Poetry

  • ⇢ David Ferry, Bewilderment: New Poems and Translations


    David Ferry, Bewilderment: New Poems and Translations (University of Chicago Press).

    From the Publisher: To read David Ferry's Bewilderment is to be reminded that poetry of the highest order can be made by the subtlest of means. The passionate nature and originality of Ferry's prosodic daring works astonishing transformations that take your breath away. In poem after poem, his diction modulates beautifully between plainspoken high eloquence and colloquial vigor, making his distinctive speech one of the most interesting and ravishing achievements of the past half century. Ferry has fully realized both the potential for vocal expressiveness in his phrasing and the way his phrasing plays against — and with — his genius for metrical variation. His vocal phrasing thus becomes an amazingly flexible instrument of psychological and spiritual inquiry. Most poets write inside a very narrow range of experience and feeling, whether in free or metered verse. But Ferry's use of meter tends to enhance the colloquial nature of his writing, while giving him access to an immense variety of feeling. Sometimes that feeling is so powerful it's like witnessing a volcanologist taking measurements in the midst of an eruption. Ferry's translations, meanwhile, are amazingly acclimated English poems. Once his voice takes hold of them they are as bred in the bone as all his other work. And the translations in this book are vitally related to the original poems around them.

    Caitlyn Pezza, on behalf of the New School Graduate Writing Program and the NBCC, discusses Bewilderment: New Poems and Translations with the author, David Ferry.  Bewilderment is among the final five selections, in the category of Poetry, for the 2012 NBCC awards.  The interview was conducted via video chat on 2/12/13.


    Caitlyn Pezza is a Floridian poet, and an MFA student at The New School Graduate Writing Program.  Her poems have appeared in The Best American Poetry Blog, and Espresso Ink.  

  • ⇢ Lucia Perillo, On the Spectrum of Possible Deaths


    Lucia Perillo, On the Spectrum of Possible Deaths (Copper Canyon Press). 

    "The poems in On the Spectrum of Possible Deaths are taut, lucid, lyric, filled with complex emotional reflection while avoiding the usual difficulties of highbrow poetry." — New York Times Book Review

    "Perillo has long lived with, and written about, her struggle with debilitating multiple sclerosis. Her bracing sixth book of poems, published concurrently with her debut story collection, takes an unflinching, though not unsmiling, look at mortality. Perillo has a penchant for dark humor, for jokes that stick." — Publishers Weekly, starred review

    From the Publisher: Regarding Lucia Perillo's poetry, Time Out New York wrote one of the finest lines ever:  "Whoever told you poetry isn't for everyone hasn't read Lucia Perillo." It's true — Perillo writes poems that are darkly honest, humorous, contrarian, and inquisitive, and On the Spectrum of Possible Deaths weaves together the mythic and the mundane as the poet faces the various treacheries of the human body.

    Sheila Byers, on behalf of the New School Graduate Writing Program and the NBCC, discusses On the Spectrum of Possible Deaths with the author, Lucia Perillo. On the Spectrum of Possible Deaths is among the final five selections, in the category of Poetry, for the 2012 NBCC awards.  The interview was conducted via email on 2/14/13.

    SB:  Humor seems to hold a prominent place within your work.  How do you decide where and when to include humor?  What do you think is the importance of humor in poetry today?

    LP: I like humor, though I know for some it deflates the import of the poem.  Jack Gilbert, for example, has an epigrammatic poem about not writing funny poems. But if we look at the past, we see that parts of The Odyssey are funny.  Shakespeare is funny.  Take the line: "And in some perfumes is there more delight than in the breath that from my mistress reeks."  Surely that's supposed to be funny.

    Humor can be important in providing a rest when one is otherwise confronting the reader with difficult subject matter. At the same time, when Twain says the source of humor is not joy but sorrow, that makes sense to me.  People think they're getting a break, but there is no break. 

    I don't make a decision about including humor.  It just arises organically in the process of writing. 

    SB:  In "Again, the Body," I was struck by the almost repulsive descriptions of the body followed by the idea of cannibalism.  As though the act of seeing the body from the outside as something kind of disgusting is related to the act of ingesting this body.  As one's relationship with the body is a large topic in this book, I wonder if you could talk a little about the dynamic presented in this poem.

    LP: I was surprised to look it up just now and find the two words — ingest, disgust — do not have the same Latin root.  Ingest meaning "to carry inward." We also carry inward our perceptions of our physical selves, and I don't think disgust, or loathing, is an unusual stance to take in regard to the self that ingests and then excretes.  Isn't this the basis of the cosmetics industry and the many aisles of toiletries at Target?

    SB:  Many of your poems are centered around nature, and often the descriptions of nature lead into reflections on human life and death.  In the world of your poems, would you say humanity exists somewhat removed from nature in order to inspire these kinds of reflections and observations?

    LP: I don't know if it's removal or immersion that allows the observation.  I started out working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  But, on the other hand, back then "nature" was subject matter that seemed too airy. I was interested in the dramatic monologues of Frank Bidart, poems about serial killers and such.

    Maybe it's like Hemingway's having to go to Paris to write about Michigan and vice versa.  We're never inspired by what we have.

    SB: Although this is a book that is very much about opinions and ideas of death, it's not morbid.  In writing these poems, were you aware or conscious of avoiding an overly dark tone?

    LP: No, again I think everything has to come about organically.  Plus, I don't think of death as morbid, maybe because I started out as a biologist.

    SB: I really enjoyed the poem "Pioneer" and the image of the figure of the woman on the plaque still floating out in space.  The realm of space seems to fit perfectly within this book, even though so many of your other poems deal with particular people, nature, and daily narratives, and are, in other words, very Earth-bound.  Where did this poem come from, and how did you know that it should be in the book?

    LP: This book contains a few poems about space, so I suppose NASA was on my mind, and I have always been interested in the controversy surrounding Sagan's depiction of a woman.  For someone my age, the space race and the Vietnam War are the controlling tropes of childhood.

    LP: I haven't had any overarching thematic structure for any of my books.  I just throw all the good poems I've written into the pot and stir.


    Sheila Byers is an MFA student at The New School Graduate Writing Program.  Her work has appeared in The White Whale Review, Dear Sir, and Keep This Bag Away From Children.

  • ⇢ Allan Peterson, Fragile Acts


    Allan Peterson, Fragile Acts (McSweeney’s Books). 

    From the Publisher: The world is terrifying and exhilarating. Believing firmly in the romantic notion that "embellishment is love," Allan Peterson in Fragile Acts combines the intellectual force of T. S. Eliot and Wallace Stevens, the ethereal wonder of Robert Hass, and the tight lyric beauty of Elizabeth Bishop and Donald Hall. These steely, wide-ranging poems are at once personal and philosophical, incisive and meditative — funny, serious, compassionate, and searching. Juxtaposing the fast pace of contemporary society with the quiet localism and naturalism of the great American transcendentalists, Peterson's sinewy, muscular collection reveals a profoundly intelligent, curious mind leaping from object to thought to emotion. And yet, poem after poem, Peterson somehow binds seemingly unrelated elements into one stunning whole. Peterson has readers nodding their heads in reflection one moment and laughing out loud the next. These moving poems are a profound delight to read.

    Ian Brown, on behalf of the New School Graduate Writing Program and the NBCC, discusses Fragile Acts with the author, Allan Peterson.  Fragile Acts is among the final five selections, in the category of Poetry, for the 2012 NBCC awards.  The interview was conducted via phone on 2/tk/13.


    Ian Brown is a poet and writer from Detroit, Michigan.  He holds a B.A. from Michigan State University, and is an MFA student at The New School Graduate Writing Program.

  • ⇢ D. A. Powell, Useless Landscape, or A Guide for Boys

     

     D. A. Powell, Useless Landscape, or A Guide for Boys (Graywolf Press).  

    From the Publisher: In D. A. Powell's fifth book of poetry, the rollicking line he has made his signature becomes the taut, more discursive means to describing beauty, singing a dirge, directing an ironic smile, or questioning who in any given setting is the instructor and who is the pupil. This is a book that explores the darker side of divisions and developments, which shows how the interstitial spaces of boonies, backstage, bathhouse, or bar are locations of desire. With Powell's witty banter, emotional resolve, and powerful lyricism, this collection demonstrates his exhilarating range. 

    Brooke Ellsworth, on behalf of the New School Graduate Writing Program and the NBCC, discusses Useless Landscape, or a Handbook for Boys with the author, D.A. Powell. Useless Landscape is among the final five selections, in the category of Poetry, for the 2012 NBCC awards.  The interview was conducted via video chat on 2/14/13.


    Brooke Ellsworth is an MFA student with a concentration in Poetry at The New School Graduate Writing Program. She is also a Teaching Assistant for the Riggio Honors Program: Writing and Democracy.

  • ⇢ A. E. Stallings, Olives


    A. E. Stallings, Olives (Triquarterly: Northwestern University Press).  

    "One of the strongest talents to emerge in recent years." — Poetry

    From the Publisher: A. E. Stallings has established herself as one of the best American poets of her generation. In addition to a lively dialogue with both the contemporary and ancient culture of her adopted homeland, Greece, this new collection features poems that, in her inimitable voice, address the joys and anxieties of marriage and motherhood. This collection builds on previous accomplishments with some longer poems and sequences of greater philosophical scope, such as "On Visiting a Borrowed Country House in Arcadia." Stallings possesses the rare ability to craft precise poems that pulsate with deeply felt emotion. Like the olives of the title, the book embraces the bitter but savory fruits of the ancient tree, and the tears and sweetness we harvest in our temporary lives. These poems show Stallings in complete command of her talent, able to suggest the world in a word.

    Julie Levine, on behalf of the New School Graduate Writing Program and the NBCC, discusses Olives with the author, A.E. Stallings.  Olives is among the final five selections, in the category of Poetry, for the 2012 NBCC awards.  The interview was conducted via video chat on 1/20/13.


    Julie Levine is an editor for Lambda Literary and is currently pursuing her MFA in poetry at The New School. She received her BA in English and Art History from Emory University and grew up in Miami, Florida. 




In conjunction with the National Book Critics Circle, this site is the work of students and faculty of the The School of Writing at The New School.