These images are from the Al-Mutanabbi Street Project of artists' books and poetry broadsides. A part of that project is Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here: Poets and Writers Respond to the March 5, 2007, Bombing of Baghdad's "Street of the Booksellers" anthology, recipient of the NCBR Recognition Award. This honor and others in Fiction, Poetry, Translation, Non-Fiction, and Children's Literature will be presented on Sunday afternoon, May 19, 2013, at San Francisco Bay Area's big all-genre literary gathering, the Northern California Book Awards, at San Francisco Main Library's Koret Auditorium. The stellar Poetry nominees are McSweeney's Zubair Ahmed, CJ Evans, Lyn Hejinian, Alice Jones, recent National Book Critics Circle award-winner D.A. Powell, and Aaron Shurin. The Fiction nominees include Jon Boilard, Michael Chabon, Jennifer DuBois, Dave Eggers, and recent Pulitzer-winner Adam Johnson. Poet and teacher Kay Ryan will receive the Fred Cody Lifetime Achievement in Community and Literature. When you live in one of the sweet spots of American writing, why depend on Pulitzers, National Book Awards, National Book Critics Circle Awards to celebrate Northern California writers, readers, and publishers? That's the notion behind the Northern California Book Awards that have been honoring our writers, energizing our literary community for thirty-two years. The awards are followed by a free reception and book signing in the Library. It's the big schmooze, the sweet mingle. Come hear and celebrate these extraordinary writers, part of this vibrant literary community in which we're so lucky to find ourselves. For details and a complete list of nominees in all categories, see the NCBA Program page .
I recently used The Ecco Anthology of International Poetry (edited by Ilya Kaminsky and Susan Harris) as a text for one of my poetry workshops. In the introduction Kaminsky, quoting Akhmatova, calls works in translation "correspondences in the air"; he also quotes Celan, who called them "encounters." read more
Poetry readings are peculiar events. Attended by colleagues, competitors, friends and just about nobody else, they seem more like cell meetings than cultural happenings. They demand an unusual amount of concentrated attention, yet many poets are at best, indifferent readers. In late March though, at the 92nd Street Y in New York, there was an unusual and remarkable reading featuring two poets, Jack Gilbert and Vijay Seshadri. Seshadri is an imposing figure with a melodic and appealing voice. His manner is attractive, and his poetry is worthy of the honor of reading at the Y. But I suspect most people came to see Gilbert. read more
Selected Poems, by Robert Pinsky, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 2012, 224 pages, $16.00 paperback.
…It is hung with devices
By dead masters who have survived by reducing themselves magically
To tiny organisms, to wisps of matter, crumbs of soil,
Bits of skin, microscopic flakes, which is why they are called "great,"
In their humility that goes on celebrating the turning
Of the wheel as it rolls unrelentingly over
A cow plodding through car-traffic on a street in Iasi,
And over the haunts of Robert Pinsky's mother and father
And wife and children and his sweet self
Which he hereby unwillingly and inexpertly gives up, because it is
There, figured and pre-figured in the nothing-transfiguring wheel.
That's the ending of "The Figured Wheel," which served as the title poem for Robert Pinsky's 1996 volume of new and collected poems. It seems to me to center his concerns, to define them, in both a positive and a negative way. read more
the new black, by Evie Shockley, Wesleyan University Press, Middletown, Connecticut, 2012, 128 pages, $14.95 paperback.
How Long, by Ron Padgett, Coffee House Press, Minneapolis, 2011, 91 pages, $16.00 paper
Flies, by Michael Dickman, Copper Canyon Press, Port Townsend, Washington, 2011, 86 pages, $16.00 paperback.
Address, by Elizabeth Willis, Wesleyan University Press, Middletown, Connecticut, 2012, 70 pages, $14.95 paperback.
Coral Road, by Garrett Hongo, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2011, 106 pages, $26.00 cloth. (The paperback edition will be released in April, 2013.)
you'd never have convinced me white men
would kill white men by the hundreds
of thousands freeing the negro—even as
the desperate, calculated means to purely
economic ends. exhaling outrageously,
he adjusted the vest around his barrel
chest and relaxing waistline, but war
came and, in its wake, amendments—
if not amends—were made. seven years
after its end, i was running for vice-
president of the union. no, the equal rights
ticket didn't win, and it only took
another one hundred and thirty-six years
to put a colored man in the white house.
i saw the steel in his eyes glimmer—
or glint. your president will be what
his country has taught him to be, will
do what his experience leads him to do.
don't mix up change with progress
The speaker is Frederick Douglass, ending the dramatic monologue "(mis)takes one to know one." No two poems in this book are very much like each other, but most of them, as here, unfold in an atmosphere of irony and controlled anger… read more