All posts tagged: prose poetry

Michelle Peñaloza: “Little Ghosts, Little Hidden Fires”

Post Subject: A Fable Oliver de la Paz University of Akron Press, 2014 Post Subject: A Fable, the latest collection of poems from Oliver de la Paz, is a highly controlled and obsessively organized collection. Each page contains an epistle-cum-prose-poem of three stanzas addressed to “Empire,” each beginning “Dear Empire, / These are your _______”.  These poems are cataloged in sections—titled Address, Atlas, Ledger, Zoo and Zygote—with each poem composed of near-abecedarian subjects. Epistle by epistle, Post Subject: A Fable demands that an Empire behold its ashes, boardwalks, canyons, devotees, engines, and so on. The book represents a fraught correspondence, a catalogue, noun for noun, of the consequences of empire. Two epigraphs introduce the collection. The first is from Edward Said: “…history is made by men and women, just as it can also be unmade and rewritten, always with various silence and elisions, always with shapes imposed and disfigurements tolerated.” De la Paz pairs this with a quote from Henry L. Stimson, “Gentlemen do not read each other’s mail.” De la Paz thus plays with the idea of what the reader …

David Thacker: “My Spinnerets are Honest” – Kimberly Johnson’s Uncommon Prayer

Uncommon Prayer Kimberly Johnson Persea, 2014 Uncommon Prayer, Kimberly Johnson’s third book of poems, is a book of transition in the deepest sense. Johnson’s first two collections, Leviathan with a Hook (Persea, 2002) and A Metaphorical God (Persea, 2008) are erudite, strange, and ultimately affirming. Uncommon Prayer, however, transitions from affirmation to a more emotionally direct ambivalence. The arc is signaled in the first poem, “Matins for the Last Frost,” which opens with a lush description, in one languorous sentence covering eleven lines, of the imminent bloom of a tulip bulb—“a leggy dishabille in lipstick.” Significantly, though this is a poem for Matins, we are not in the space of traditional Christianity. Church bells “raise their brazen” “somewhere on the other side of town.” How appropriate, then, that “Matins” is a liberated sonnet, dispensing with traditional rhyme and meter while adjusting the placement of the volta. What use is a form, after all, unless it fits a current need? Clearly, when the poem concludes, “everything is about to change,” it means anything as well.

Someone Dies One Day // Julie Larios on Russell Edson

by Julie Larios, Contributing Writer  “Two cups in a cupboard. Someone looks in, I do not know which cup is which cup. Now someone looking in faints and falls to the floor. Someone on the floor wakes up. One of his feet has a fedora tied to it, the other foot is bound up in an apron; father’s hat and mother’s apron.” These were the words I encountered in 1966 on first opening The Very Thing That Happens by the poet Russell Edson. His prose poem, titled “Someone Falls to the Floor,” goes on for another three paragraphs, but it was this opening that stopped me in my tracks. More, more, more – that’s what I could hear the little rebel’s voice in my head saying.

Notable Books – Reviews of Carol Light, Heather Christle, Hadara Bar-Nadav and more

Heaven from Steam, Carol Light (Able Muse Press, 2013) Friendship is one of the conversant pleasures of a literary life, and has rarely been reason (historically, at least) not to offer words of encouragement for a long-anticipated book. Carol Light is a friend of mine, one whose poems I’ve read, enjoyed, and argued with for years. Disclosure aside, it’s not familiarity with the poet which prompts me to report that Heaven from Steam, Light’s first book, is a keen-eyed sonic boom of a debut. It is, rather, an appreciation for the assiduous, soulful orchestration of technique that makes this book stand out. A book of days unfolding over decades, Heaven from Steam is a substantial achievement—a sometimes searing, often soaring interrogation of love and longing in all its forms—carnal and maternal, devotional and divine. Comparison with Mary Szybist’s Incarnadine, which explores similar themes in an altogether different register, is inevitable, and revealing. Each demonstrates the remarkable patience of the long view—of the gradual, focused accretion of a body of work—that I find more and more …

Notable Books (NW) – Reviews of Mary Szybist, Robert Wrigley, Nance Van Winckel, and more

NOTABLE BOOKS (NW) – Fall-Winter 2014 The reviews included in this feature section were first published in our fall-winter 2014 print issue. Incarnadine, Mary Szybist (Graywolf Press, 2013) Readers have waited a long while for Mary Szybist’s second book, Incarnadine, and that seems right. In an age of gush and glut, Szybist works patiently; her poems exude painstaking care, every line fleshed out (or broken), every word placed (or erased), just so. I mean this quite literally: titles like “How (Not) to Speak of God” and “On Wanting to Tell [       ] about a Girl Eating Fish Eyes” demonstrate how in Szybist’s hands words both fill and empty out the spaces they occupy (in the breath, on the page). The effect is helped by the lovely, large-format book design, which amplifies the white space around each poem. And concrete instances, like the sentence diagram “It Is Pretty to Think” or the aforementioned star-shaped “How (Not) to Speak of God,” embody the lyrical impulse to make the felt world visible with persuasive tact. But this is …

Linda Andrews: “While the Rest of us Slept – Kathleen Flenniken’s Poetry of Witness”

Plume Kathleen Flenniken University of Washington Press, 2012 — In the Fall of 2013, Kathleen Flenniken was awarded the Washington State Book Award for Plume. — Where I live, in eastern Washington State, I frequently see evidence of the legacy of the Hanford nuclear site—in ads for homecare services designed for Hanford nuclear workers, on Richland High School’s “home of the bombers” mushroom cloud jerseys, and at the Tri-Cities airport’s “Three-Eyed Fish Café,” which alludes comically to deformed fish caught in the nearby Columbia River. A waste management company near Richland has applied to the federal government for a permit to truck up to 500 tons of Mexican radioactive waste over interstate highways for incineration at Hanford and transport back to Mexico. The reactor that John F. Kennedy dedicated in 1963 has been licensed to produce electricity through 2043. At the same time, Hanford receives massive federal funding as “the world’s largest environmental cleanup project.” In Plume, her second full-length poetry collection, Washington State Poet Laureate Kathleen Flenniken opens a view into Hanford’s complex history, …

2012 Staff Picks: Justin Boening reviews Mark Strand’s Almost Invisible

Almost Invisible Mark Strand Knopf, 2012 By Justin Boening, Associate Editor for Poetry Northwest 2012 was a remarkable year for poetry. From Eduardo C. Corral’s outstanding debut, Slow Lightning, to Jorie Graham’s finest effort in years, Place, there was much that dazzled, provoked, and inspired. When pressed to make a choice, however, as to which 2012 collection could be called my absolute favorite, I landed firmly on a book of poems not even considered a book of poems by its author: Almost Invisible. Mark Strand’s most recent collection of short prose pieces (as he calls them) has all the trappings of his previous attire—the infamously repetitive diction, the drippy nostalgia, and, of course, that hallmark debonair fatalism. But these poems are far from being placid guff. The poems of Almost Invisible are nimble and tonally varied, smart and introspective—the epitome of Strand’s best late-period work. In an episode of the Poetry Foundation’s podcast Poetry Off the Shelf, Vijay Seshadri says of Strand: “…to some extent all of Strand’s poems are about the situation of the …

Eva Heisler: “Lover’s Manual”

For November we feature Eva Heisler’s “Lover’s Manual,” which appears in Poetry Northwest Fall-Winter 2007-08 v2.n2. The  poem is part of a longer series of prose poems entitled “Reading Emily Dickinson in Icelandic.” According to Heisler, “‘Lover’s Manual’ originated as journal entries written during the first three years of a nine-year period in Iceland.  This was a period in which the romance and astonishments of a foreign land were challenged by the difficulties of earning a living as a foreigner.  I was constantly faced with just how deeply language shapes perception and, as I struggled to learn Icelandic, the blind spots proliferated.