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Josh Hurst

Good poetry?

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On a different note, has anyone here ever read any major Sufi poetry, such as Hafiz or Rumi? If so, What was the effect?

It's all in the translation. For Rumi it's Coleman Barks and John Moyne--The Essential Rumi.

For Hafiz it's Daniel Landinsky; the book is called the Gift.

I would also recommend Kabir. The Ecstatic Poems translated by Robert Bly (of all people) are wonderful. For more of his work, see the fantastic--and closer translations by Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore in The Songs Of Kabir.

Late reply (and discovery), but thank you, thank you! I will look into these! It's not the first time I've come across "the Gift," and thank you for your other reccommendations! I'm sure they mean much to you.

Getting back to the original inquiry, may I highly, highly reccommend other works by Matthew Arnold? His collected poems are available free via Kindle, for those of you. "Morality" is another very good one. He seems beautifully to blend high, lofty ideals with practical, earthly concerns! He is a rare gift.

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Joshua Weiner reviews Attack of the Difficult Poems by Charles Bernstein in the Los Angeles Review of Books -

... What’s being entertained here are at least two things, for the joke is neither facetious nor smug: the tonal caricature conveys straight forward reminders useful to any reader of poetry, but especially those readers who eschew difficulty because they don’t feel up to it: relax, get busy — after all, difficulty in poetry is “normal,” “innate;” and “smoothing over difficulties is not the solution!”

One could hardly argue; after all, Bernstein sounds as if he’s asking for a retooled negative capability, of attending to but not straining after an understanding, allowing oneself to reside in the presence of something that’s mysterious, unknown, even if it’s critical of another poetry’s “mystification.” But “the tendency to idealize the accessible poem,” which still circulates in the economy of reviews, prizes, jobs, and chancellorships, warrants the counter-claim that difficult poems have attributes that spur us to consider: what is language; what is poetry; how does it work; and what is its value? (In the context of teaching, which is the inspired concern of the first part of this collection, we have to remember that what an undergraduate with no conscious experience of poetry finds difficult could be any piece of writing. And often what a teacher finds himself doing with a poem in the classroom is to suggest its difficulty right where a student reads simplicity. Those for whom poetry and difficulty are synonyms, however, generally aren’t stopping in; it all remains an irrelevant mystery, warranting a detour one bypasses on the way to Econ 101.)

As the “Dr. Poetry” persona soon after drops, we find Bernstein earnestly promoting the value of poetry and the humanities as an open-ended inquiry that’s precious for creating experiences liberated from the logic of capital ... It is precisely this kind of flexibility and double-hinged intelligence, keen on paradox and chiasmic thinking, that makes Bernstein’s book so useful: as a practical guide through the perilous logic of short-term gain that now plagues the university, to classroom pedagogies (what he calls creative “wreading”), to further statements in the ongoing manifesto that is Bernstein’s declaration of poetic “practice,” and that clearly informs his teaching: “poetry as process”; scholarship as “explanation by association”; “poetics as “philosophy of composition”; the notion that “poetry begins in the present moment and moves backward and forward from there” ... When it comes to thinking about poems, however, I still favor analysis, the deep dive into the mechanics of language and form, and as important to teach as poetics, granting that the former is impossible without the latter ...

“With the advent of the photo/phono electronic, postliterate age, the emerging function for poetry is neither the storage of collective memory nor the projection of individual voice, but rather an exploration of the medium through which the storage and expressive functions of language work [. . .] Poetry’s singular burden in a digital age is to sound the means of transmission: call it poetry’s textual function, making audible/visible the ethos enacted in and by the fabric of writing.” This is a bracing salvo, as Bernstein devotes himself to thinking about the most important question facing poetry: what does poetry do, what can it do, today, that is special to it as a medium. It’s an essential question, and searching out a plausible answer requires engagement not only with poetry but also with the full range of our communications technology — its past, present, and the forecasts for its future ... Regardless of the kind of poetry you like to read or write, if you care about the fate of poetry in a digital age then you have to think about this: what constitutes a text, let alone a poem, or a public ...

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Last year I discovered a wonderful writer named Paris Leary. His completely unknown, hard-to-find 1963 novel The Innocent Curate deserves to be a classic of religious fiction. He also edited an anthology of modern poetry called A Controversy of Poets (surely the best title for such a book I've ever heard), which includes this by Leary himself:


Views of The Oxford Colleges


There are no red leaves in yellow Oxford,

no acrid scent of red leaves burning

on wet grass waiting to be brown.

At night the coal-smoke settling on the town

brought the small sky closer, and the turning

of the earth numbed the keys in awkward locks.


Moisture logs the print of Christ’s scorched shadow

sagging  from the frost-crippled altar

where the breath rimes the chalice with a touch

of cold humanity and snaps with such

frozen Amens that fingers smart and falter

in their chilled blessing over silent bread.


A ragged cat with yellow dignity

moves like a stone along a ragged wall

and vanishes from sight by standing still.

But the season will not change for me until

I walk ankle-deep through the blazing fall

and watch the wind blow the sun away.


For though the summer rose in me in Ludlow,

and though a second autumn pales me here,

yet always it is Tilbury Town that rises

round me where the Cherwell and the Isis

swell gently with the custom of the year.

It is too many years until the snow.


Christ in sacrifice leans dangerously

from the chipped wall, his broken nose

and powdered eyes brutal with centuries.

Leaves drop like jaundiced blood from chestnut trees

but, falling where the feeble morning rose,

scatter mercy down the thin lame street—


and in that part of mind where I am youngest

sumac bleeds and crimson cracks like thunder

through maples incandescent with the reason

there are no red leaves this yellow season;

and I, admiring Magdalen Tower, wonder

how the age has scraped Christ’s blood from everything.

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Indulge me for just one more post on Andrew Hudgins. I figured I should link to the poem of his that hooked me, but I couldn�t turn it up through a Google search. Instead, I found Hudgins� �Praying Drunk,� which I�ve just now read. I think I love it.

Thoughts? Is this sort of poetry considered too cute?

FWIW, the title of the poem that hooked me is "In the Bleachers," in the collection Babylon in a Jar.

I just came across a NY Times review of a Kyle Minor book, Praying Drunk, which sounds like it could be great if it doesn't overwhelm me with despair:


You see where this is going — eventually the finger of blame points at the face of God. Once God enters the discussion, he’s here to stay. In the next story, the 12-year-old narrator attends a Christian school, where his fear of the brutal bully is matched only by his fear of the coming Rapture. Later, another narrator (all of them are similar enough to be considered shades of the same type of person) struggles with his love for his girlfriend, whose covenant with God is so strong she won’t even let him kiss her. And in the ­Saunders-esque “The Truth and All Its Ugly,” the narrator learns the dangers of assuming the creator’s role when he orders a custom clone of his son, after the son has killed himself on his mother’s doorstep to harm her as acutely as possible.


The review concludes with this kicker:


The title of the book comes from an Andrew Hudgins poem containing the lines “This is my favorite sin: despair — / whose love I celebrate with wine and prayer.” Minor’s book is less a collection than an extended prayer, wrenched from the heart and wrought in the language of pain. One hopes that after the wine wears off, so too will some of the despair.

Edited by Christian

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jan zwicky, anne carson and maria howe. killer.

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The New York Times: "Line by Line, E-Books Turn Poet-Friendly"


Of all the literary genres, poetry has proved the most resistant to digital technology, not for stodgy cultural reasons but for tricky mechanical ones. Most e-readers mangle the line breaks and stanzas that are so crucial to the appearance and rhythm of poetry. As a result, many publishers have held back on digitizing poetry, and works by some major poets still are not available as e-books, including Ezra Pound’s “The Cantos” and poems by Jorie Graham, Tracy K. Smith, Elizabeth Bishop and Czeslaw Milosz.


This is something I've noticed, myself--the fact that poetry looks really wonky on an e-reader, in a way that prose doesn't.

Edited by NBooth

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nicholas samaras' american psalm, world psalm is pretty boss.

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I've just finished Gabriel: A Poem, by Edward Hirsch, which was brought to my attention when perusing a list of National Book Award nominees.


I rated the book 4 stars at GoodReads, but was tempted to give it 5. My only hesitation is that it took me several pages to adapt to what Hirsch is doing, as best as I know how to adapt to different forms of poetry. Once I was over that hump, the book/poem was beautiful. I read through the poem relatively quickly -- it's 78 pages in the hardback edition -- but am thinking of going back through it. There's much in Gabriel to reflect on, and to learn from.  

Edited by Christian

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You know what is really super fun in terms of e-poetry? The iPad app for T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land. Full text of the poem, commentaries, notes, video performance by Fiona Saw, voice recordings by various other people including Eliot, Alec Guinness, Ted Hughes, Jeremy Irons & Aileen Atkins, Viggo Mortensen, facsimile of Eliot's manuscript with edits by Ezra Pound, and a bunch of photos and images.




Good, but not good enough


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For what it's worth (and I think it's worth a lot), the top downloaded book at NoiseTrade today, and the Memorial Day pick from NoiseTrade's Will Hodge, is Delicate Machinery Suspended.


It's a free ebook download, although you will not be forced to take it for free... you are welcome to tip the poet.  

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Today I got my copy of Chen Chen's first full-length collection, When I Grow Up I Want to be a List of Further PossibilitiesIt's a funny and frequently heartbreaking collection about race, sexuality, and self-doubt. I'm about halfway through it now and am really enjoying it (note: my knowledge of poetry is medium at best and mostly confined to the Modernists). One poem in particular might be of interest to folks around here: "I'm not a religious person but". A snippit:


God sent an angel. One of his least qualified, though. Fluent only in

Lemme get back to you. The angel sounded like me, early twenties, 
unpaid interning. Proficient in fetching coffee, sending super
vague emails. It got so bad God personally had to speak to me. 
This was annoying because I’m not a religious person. I thought 
I’d made this clear to God by reading Harry Potter & not attending
church except for gay weddings. God did not listen to me. God is
not a good listener. [...]

I love that whole poem, to be honest. Then there's this, the conclusion to "To the Guanacos at Syracuse Zoo":


                                                     I didn't

intend to meet you & you yourselves were

probably hoping for better. But isn't this

how it happens? Aren't all great

love stories, at their core,

great mistakes?


Edited by NBooth

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Several years ago, someone asked about Rumi. A new English translation of his Arabic poems is available now with a very helpful introduction that contextualizes his life and work within Islamic Sufism of his time, and the translations are more accurate than Coleman Barks's paraphrases:

Love Is My Savior: The Arabic Poems of Rumi, trans. & ed. Nesreen Akhtarkhavari and Anthony A. Lee. Michigan State Univ. Press, 2016.

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