Archive for the ‘Poetry’ Category

Among the Lost gets its first review!

November 11th, 2016

Forget that other thing.  Wednesday also brought this news: the first review of Among the Lost.

Two weeks to my book launch!

October 26th, 2016

You’re invited to help me celebrate the launching of my second book, Among the Lost!  Yay!  It’s on November 10, 2016, from 5:00 to 6:00 p.m. at Bridgeside Books, 29 Stowe Street, Waterbury.  I’ll read from it, answer questions, sign copies.  There will be refreshments at the reading and next door at Stowe Street Café.  Please feel free to pass this invitation along to others!  Here’s an excerpt from the publisher’s description of the book:

 

Among the Lost: In Dante’s Wake Book 2

Among the Lost, set in the modern American rust belt, is a meditation drawn from Dante’s Purgatorio.  To Dante, Purgatory was the mountain where souls not damned went after death to cleanse themselves of sin in preparation for entering Paradise.  What, Steinzor asks, are we preparing ourselves for, having lost the fear of hell and the hope of heaven, in the course of our daily urban existence?  And whatever that is, how do we go about preparing for it?.

 

 

 among-the-lost-cover-300-dpi

 

 

Praise for Among the Lost

What a magnificent ascension Seth Steinzor is achieving. Having embarked on a latter-day retelling of the Divine Comedy, he has already descended into the Inferno and has now risen to the peak of Mount Purgatory, regaling us along the way with apt parallels to Dante’s infernal and purgatorial people, places, and purposes. We are indeed fortunate to have Steinzor following Dante’s footsteps.

—Rennie McQuilkin, Connecticut Poet Laureate

 

Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings

May 1st, 2016

I’m reading Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings, a recent book of poetry by Joy Harjo. I think it may be a great book. It certainly inspires thought and feeling. One of the things I find myself thinking about is the dilemma confronting anyone who wants to write criticism of lyric poetry. If a volume of lyric poetry is working the way poetry can work, it is extremely difficult and maybe impossible to articulate an “argument” or even a “point of view” that the volume expresses, from which criticism can proceed. That is because what poetry points at is a preverbal or nonverbal set of truths. In this it shares something with the visual arts. Who was it who said, “If I could write about it I wouldn’t need to paint it?” Poets, and especially lyric poets, could make a similar statement, except of course they are writing about “it.” So that doesn’t leave the literary critic much to work with. The critic can do the Helen Vendler thing and focus on the technical means whereby the critic thinks the poet has achieved the poem’s effects. Or, as more often seems to happen, the critic can do the Dan Chiasson thing of throwing out a lot of fuzzy impressionistic verbiage in a hopeless attempt to communicate the poem’s effects – hopeless of course because that could be done only by reproducing the poem itself. As you may be able to tell, I don’t much care for either of these approaches. The Vendler approach leads to the response, “So what? Who cares?” If I’m a good poet, she’s not telling me anything I don’t already know, and if I’m not a good poet, knowing what she’s telling me will be useless. The Chiasson approach lands us square in the middle of “I don’t get it, and I don’t see why I should.” So I will content myself, for the present, by saying that Joy Harjo, line after line and page after page, evokes fundamental human realities. Her subject matter appears to be the product of a modern day Native American woman’s meditation on the past six hundred years of European and North American history.  If you’re interested in that, check out this book.

MINIMALISM

January 6th, 2014

Okay, so I’m on a roll here.  People are “liking” the poems.  So, being as I’m a poet, that encourages me to post more poetry!  Funny how that works.  Maybe people will like the poetry they see here enough to buy the book.  Anyway… I’m not normally a fan of poems about poetry, but occasionally I perpetrate one, because what are you going to write poems about if not the things that are important to you?  This one reports on a reading I attended twenty years ago.  I can’t say I’m a normally a big fan of Louise Gluck’s work, either, but that’s mainly a question of personal taste.  Her artistry is undeniable.  I arrived very late, having gotten the time wrong.  Perhaps if I’d arrived earlier, I would have been bored, whereas arriving close to the end the few minutes I experienced retained all their impact.  I’ll never forget the high-pitched sing-song in which she read, or the apparently almost physically painful effort it seemed to cost her, which put a premium on every word.  If that is what writing is like for her, as well as reading, she must lead a life of exquisite torture.  I hope not.  I am not sure what impulse made me give this poem its long, loud, heavy-on-the-prosaic-details title – the exact opposite of Gluck’s poetry – but it seems to work.  Sometimes a title is like a frame.

LAST FIFTEEN MINUTES OF LOUISE GLUCK’S POETRY READING AT McCARTHY ARTS CENTER, ST. MICHAEL’S COLLEGE, COLCHESTER, VERMONT, DECEMBER 2, 1993

 

truthfulness pared

to the hard minimum,

mum almost

but for what must escape

lips – the line

a birch branch carves,

white as a whisper

 

finishes

asking for questions

(second thought) short ones;

when none come

painful thanks, lips wrenched

crooked as apple tree boughs

 

Wild Times on the Burlington Poetry Scene

May 24th, 2011

Everette Maddox

After a long absence, poetry has returned to Burlington City Arts at the Firehouse on Church Street downtown.  Some years ago the BCA canceled its ongoing writing programs and popular First Friday reading series, an open mike poetry reading the first Friday of every month, explaining that literature was not part of its mission.  I guess graphic artist Dug Nap has persuaded BCA otherwise, with readings on alternate Wednesday evenings.  The night I was there, young people, mostly high school and college age, some twenty-somethings, read work mostly about the types of confusion that young people mostly suffer from, that is, erotic and identity issues, and were used as a sounding board by Dug for his whimsically observant narratives centered upon the types of confusion that young people mostly suffer from.  Twice the age of most of his audience, Dug establishes a comfy, inclusive atmosphere in which anyone might feel like sharing.

That same month witnessed an explosion at the monthly (more or less) reading series hosted by Michael Breiner at the Flynndog Gallery, in the space until recently occupied by the Outer Space Cafe, on Flynn Street in South Burlington. 

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Why people don’t care about poetry #14137

April 20th, 2011

Over the past weeks I’ve received a couple of invitations from a poetry professor at the local university, to a reading this evening by poet Natasha Trethewey.  I am totally unfamiliar with her work.  So… why should I go?  The publicity that Professor J– has sent me includes a picture of an attractive woman of indeterminate age, perhaps in her thirties?  That’s not enough to entice me out of doors on a rainy evening.  It says she’s a Pulitzer Prize winner.  Well, good for her, but in today’s literary environment that tells me nothing.  Rae Armantrout won the Pulitzer last year.  W.S. Merwin won it the year before.  These names may mean little to you.  What they mean to me is that you can win the Pulitzer with a lifetime of great work behind you and a recently popular but relatively weak book, or even despite the fact that your work sucks.  Trethewey’s won several other prizes, too, none of which I’ve ever heard of.  Today’s poetry world is full of prizes.  Every issue of Poets and Writers magazine has pages upon pages in the back, listing all of that month’s prizewinners.  I’m not sure that every one of them is great and fully deserving of our attention.  Finally, there’s a quote from the introduction to Trethewey’s most recent book.  The introduction was written by Rita

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Here’s one for Tim

April 2nd, 2011

When friend and web site designer extraordinaire Tim Twinam sent me an email saying he liked my last post, I realized that I’ve been blogging for a year and this is the first time that anybody has written in to comment on the poetry.  Ironic, considering that a book of poetry is the raison d’etre of this site!  Along with that realization came another – although I allow myself to feel a mild disappointment at the silence which greets verse, I don’t really expect anything different.  Story of my life – it’s like a taboo subject.  Perhaps it’s because the poems are so awful there is no polite response, but I don’t really believe that.  Most likely, nobody feels qualified to say something.  Except for pop songs, television, movies, and video games, art is something our culture has walled off from daily life.  We have lost the habit of responding to a poem as if it were an intelligible statement about something of mutual interest, part of a conversation.  Not an altogether unjustified reaction, since so much modern poetry has given up on that, too.

Grouse, grouse, grouse.

Okay, Tim, at least you’re willing to talk, bless you.  So… yeah, I find Canada’s Maritimes to be pretty damn numinous.  A few years ago my son and I went on a trip to Newfoundland.  The purpose was to visit Anse aux Meadows, the site of the first known European settlement in the New World, dating to five hundred years before Columbus.  Newfoundland is a giant island shaped like an “L”, and Anse aux Meadows is at the top.  It’s a long way up.  On the road there, we passed through Gros Morne National Park.  In the park is an area called the Tablelands.  A mile’s hike from the road one enters a long ravine or narrow valley between towering, barren, brownish rock cliffs.  The rocks are hundreds of millions of years old, formed (if I understand correctly) by one continental plate sliding under another and forcing the earth’s mantle up.  It was a chilly afternoon with rapidly moving clouds.  I had the place to myself, and stood for a long time in that desolate, ancient valley, beside the little stream that runs down its center.  Returning to the car, where Isaac was napping, I encountered a rock in the middle of the path.  I was certain it had not been there before, but I could not imagine how it got there during the hour since I’d passed.  It is about the size and shape of a human heart, salmony brown with grey veins.  There’s a story of a shaman who was asked if he could talk to the stones, and he answered, “The trick is knowing which ones.”  I felt that this stone definitely had something to say to me.  It wanted to hitch a ride.  I hesitated, because I was unsure what I was inviting into my life, but it is hard to argue with a stone.  It’s sitting in my living room right now, and I am waiting for the day when I have learned how to listen to it.

Tablelands, Newfoundland

I have seen my mother’s bones,
naked, shattered, immense,
and the waters threading down them
braided at my feet
and rushed through the rubble
calling loudly

Vote for me!

March 10th, 2011

Yeah, you!  I’m talking to you!

I received an email the other day from the Vermont Arts Council inviting me to nominate a candidate for Vermont Poet Laureate, and I thought, who better than me?  For all of you who agree, follow this link to help me throw my hat in the ring.  You can find everything you need to know to fill out the nomination form right here on this web site.

Poetry doesn’t need to be boring or mystifying or trivial.  It can be about more than some feeling or experience or passing fancy or perception the author had.  It doesn’t have to be a word game.  It can do more than advertise how sensitive or perceptive or humane or smart or verbally adept the author is.   It doesn’t have to come in little bite size pieces that you can read while folding toilet paper.

Poetry can engage the world on all the levels that you do.  It can make statements, tell stories about characters doing things, express points of view and arguments and ideas, contain adventure and excitement and jokes that are actually funny.  It can be so big that it takes hours and days and weeks to read.  It can be so vivid that you don’t want to watch a movie instead.

I want to wrest poetry away from the clammy fingers of the Standard MFA Workshop American Lyric that are clenching it by the throat, squeezing the life out of it.  I am sick of reading award winning poems that tell me in twenty lines or so about some tranche de vie.  Why are you telling me this?  Who cares?  Why should I care?  Why should anybody care?    I am sick of being dazzled by verbal brilliance – it hurts and it’s bad for the eyes.  I am sick of poems that dare me to understand them, like an adolescent with something to prove to himself.

Where are the poems that back an eighteen wheeler up to your head, unload, and leave you with completely rearranged furniture and a new set of tenants?  Who is writing them?  I’ll leave it to you to decide if I’m such a poet, but if you agree with me that this is something poetry needs to do and that too few poets are trying to do it, then VOTE FOR ME!

The deadline for nominations is March 25.

Invisible

November 16th, 2010

Here’s what we’re up against: I just looked at Amazon.com’s list of “100 best books of the year.”  There’s a sidebar which allows you to browse the editors’ picks by clicking on any of 23 categories, including “Business & Investing” and “Food Lit.”  Poetry isn’t even listed.  So bless you, hardy soul, who has found this web site.  Strike a blow against Corporate Cultural Hegemony!  Buy my freaking book.

Middlebury College, November 10

October 29th, 2010

Join me at 9:00 p.m. on November 10, 2010, in the Gamut Room, Hepburn Hall, Middlebury College, Middlebury, Vermont.  I’ll be reading from To Join the Lost and some newer work.  There’s a New Orleans poem that might be ready to be unveiled by then.