Tag Archive for poetry

Poet Kevin Prufer ‘92 Publishes Forgotten Poets, Essays on Literary Translation

Kevin Prufer( Photo by Mary Yost Hallab)

Poet Kevin Prufer ’92 has several current projects, including work on a series of “forgotten” poets. (Photo by Mary Yost Hallab)

Kevin Prufer ‘92 is co-editor a forthcoming collection of essays on literary translation Into English: Poems, Translations, Commentaries (Graywolf 2017). For this collection, Prufer invited 25 translators and poets to select a poem and three corresponding English translations. To follow the selections, each of the 25 contributors composed a brief essay on what these various versions say about the art of literary translation.

Additionally, Prufer co-curates the Unsung Masters Series, published through Pleiades Press, which attempts to bring out-of-print and relatively unknown poets to new readers. To complement the writer’s poems, each edition features critical essays, interviews, and letters.

Prufer sees this initiative as opportunity to add new voices to the world of poetry. “Poets are so frequently unknown,” says Prufer, “and the ones we do know tend to tell a very particular narrative.” The reason they lose favor, he says, “is almost always part of an intriguing story.”

One such poet, Dunstan Thompson, first inspired Prufer to launch the series. Thompson, a gay poet whose books had been out of print since 1948, frequently wrote homoerotic work that depicted the battlefields and combat hospitals of World War II. Once a highly regarded young American poet, Thompson struggled with his sexuality and renewed his religious devotion, eventually settling into obscurity in England.

Today the series often relies on dedicated readers to suggest additional subjects to explore. Many send e-mails, but sometimes, Prufer says, “people even come up to me at parties to suggest writers.”

Prufer is also at work on his own poetry—a collection of poems titled The Art of Fiction, focusing on how an author controls the passage of time within literature. He derived this particular interest in narrative structure, he says, in part from his experience writing fiction, which he pursued at Wesleyan as a College of Letters major.

Yet another book of his poetry, How He Loved Them, is forthcoming with Four Way Books in 2018 and features a political emphasis. When asked how his poems might relate to the current political climate, Prufer responded, “You know, poetry is really bad at telling you who to vote for; I think we have a enough of that…I think what poems do is meditate on the complexity of, in the case of political poetry, political situations, and to my mind, that seems like a more interesting act of politics.”

Prufer is the author of  six books of poetry, most recently Churches, which made the New York Times list of Ten Favorite Poetry Books of 2014. Also the editor of several anthologies, he is editor-at-large of Pleiades: A Journal of New Writing. With graduate degrees from Hollins University and Washington University, he is a professor in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Houston and the low-residency MFA at Lesley University. His awards include four Pushcart prizes, and he has received numerous awards from the Poetry Society of America, as well as fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Lannan Foundation.

Collins ’81 Publishes New Poetry Collection

Michael Collins '81

Michael Collins ’81

Michael Collins ’81 has written a new book of poems, The Traveling Queen (Sheep Meadow Press). He sent us the following comments on his collection:

“This book is dedicated to Annie Dillard, who began teaching at Wesleyan University while I was there and who encouraged me to pursue a career as a writer so many times that she finally overcame my misgivings.

“In general, the writing of the book was informed by my sense that poems are promises. ‘So long as men can breathe or eyes can see/ so long lives this [poem],’ Shakespeare promises in one sonnet, ‘and this gives life to thee.’  Or, as Etheridge Knight writes in one poem, a lyric can be a chanted as ‘a spell to drive the demons away.’

Poetry by Michael Collins '81

Poetry by Michael Collins ’81

“In the language of the dollar, poems aspire to be ‘legal tender for all debts [that is to say, all promises], public or private’: legal tender for debts we incur in promising to be good as our word, to love ‘till death do us part’ (for the marriage vow is itself a little poem), to sprout up under the reader’s boot soles, like Walt Whitman, or to look long into the Medusa face of reality, so that the reader will not turn to stone. (Prayers and psalms are these sorts of poems).

“The fact that poems are promises gives the poet (at least at my level) something in common with the Ponzi schemer: For, like a Ponzi scheme, a poem is a lie whose worth is based entirely on what people invest in it. But, unlike a Ponzi scheme, a poem is a lie that becomes truer the more people invest in it, the more they allow it to structure their imaginations: Who would think of ‘Homer,’ who may or may not have existed—may or may not have been made out of ‘a mouthful of air,’ as Yeats said one of his poems was—if the Illiad had not made the fires of war and the wills of gods and nations grow out of Helen’s red hair?

“As this special sort of Ponzi schemer’s product, the poem always has the potential to rise in value to the point of becoming priceless—and the potential to become worthless, like the post-World War I German money people are said to have had to cart in wheelbarrows to make simple purchases.”

From The Traveling Queen:

The Funeral

Before they close the casket
the preacher tries to open heaven with his voice,
and whisper the strongman in.

In her review of the collection in the New York Journal of Books, Laverne Frith writes:

The Traveling Queen is a wildly rich and passionately far-reaching collection of poems about which it is almost impossible to make generalizations. One thing is clear—Michael Collins is a poet of obsessions. He is obsessed with history, obsessed with mythic women, obsessed with God. But most of all, Mr. Collins is obsessed with death.”

Born in Jamaica, Collins holds a PhD from Columbia University and teaches English at Texas A&M. He is the author of Understanding Etheridge Knight (University of South Carolina Press, 2013) and has authored literary criticism, creative nonfiction, journalism and fiction in various publications such as PMIA, Callaloo, and Singapore’s The Straits Times.

Buckley ’76 Writes New Poetry Collection

Poet B. J. Buckley '76

Poet B. J. Buckley ’76

B. J. Buckley ’76 has written a new collection of poems, Spaces Both Infinite and Eternal  (Limberlost Press) which considers the natural world, quiet, unspoken events—the accidental death of an owl, a porcupine gorging on apples, unobserved fragrant meadows, the roar of wind through cottonwoods. The presence of man is barely acknowledged in the rugged western landscapes of these poems. Buckley’s voice is a quiet guide through rural, mountainous territory.

Book by B. J. Buckley '76

Book by B. J. Buckley ’76

Her book is printed letterpress, using lead type on a old hand-fed platen press.

A native of Wyoming, Buckley lives on a ranch near Power, Montana. She has worked in Arts-in-the-Schools programs throughout the Rocky Mountain West for more than 30 years. She is the author of two previous books of poems, Artifacts (Willow Bee Press) and Moonhorses & The Red Bull, with artist Dawn Trask (Pronghorn Press). For her writing, she has received the Joy Harjo Prize from Cutbank: A Journal of the Arts, the Rita Dove Poetry Award from the center for Women Writers at Salem College, The Robert Penn Warren Narrative Poetry Prize, and the Comstock Review Poetry Prize. Her work also currently appears in About Place: The Future of Water.

 

Wet Spring

by B. J. Buckley

In the low bluffs, bones of buffalo lie exposed
by spring rains. So much meat, and the wind still hungry,
still cold at heart. Rain: a thousand hooves pounding dust.

Scattered out of the cattails the red-winged blackbirds,
evading for now, a hawk’s pursuit — falling, winged ash,
back into the green fire of the reeds, raining song over their enemies.

The horses are turned ass into the wind, rain saddling their flanks.
Clouds of breath rise from flared nostrils, manes knotted with damp,
the beautiful muscles rippling beneath their skins like rain-swollen rivers.

By late afternoon the sun’s corralled the thunderheads,
reined them in. Meadowlarks flash out of the coulees, yellow,
yellow — if only all wars could be so easily broken.

So many acres of stony ground, so many acres of clay —
It takes long hard rains to soak in, to crack the dessicated
seed — rainbows of wildflowers arching over the hills.

Fifty years might pass before another blossoming;
a lifetime between rains. The heart’s a mustang — it won’t be broken.
Look, how swallows thread the sky, weaving the blue cloth of darkness!

From Spaces Both Infinite and Eternal

Pugh ’88 Publishes Third Book of Poetry

Christina Pugh ’88

Christina Pugh ’88

In her new poetry collection Grains of the Voice (Triquarterly Books/Northwestern University Press), Christina Pugh ’88 reveals a fascination with sound in all its manifestations, including the human voice, musical instruments, and the sounds produced by the natural and man-made worlds. All of these serve as both the framework of poems and the occa¬sion for their changes of direction, of tone, of point of reference. The poems contain echoes—and sometimes the words themselves—of other poets, but just as often of popular and obscure songs, of the noise of pop culture, and of philosophers’ writings. Beneath the surface of her work, Pugh explores the nature of and need for communication and celebrates the endless variety of its forms.

Poetry by Christina Pugh '88

Poetry by Christina Pugh ’88

Pugh comments: “The title of my book was taken from ‘The Grain of the Voice,’ an essay on opera that was written by the critic Roland Barthes. In it, Barthes discusses a form of articulation that is, in his words, ‘a dual posture, a dual production—of language and of music.’ In short poems that both recall and revise the traditional sonnet, I have explored such ‘grains’ by incorporating particular musical and poetic line—from pop and rock songs, hymns, and poets ranging from Milton to Louise Bogan—into my own lines of extended syntactical thought. I hope that these poems may incite both new thought and new music in the mind and ear of the reader.”

Pugh’s previous collections of poems are Restoration and Rotary. Her awards include the 2000 Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowship and a 2005 Ucross Foundation Residency Fellowship, the Grolier Poetry Prize, and four nominations for the Pushcart Prize. She is an associate professor of English at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Koehler ’95 Studies 18th-Century Poetry, Links to Cognitive Psychology

Margaret Koehler '95

Margaret Koehler ’95

In her academic study Poetry of Attention in the Eighteenth Century (Palgrave Macmillan), Margaret Koehler ’95 identifies a pervasive cultivation of attention in 18th-century poetry. The book argues that a plea from a 1692 ode by William Congreve—’Let me be all, but my attention, dead’—embodies a wider aspiration in the period’s poetry to explore overt themes of attention and demonstrate techniques of readerly attention. It historicizes 18th century accounts of attention and pioneers a link between the period’s poetry and recent discussions of attention in cognitive psychology.

Book by Margaret Koehler '95

Book by Margaret Koehler ’95

Koehler’s book contributes to the largely neglected history of a psychological trait that has assumed a recent cultural urgency, and it repositions 18th-century poems as a collective model for assiduous reading and supple, wide-ranging attention.

In her introduction, Koehler writes: “By identifying attention as a central theme and task of 18th-century poetry, this book attempts to locate both greater coherence and greater variety among the period’s poems. I aim to outline common themes and methods that connect seemingly dissimilar poems: odes from different phases in the period, sudden shifts of focus that connect mock-heroic to landscape poetry, sensory experiments across the period.”

Koehler is an associate professor of English at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio. She has published essays in Modern Philology, Studies in English Literature, and Blackwell’s A Companion to Eighteenth Century Poetry.

Saba ’81 Explores Family Roots in First Book of Poetry

Mark Saba ’81

Mark Saba ’81 recently released Painting A Disappearing Canvas (Grayson Books), a collection of poems spanning 30 years. Centering on his Polish and Italian roots in Pittsburgh, the poems focus on the subject of family life and universal themes of what it means to be alive.

Paolo Valesio, professor of Italian literature at Columbia University, writes in the book’s foreword that Saba is a “writer who meditates on the entanglement of his roots and who sounds as if he is tenderly worried that his children not be too bound up with this entanglement while at the same time he is concerned that they do not forget it.” Exploring these complications in such pieces as “Poem of Forgiveness” and “My Mother Straightens Her Babushka,” Saba creates a lyrical autobiography that, at the same time, connects his own experience to the greater American landscape.

Saba is also the author of the novel The Landscapes of Pater, about a boy’s search for a father figure and trip to his ancestors’ birthplace in Sardinia, and the novella Thaddeus Olsen, within the collection Desperate Remedies, which explores issues of identity, privilege, and the state of higher education in the United States. His narrative epic poem “Judith of the Lights” won the Mellon Poetry Award as part of the collection Three Women: Touching the Boundaries of Life. Besides writing poetry and fiction, Saba works as an illustrator and graphic designer at Yale University.

Poetry book by Mark Saba ’81

NEA Supports Wesleyan University Press’s Poetry Program

Suzanna Tamminen, director of Wesleyan University Press, received a $50,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts on March 21.

The grant will support Wesleyan University Press’s poetry program. The funding will support publication of 12 books of poetry in 2011 and 2012, including the new volume by Pulitzer Prize winner Rae Armantrout and the collected poems of Joseph Ceravolo. In addition to helping support publication costs, the funding will be used to help authors travel to give readings from their new Wesleyan books.

Wesleyan University Press Book Nominated for L.A. Times Award

Brenda Hillman’s book, Practical Water, published by Wesleyan University Press in 2009, was named a 2009 Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist in the Poetry category. The 124-page book is part of the Wesleyan University Press’s Poetry Series.

Publishers Weekly says “Hillman’s eighth collection of poems is the third in her series of book-length meditations on the elements. In these aesthetically challenging, yet often surprisingly clear poems, which span the personal, political and environmental, water is simultaneously a transparent vessel, a mirror and an endangered resource. This is one of the most unusual and compelling books so far this year.”