Anne Sexton on getting a bad review from James Dickey

“What do you do with a review like this? It certainly was not written for me to read . . . it was written for the readers of poetry (mostly poets themselves). If I were to listen to James Dickey I would stop writing. God, I don’t know. Funny thing is, I think he’s a pretty good poet and I suppose if I had written and told him so, the review would be tempered a bit . . . that’s the whole trouble with reviewing and so far I have no succumbed to writing reviews. Though God knows someone has got to do it and it can be a lonely road if you’re honest.” 

Find more about the review & Sexton and Dickey’s odd relationship:


Seamus Heaney loved to fax


Seamus Heaney’s biographer races to see poet’s faxes before they fade – Alison Flood – The Guardian – 11/14/17

“A race is on to track down faxes sent by Seamus Heaney before they fade. The outdated technology was the preferred form of communication for the late Nobel laureate and will be a vital source for Fintan O’Toole, who has just been signed up to write an authorised biography of the Irish poet.

“’My one terror is that his favourite communication mode was the fax, and faxes fade. So I’m going to have to find out who has faxes from him, and read them quickly. At the end, [Heaney’s publisher] Faber had a fax machine that was kept just for Seamus,’ said O’Toole.”

He also liked pens. 🙂

Seamus Heaney – Digging

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.
Under my window, a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging. I look down

Dailies 11/17/17


Alicia Ostriker – Boil

Boil over—it’s what the nerves do,
Watch them seethe when stimulated,
Murmurs the man at the stove
To the one at the fridge—



 Pablo Neruda, translated by William O’Daly – I am Afraid

I’m afraid. The evening is gray and the sadness
of the sky opens like the mouth of a corpse.
My heart has a weeping of princess
forgotten at the bottom of a deserted palace.

Read rest of poem 




Connie Wanek – Audience

How kind people are!
How few in the crowd truly hope
the tightrope will break.

Read rest of poem 



James Harms – When I First Met Your Mother

Maybe it’s hard for you
to imagine I ever loved her,
that one day I watched
from across Third Avenue
as she rolled her apron and tucked it
in her coat pocket, looked up
and down the block for me

Read rest of poem 



Vievee Francis – Given to Rust

Every time I open my mouth my teeth reveal

more than I mean to. I can’t stop tonguing them, my teeth.

Almost giddy to know they’re still there (my mother lost hers)

but I am embarrassed nonetheless that even they aren’t

Read rest of poem 



Poetry Diary: It’s

Football Weather

Paul Carroll

As a kid I tried to coax its coming
By sleeping beneath light sheets
Weeks before
The funeral of the summer locusts in the yard;

Dailies 11/16/17


Laura Kasischke – After Ken Burns

The beautiful plate I cracked in half as I wrapped it in tissue paper—
as if the worship of a thing might be the thing that breaks it.
This river, which is life, which is wayfaring. This river,
which is also sky. This dipper, full of mind, which is


Kathleen Peirce – Vault 55.
To meet the unmet lover
prepare two blindfolds, cut and sewn by hand.
Brown, his; hers red,
with shapes embroidered where the lashes brush;



Catherine Barnett – Epistemology

Mostly I’d like to feel a little less, know a little more.
Knots are on the top of my list of what I want to know.
Who was it who taught me to burn the end of the cord 
to keep it from fraying?



Margaret Atwood – A Pink Hotel in California

My father chops with his axe
and the leaves fall off the trees.
It’s nineteen forty-three.
He’s splitting wood for the winter.

Read rest of poem 



Pimone Triplett – Supply Chain


Drippingly by grips, this humus and perlite nearly sings
*****    through my fingers
circling the ditch lily’s heat-sunk side, anthers frayed, fallen.
*****    Sift. Learn your footprint.

Read rest of poem 



Poetry Diary: big excitement in New Haven today for a few minutes, as we got a 

Double Rainbow

Ravi Shankar

Speeding, without destination, after dark
torrents have poured & been returned
at home, the skies above mirror my mood,




Creepy. Beautiful. Watch “Ginevra” – a film by Tess Martin, based on a poem by Percy Shelley

This is cool. According to the press release, 

This short film is based on a poem called ‘The Dirge’ by Percy Shelley (not to be confused with another Shelley poem called A Dirge). Max Rothman at Monticello Park Productions brought this project to animation filmmaker Tess Martin. Upon further research Tess discovered that The Dirge is actually part of a longer, unfinished poem called Ginevra (read the full poem here).

“In the book The Poems of Shelley: Volume Four 1820-1821 by Michael Rossington, Jack Donovan and Kelvin Everest, the authors speculate that the poem might have been inspired by a supposedly true story contained in a book that his wife Mary was reading at the time. The story is that of Ginevra degli Almieri, a Renaissance-era urban legend about a woman who was thought dead of a plague that swept the city of Florence in the year 1400, and was put in a vault to be buried the next day. But she then awakens and is mistaken for a ghost by both her husband and her parents. Unfortunately, Percy Shelley himself died an untimely death in 1822, and was not able to finish this poem. His wife Mary published just the last segment under the title ‘The Dirge’, as well as the rest of the unfinished poem under the title ‘Ginevra’, in 1824 after Percy’s death.

“The animated film incorporates inspiration from the Ginevra backstory, as well as direct inspiration from the poem itself. It is created using primarily cream-colored paper cut-outs on a multi-plane animation stand, with lots of lights and colored filters.”

Percy Bysshe Shelley – The Dirge 

Old winter was gone
In his weakness back to the mountains hoar,
And the spring came down
From the planet that hovers upon the shore

Where the sea of sunlight encroaches
On the limits of wintry night; –
If the land, and the air, and the sea,
Rejoice not when spring approaches,
We did not rejoice in thee,

She is still, she is cold
On the bridal couch,
One step to the white deathbed,
And one to the bier,
And one to the charnel – and one, oh where?
The dark arrow fled
In the noon.

Ere the sun through heaven once more has rolled,
The rats in her heart
Will have made their nest,
And the worms be alive in her golden hair,
While the Spirit that guides the sun,
Sits throned in his flaming chair,
She shall sleep.

The winner of this year’s National Book Award in Poetry is….

Frank Bidart, for


Read excerpts from all of the nominees here


Jesmyn Ward, Frank Bidart, Masha Gessen And Robin Benway Win National Book Awards – Colin Dwyer – NPR – 11/15/17

“Bidart did not win the lifetime achievement award … but you could be forgiven for seeing his poetry prize as something similar. Bidart’s Half-light: Collected Poems 1965-2016 gathered work from eight books’ worth of material, a career of more than five decades, into a single authoritative volume.

“It was not just a life of poetry contained in this book, but also a life made by poetry, Bidart suggested. ‘I realized during the past month that I’m almost twice as old as any of the other finalists. Writing the poems,’ Bidart told the crowd in New York City, ‘was how I survived.’

“‘One premise of art is that anything personal, seen deeply enough, becomes general, becomes impersonal,’ he added. ‘I hope that the journeys these poems go on will help others to survive, as well.'”

Frank Bidart – Half Light


That crazy drunken night I

maneuvered you out into a field outside of

Coachella—I’d never seen a sky

so full of stars, as if the dirt of our lives

Read rest of poem 

Dailies 11/15/17


Maria Mazziotti Gillan – Bell Bottoms and Platform Shoes

A friend sends me a picture of herself
from the 70s—bell bottoms, platform shoes
a patterned button down shirt,
hair puffed up from a perm.

Read rest of poem



Terrance Hayes – American Sonnet for My Past and Future Assassin [But there never was a black male hysteria]

But there never was a black male hysteria
Breaking & entering wearing glee & sadness
And the light grazing my teeth with my lighter
To the night with the flame like a blade cutting



Victoria Chang – Barbie Chang is Done

Barbie Chang is done worshipping the

*****Circle is done shopping

Read rest of poem 



Mary Jo Firth Gillett – Pine Tree with Fish Head

Nailed to the trunk, jaws forced open,
some sort of pike or maybe a lake trout,
all the flesh rotted off or else eaten by the raspy

Read rest of poem 



James Arthur – The Land of Nod

Growing up, I barely knew the Bible, but read
and reread the part when Cain drifted east
or was drawn that way, into a place of desolation,
the land of Nod, there to begin, with a wife


Poetry Diary: thinking about the value of challenges & struggle. I like this:
Martha Baird – Do Not Make Things Too Easy
Do not make things too easy.
There are rocks and abysses in the mind
As well as meadows.

Want to know what the top markets for poetry are?

 Here’s a list, based on the number of times each journal has made it into this year’s Pushcart Prize anthology. The list is by Clifford Garstang.

Re: his rationale, Garstang writes

“Years ago, when I was first submitting short stories to literary magazines, I wanted a way to tier my submissions. I believe in simultaneous submissions, but I didn’t want to submit a story to a great magazine and a not-so-great magazine at the same time because of the risk of multiple acceptances. (If the not-so-great magazine accepted first, it would pain me to withdraw the story from the great magazine.) Developing a ranking of literary magazines allowed me to submit only to those magazines in roughly the same tier. I began sharing the list on my blog because I knew other writers used the same tiered approach to submissions. Eventually, I added poetry and non-fiction rankings and also links to magazine websites.”

The top 5 on the list:

  1.  Poetry
  2.  Kenyon Review
  3. American Poetry Review
  4.  Southern Review
  5. Threepenny Review

Aim to be a critic, not a troll

Good article w/a lot of interesting rabbit-holes via the links re: Internet culture and trolling.  This is about a self-published Instagram poet, but “professional” poets do get hate as well….(thinking of the recent on-line attacks by students against Ellen van Neerven, for ex.)

The most hated poet in Portland: One tweet turned Collin Andrew Yost into a joke. Could he survive it? – Laura Yan – The Outline – 11/14/17

Yost’s poems were problematic re: what they revealed of potentially misogynistic feelings.   Angry tweets and satires poured in. The author of this article, Laura Yan, even put some up herself.

“For many women, recognizing misogyny is an instinct, something you viscerally feel even if you can’t explain it. But by the time Izzy’s tweet became viral the next morning, the comments no longer seemed to be just about misogyny. They started to feel theatrical and performative, about who can come up with the funniest tweet or the most biting satire.

“According to Dr. Elias Aboujaoude, a Stanford University psychiatrist and author of Virtually You: The Dangerous Powers of the E-Personality, there’s ‘something thrilling about expressing yourself without any breaks on what you say.’ If a friend showed you his poetry over coffee, for instance, you’d find a polite way to express your dislike, if you share your opinion at all. But online, we speak ‘without worrying about consequences to you or the person on the receiving end.’ This can be fun, liberating, even ‘entertaining or smart in some situations.’ But it can also become dangerous.”

Click here to read the poems that went viral/started the onslaught, plus some of the responses. 


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