All posts filed under: Features

Featured essays, interviews and multi-part series.

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 …

Brandon Krieg: The Preserve of Poetry

The Phosphorescence of Thought Peter O’Leary The Cultural Society, 2013       Companion Grasses Brian Teare Omnidawn, 2013         In a 2012 group interview “Imagining Ecopoetics,” Brenda Hillman draws an apt metaphor between endangered species and endangered forms of thought: One of the things ecopoetics tries to do is reconfigure the poem so as to include some of the endangered thought species. Poets keep track of radical and intimate encounters with the nonhuman. These encounters … include the permission to record the unacceptable or dysfunctional perception, the excess of feeling, or the integration of mythic states with other states.

Andrew Douglas Johnson: “Return Service Requested”

Not Nothing: Selected Writings, 1954-1994 Ray Johnson Siglio Press, 2014 People don’t write letters anymore. People don’t even write emails. Ray Johnson wrote letters, an effusion of them, too many to collect. Siglio Press has made two Ray Johnson books. One is the art book and one is the words book and that distinction is hardly useful but Siglio has done its job well—the physical thing of book-making. The words one is called Not Nothing, edited by Elizabeth Zuba, and because of bad planning and itinerancy and profligacy, I own two copies of it. One copy is coffee stained all on one edge and coffee stained deep into the supple paperiness of the cover. The cover feels excellent and looks excellent: 4 stars. 8 stars because of the two copies. 7.5 stars if we take into account the coffee stains. Not Nothing is an archive, but no one writes an archive. One writes a poem or a novelbook or a thingy. Ray Johnson mostly wrote thingies—epistolary poetry squawks or squawking poetic epistles—that he sent through the …

Rochelle Hurt: “Bright star of disaster”

Yearling Lo Kwa Mei-en Alice James Books, 2015 Lo Kwa Mei-en’s debut collection of poems reads like a manual for self-destruction. There are a variety of personal and global apocalypses in Yearling, and most of them are rooted in what Freud might have described as a death drive. The book’s epigraph from Dickinson, suggests, however, that these apocalypses should not be read simply as endings, nor should this drive toward death be read as a form of despair. The epigraph reads: “The World is not Conclusion. / A Species stands beyond—”. In this world, catastrophe is a means of becoming a species beyond. Consider, for example, “Arrow,” a poem that positions the speaker as both predator and prey. Aptly, the poem strikes a tonal balance between divulgence and declaration, beginning: “Drawn, uninvited, I’m an animal with a price on her head, / wrecking a bed of wet pine: I steal through the field twice.” The hunted is also the criminal here. Audacious in her trespassing, she is both vulnerable and cheeky. She implores her addressee: “as …

John Duvernoy: “all of this is magic / against death”

What About This: Collected Poems of Frank Stanford Frank Stanford Copper Canyon, 2015 I haven’t the space here or quite the foolishness to fully recount the legend of a poet who could out self-mythologize Bob Dylan, who tucked Lorca’s penknife in his bootleg and Breton’s throwing starfish in his belt of hemp. Suffice to say that Frank Stanford was no abject nihilist but an utterly unreconstructed romantic. A serious young man who would die before he ever grew old, he was prodigiously gifted and impossibly prolific. Beyond the sanction of any literary establishment Stanford wrote without surcease, leaving behind a vastly original body of work that is sepulchral, erotic, unabashedly violent, doomed, in love, and in a perpetual dance with death. His poetry is so drenched in mud that squeamish readers may do best to avoid it altogether. Indeed, the poet CD Wright once wrote about Stanford’s work that “if you’re not young and crazy, it may be too late.” I would ask who among us, sometime, somewhere, or hidden within, is not still young …

Katy Ellis: “Fires of the Past Meet the Blue Balm of Now”

Cloud Pharmacy Susan Rich White Pine Press, 2014 — In Susan Rich’s Cloud Pharmacy, we are at a mid-point, a reflective moment in a sincere and eventful life. We drift and we hover, but not passively. Cloud Pharmacy determinedly asks: Why chose to live this one life reluctantly? Though it is not the opening poem, “Clouds, Begin Here”, launches us into the undulating theme of burning away the past in order to heal in the present: It’s so hard to say what the dead really want. In the lost fires of the notebook, words stumble down the columns of green and white paper. In the notebook of the unknown index, blank descriptions, we lose our blue hours. Rich reaches into her childhood school days where she read books made of paper, … drank milk from small cartons (“American History”) but never with cloying nostalgia. To move forward necessitates a look into the past and whatever memories reside there. “Childhood Study: First Late August” shows us the fleeting bonds of young friendships:

The Subvocal Zoo: Danez Smith – Only in Safety

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 9 features Danez Smith in conversation with William Camponovo during the 2015 AWP Conference in Minneapolis. Topics of discussion include the importance of community; The Dark Noise Collective; composing for the page vs. composing for performance; Ocean Vuong, Chinaka Hodge, Patricia Smith; Yusef Komunyakaa; The BreakBeat Poets and the April 2015 issue of Poetry magazine.