All posts filed under: Features

Featured essays, interviews and multi-part series.

Rich Ives: “The Old Woodcarver”

As I pieced together the verbal knife strokes of “The Old Woodcarver,” I was remembering German imagist poetry and thinking about the Native view of animals as so much more than what we call “totems.” I tried to capture a woodcarver aware of his subjects as not only emerging from the wood, but entering him, playing an intimate part in his life, a process the artist must surrender to more than create. We sometimes refer to lucid dreaming in relation to such ideas, but it’s more like lucid sleeping, the acceptance of the value and importance of where our internal experience takes us when we invite it, as we do falling into sleep, a choice but an acceptance as well of what is both part of us and beyond us. This is a process that continues into waking, when we allow it, overcome by it as we find ourselves entering the dream creatures awakened in the life already around us. The knife is the instrument of separation that also creates. We may use many things …

Janie Miller: “X saying here” – Holly Hughes’ Sailing by Ravens

Sailing by Ravens Holly J. Hughes University of Alaska Press, 2014 Holly J. Hughes’ recent collection of poetry, Sailing by Ravens, is an immersion into nautical language and life, and an exploration of what it means to live with direction and drift, two opposing energies that tug our human lives. Sailing by Ravens is arranged in sections like compass points: north, west, south & east—each section accruing depth about navigating the ocean, experiencing the loss of love, and an exploration of human losses. The collection acts like a plumb line measuring the depth of the charts and maps that Hughes learned to love so young in her life—a plumb line of the self, that “faint tick tick of the heart.” The collection’s first section, “North,” draws subtle connections between map makers and self makers. “X saying here,” Hughes writes, offering a destination to be measured in degrees yet “wrenched from time.” The tension in this section quietly builds in the differentiation between actual and magnetic direction, in how the slightest metal objects on a boat can effect the path that will be …

The Subvocal Zoo: Sally Keith – Acting and Failing to Act

Poetry Northwest‘s monthly podcast series, The Subvocal Zoo, features editors and friends of the magazine interviewing poets. Each episode features lively conversation between writers in a different location. Episode 7 features Sally Keith in conversation with Dan Beachy-Quick. This episode was recorded in the galleries of Minneapolis’ Walker Art Center during the annual AWP Conference. The two poets discuss poems from Keith’s earlier books as well as work from her newest book, River House. Topics of conversation include: motion & emotion, Jorie Graham, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Agnes Martin, image & memory, and the joys of friendship.

Nomi Stone: “the air we scull” – Phil Metres’ Sand Opera

Sand Opera Phil Metres Alice James Books, 2015 In Phil Metres’ Sand Opera, we are asked to activate the ear in a plea against the eye. Loosely structured like an opera, successive sections of arias and recitatives act as hitherto unheard cries of captured Arabs and Muslims, interspersed with blues ballads in the voices of American soldiers. Indeed, Metres begins the book with two epigrams about the perils and seductions of vision: the first from Michael Herr’s Dispatches, and how its lacerating images “just stayed there in your eyes”; and the second, a query from Corinthians: “If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be?” As an opening wager, the first poem in the manuscript, “The Illumination of the Martyrdom of St. Bartholomew,” enacts our visual consumption of that skewered flesh: “skin from limb/ their eyes// narrowing knives/ he balances.” The duration of the book acts as a rebuttal against such consumption, re-attuning us instead to the body’s cry and finding a lullaby in its wake. Metres’ resulting Opera is a carved …

Emily Warn: “The Almost Wilderness – Remembering Denise Levertov”

May 16 is Denise Levertov Day in Seattle. For a listing of related events, including a choral setting of Levertov’s poem “Making Peace,” visit St. John’s Parish. I’m waiting for the kettle to boil in Denise’s kitchen. It’s mid-November and raining. Out the window, the branches of her unruly pear are outlined against the gray sky. At three-thirty it’s already dusk. I look across neighboring roofs and down to Lake Washington where I can barely distinguish lake water from the black forest rising behind it. I pour boiling water into Denise’s serviceable yellow tea pot wide enough to hold four cups, swirl it around the sides, and dump it into the sink. I put three tablespoons of English Breakfast tea into the pot, refill it with water, and steep until it is black and strong. I set it on a tray next to a sugar bowl, pitcher of milk and a plate of cookies, and carry it all into the living room where Denise is sitting on the couch. Brewing a perfect pot of tea was our …

Chelsea Werner-Jatzke: “spinning you in its gravity” – John Mortara’s Some Planet

Some Planet John Mortara YesYes Books, 2015 In issues of taxonomy Stephen J. Gould states, in his essay “Bully for the Brontosaurus,” “the dispute is only about names, not about things.” Only, in this context, is a word that rankles some, especially poets for whom the language of a thing is of importance. John Mortara makes a subtle case against the proper nouning of the natural world in Some Planet, a book whose title can be read ironically with an eye roll, as in some planet you got there. Or with the enthusiasm of a kid in the 50’s, gee whiz that’s some planet. The Emersonian epigraph, which reads in part, “Know then, that the world exists for you: build, therefore, your own world,” implies another reading: any planet is a personal planet—the natural world is a thing to be built on your own.

Emily Bedard: “Reading Lucie Brock-Broido in Mexico”

On the chair next to my packed suitcase the books are teetering in their tower. I know they cannot all go along, but at the moment I cannot choose between them because each one is my favorite child. In the days before departure, their spines stack up, swap out, rearrange themselves like parakeets startling off a branch and settling back down.

Jay Yencich: “Passenger Pidgin: Niedecker’s Road Trip through the Geo-Linguistic Strata of Lake Superior”

Lake Superior Lorine Niedecker Wave Books, 2013 Grandfather +advised me: +++Learn a trade I learned +to sit at desk +++and condense No layoff +from this +++condensery writes Lorine Niedecker in the entirety of “Poet’s work,” one her more commonly recognized poems. Wave Books’ release of Lake Superior attempts to unearth the raw material buried in Niedecker’s records and lend insight into how these archives were compressed by the force of her pen. The book opens with the title poem, chiseled to six pages in this edition’s generous lineation. The poem itself is spare–mostly unpunctuated and numbering under four-hundred words with lines rarely exceeding five–but its honed structure leads the reader to allusiveness and juxtaposition. In every part of every living thing is stuff that once was rock In blood the minerals of the rock the poem opens, offering a guide to the subsurface topography. Placing “minerals” and “blood,” non-living and living, on the same line is hardly a move one could make by accident. Sure enough, in the subsequent section we are introduced to “Iron the common element of earth / in …

The Subvocal Zoo: Special Episode – Season 2 Preview & Timothy Donnelly’s “Apologies from the Ground Up”

Poetry Northwest‘s podcast series, The Subvocal Zoo, features editors and friends of the magazine interviewing poets. Each episode features lively conversation between writers in a different location. We’re gearing up to record interviews this Spring that we’ll release for Season 2 of the podcast. After bringing you six episodes in 2014, we’re back to preview the upcoming season of poets in conversation. This Spring, we’ll be traveling to Minneapolis for this year’s AWP conference with microphones in tow. There, we’ll record the first three interviews for the second season. We’ll be talking with Minneapolis poet Michael Bazzett–author of You Must Remember This; fellow Milkweed editions poet Sally Keith, author most recently of River House, forthcoming this Spring, as well as Danez Smith, whose first book, [insert] boy is out now from Yes Yes Books. We have more in the works, including some writers from the Pacific Northwest. Subscribe in iTunes or your favorite podcast app, or follow us on Facebook to stay in the loop. In this episode:

Broc Rossell: “It becomes necessary to live”

This poem came out of a few different impulses…at the time I wrote it I was reading Levinas and Maurice Merleau-Ponty: thinking about the ways in which responsibility and love are inextricable and limitless, and how the only way the external world doesn’t completely overwhelm me is by virtue of the fact that I can ingest it with my eyes. There’s also a strong elegiac streak in here. I lost my best friend when I was twenty, and while that is literally half a lifetime ago today, I don’t think those losses ever leave… I wrote him a number of short poems describing the ways my life was now different than it was, like being able to pay rent (when I last saw him we lived in his car), and one of those short poems made it in here. Visually, the central image of the yellow dress is a portmanteau of a few lines from an album he and I used to listen to. In the end, however, I’m not sure if the poem is more weft …