation: the spirit rouses, flutters / Like a handkerchief at a cell window, signaling, / Self-amazed, its willingness to endure.” We’ve recently lost important poets—great women—to suicide. Their tragedy reminds us the world is hard, indeed, and unfair to so many women in countless ways. And also that an individual life, even one apparently lovely, is simply inscrutable. I’m buoyed at least by the sustaining insights these poets have left in their stunning, tumultuous wakes. …

A Word from the Editor

January 2010 This month, Poetry Northwest enters its 51st year. We are fortunate to be among a very few literary magazines with such endurance and community support. As many readers will know, for most of that half century, the magazine was published in Seattle, at the University of Washington, under the guidance (and often, pure stamina) of longtime editor David Wagoner.

David Biespiel: Pssst… A New Era Dawning for Poetry Northwest

Dear Friends: Arriving on our office doorstep today are a dozen cardboard boxes filled with copies of the newest issue of Poetry Northwest. It sports a sensational cover with art work by our staff artist, Philip Sylvester. As a nod to the magazine’s original legacy as a poetry-only journal for over four decades, I had intended this issue to be an all-poetry issue, and my staff has cringed every time I made the lame joke, “How’s The Poetry Issue coming?”

David Biespiel: “A Sense of Form and a Sense of Life”

Here’s hoping it’s not too late to finally answer the question,   “What is it you’re looking for in a poem?” David Biespiel In your hands is my last issue as editor of this magazine. Before I pass along the inky reins and Internet codes to the next editor, however, it’s with enormous gratitude that I thank you for allowing me into your homes and libraries. No one values the contemporary reader of poetry more than an editor of a magazine of contemporary poems, and that includes me. Since I was appointed editor almost five years ago and charged with resurrecting Poetry Northwest from the dead, the staff of the magazine—and let me pause here to say what an outstanding staff they are, far superior to their editor, I assure you, from lifers William Bernhard, Edward Derby, Heather Guidero, Roger Leigh, Phil Sylvester, and to veterans Caitlin Dwyer, Franny French, Liz Fuller, Shanna Germain, Jade Pekkala, David Robinson, Claire Sykes, Amanda Turner, Kate Wheatcroft, and Chalcey Wilding, to newcomers John Blackard, Jeff Lytle, and the many …