Archive of ‘Poetry’ category
Dobby Gibson is the author of Skirmish and Polar, both of which were finalists for the Minnesota Book Award. Polar also won Alice James Books’ Beatrice Hawley Award. Gibson has recieved fellowships from the McKnight Foundation, the Jerome Foundation, and two Pushcart Prize nominations.
D. A. Powell is the author of Useless Landscape, or A Guide for Boys, Tea, Lunch, and Cocktails, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry. He teaches at the University of San Francisco and lives in the Bay Area.
Mary Szybist is the author of the poetry collection, Granted. She was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and in 2009, she won a Witter Bynner Fellowship. She is the recipient of an Academy of American Poets Prize, a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award, and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. Her work has appeared in the Iowa Review and Denver Quarterly and was featured in Best American Poetry (2008). She is an associate professor of English at Lewis & Clark in Portland, Oregon.
Editor of the City Lights/Spotlight Poetry series Garrett Caples interviewed poet Catherine Wagner before her reading at City Lights at the end of October. She finishes her tour in New York on Dec. 12th at the Poetry Project.
They discussed performance and poetry, connecting with an audience, and the theory of William Blake’s “the bounding line,” which Wagner cites as the inspiration for her newest poetry collection Nervous Device.
“Wagner’s fourth collection contains poems of memory and dark artifice. She writes with an obscure, magnetic lens… the linguistic tightness of these poems are highlights of Wagner’s collection.”—Publisher’s Weekly
“Nervous Device is such a smart book. You never know where the poems are going to take you, or when some startling, often cringe-making image or thought will intrude. Unable to settle into a comfortable rhetorical space, these poems reject simple claims to knowing something or doing right or changing the world. Rather, they move like an erratic insect stuck in a language bell jar. Brilliant, and disturbing.”—Jennifer Moxley
“Nervous device, the human machine, palpitating inside its own little bounding lines. These poems do everything the human device does, vibrating like an electrified tornado inside a glass jar, and make this reader profoundly alive to huge swathes of being. There is no machine for mastering the self (yet), but there are Cathy Wagner’s poems.”—Eleni Sikelianos
“The poems in Nervous Device resonate with a knowing nod to time and the difficulty and struggle of being sentient and intimate—of loving while being human. This is poetry connectivity: sexy, poignant, knowing. And the poems here make me feel possible.”—Hoa Nguyen
In Nervous Device, Catherine Wagner takes inspiration from William Blake’s “bounding line” to explore the poem as a body at the intersection between poet and audience. Using this figure as a model for various sexual, political, and economic interactions, Wagner’s poems shift between seductive lyricism and brash fragmentation as they negotiate the failure of human connection in the twilight of American empire. Intellectually informed, yet stubbornly insistent on their own objecthood, and taking a bewildering variety of forms, the poems of Nervous Device express a self-conscious skepticism about the potential for human connection even as they maintain an optimistically charged eroticism.
Marilyn Buck was a committed political radical, imprisoned for over thirty years for her revolutionary activities. She was also a prolific writer and poet, publishing her work in a prize-winning chapbook, an audio CD, and in various journals and anthologies. She received a PEN American Center prize for poetry in 2001. Buck was released from prison less than a month before her death at age sixty-two from uterine cancer. This selection of her finest poetry is a living testament to the fierce intelligence and huge compassion that inspired and informed her life, and to the transcendence of her poetic vision.
“Marilyn, of course references her situation in prison in many poems, but the overwhelming sense one has after reading Inside/Out is that one has just experienced a woman who, though imprisoned, is utterly free. What we have in Marilyn Buck is a poet who is unafraid to confront the deepest parts of herself with an honesty consistent with the consciousness of a revolutionary. It is the uncovering and revealing of hope that many of her works manifest.” — Jack Hirschman, poet laureate of San Francisco
David Meltzer began his literary career during the Beat heyday in San Francisco and early on took his poetry to jazz for improv wonders, which he continues to astound listeners with today. City Lights published his most recent book, When I Was A Poet, as # 60 in the Pocket Poet’s Series. In 2011 he received the SF Bay Guardian’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
Over the course of his life, Kenneth Rexroth wrote about the Sierra Nevada better than anyone. Progressive in terms of environmental ethics and comparable to the writings of Emerson, Thoreau, Aldo Leopard, Annie Dillard, and Gary Snyder, Rexroth’s poetry and prose described the way Californians have always experienced and loved the High Sierra. Contained in this marvelous collection are transcendent nature poems, as well as prose selections from his memoir, An Autobiographical Novel, newspaper columns, published and unpublished WPA guidebooks, and correspondence. Famed science-fiction writer Kim Stanley Robinson has compiled a gift for lovers of mountains and poetry both. This volume also contains Robinson’s introduction and notes, photographs of Rexroth, a map of Rexroth’s travels, and an amazing astronomical analysis of Rexroth’s poems by the fiction writer Carter Scholz.
Kenneth Rexroth (1905-1982) was an American poet, translator, essayist and social critic who played a key role in the San Francisco Renaissance of the 1950s and 1960s. His poems are characterized by such an unusual range of concerns that he often began his poetry readings by wryly asking the audience: “Well, what would you like tonight: sex, mysticism or revolution?” Though almost entirely self-educated, his erudition was astonishingly broad-ranging, as reflected in essays on topics as diverse as ancient Chinese science, modern jazz, American Indian songs, California mountaineering, medieval mysticism, avant-garde art and utopian communities. He connected with New Directions from the very beginning, and was both friend and adviser to James Laughlin for the rest of his life. New Directions published most of his books of poetry, including Collected Shorter Poems (1966), Collected Longer Poems (1968), and Selected Poems (1984); his plays, Beyond the Mountains (1951); his Autobiographical Novel (1964; expanded edition, 1991); several collections of essays (Bird in the Bush, 1959; Assays, 1961; World Outside the Window: Selected Essays, 1987; Classics Revisited, 1986; More Classics Revisited, 1989); and numerous volumes of translations, including 100 Poems from the Chinese, 100 Poems from the Japanese, Women Poets of China, Women Poets of Japan, and Selected Poems of Pierre Reverdy.
Poets Brian Lucas, author of Circles Matter, and Bill Luoma author of Some Math, read at City Lights Bookstore on Thursday, May 17, 2012 during an evening of exquisite surrealistic murmurings and associated sounds, featuring ethereal noisemakers Cloud Shepherd.
One of the finest poets in the Bay Area’s surrealist underground, Brian Lucas is also a musician and visual artist (his work appears on the cover of the City Lights book Trance Archive: New and Selected Poems by Andrew Joron). Circles Matter is Lucas’ second full-length collection, much of it composed during a six-year stay in Thailand. Recalling René Char in his use of aphoristic prose, combined with the wild irrationality of, say, Benjamin Péret or Aimé Césaire, Circles Matter is state-of-the-art American poetry, veering between the poles of meditation and explosivity. —Recommended by Garrett, City Lights Books
“A triple play. Brian Lucas—painter, poet, musician—eye, heart, mind. Written with a sense of unfolding mystery, his voice on the page is sure in its tone, the ongoing quest and questioning is awake with profound and restless detail. Out of the ballpark. I await more.”—David Meltzer
“Shock is the awe of reading—’a fable folded into sea.’ The elemental act of reading is physical as well as chemical, a catalyst transforming the coastline of clouds into the graceful synaesthetic prosody of Circles Matter. The circles that matter are lines of approach, the ‘Contents’ describing 25 poems and 3 drawings, from ‘Awe’ to ‘Sketch of an Eclipse.’ Brian Lucas’s elegant Circles Matter moves time, in time, ‘Never resting as ideal state.’”—Norma Cole
Brian Lucas was born in Visalia, California in 1970. He is the author of many books, including Telepathic Bones (Berkeley Neo-Baroque, 2010), Light House (Meeting Eyes Bindery, 2006), The Trustees in Spite of Themselves (Neko Buildings, 1999) and Circles Matter (BlazeVOX [books], 2012). He contributed drawings to Force Fields (Hooke Press, 2010), a collaboration with Andrew Joron. After several years living in Thailand, he now resides in Oakland, California, where he plays in the spontaneous music ensemble Chamber Cloud.
In Some Math, the syncopations of poetry meet the (ir)regularity of mathematical equations. Consider the “story problems” of high school math class. When encountering the word “and,” replace it with the addition symbol “+.” When encountering the word “of,” replace it with the multiplication symbol “x.” Now reverse the process. The result is a series of sound poems that both employ and interrogate the global language of systems and networks. Astrophysics. Computer science. Short tetrameters. Long dactyls. 9/11. US military strategy. The energy pathways of acupuncture. The fish ladders of Gmail. The wires and electrodes of torture. The swirling products of global capital. Mathematician Benjamin Pierce called his field “the science that draws necessary conclusions.” You do the math.
On Thursday, May 24, 2012, at City Lights Bookstore, Eileen Myles read from Snowflake / different streets (Wave Books) and Anna Joy Springer read from The Vicious Red Relic, Love: A Fabulist Memoir (Jaded Ibis Productions).
this is the most important thing in the world
I say aloud to everything
In her first book of poetry since 2007, legendary poet, critic, and novelist Eileen Myles creates poet and poem anew as she pushes the boundaries of her craft ever closer to the enigmatic core. Snowflake finds the poet awash in an extended and distressed landscape mediated by technology and its distortion of time and space. In different streets, the poet returns home, to the familiar world of human connection.
Two books meet as one: more Eileen Myles, more indelible connection, more fleeting ecstasy.
Eileen Myles was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1949, was educated in Catholic schools in Arlington, graduated from UMass Boston in 1971 and moved to New York City in 1974 to be a poet. She quickly became part of the reading, publishing and performance scene in the East Village, editing dodgems in the late 70s and becoming part of the community of St. Mark’s Poetry Project where she studied and was friends with Ted Berrigan, Alice Notley, Paul Violi and Bill Zavatsky. In 1979 she was assistant to poet James Schuyler. She was Artistic Director of the Poetry Project in 1984-86. Myles is a vivid interpreter of her own work and travels widely in the US and Canada and internationally giving readings and performances. In 2007, she published Sorry, Tree (Wave Books, 2007), the latest of more than a dozen volumes of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction including Not Me (Semiotext(e), 1991), Chelsea Girls (Black Sparrow Books, 1994), The New Fuck You/adventures in lesbian reading (Semiotext(e), 1995), Cool for You (Soft Skull Press, 2000), Skies (Black Sparrow Books, 2001), The Importance of Being Iceland: Travel Essays in Art (Semiotext(e), 2009) and Inferno: A Poet’s Novel (OR Press, 2010). Her most recent book is Snowflake / different streets (Wave Books, 2012). She wrote the libretto for Hell, an opera with music composed by Michael Webster which was performed on both coasts, 2004-2006. In 2007 she received The Warhol/Creative Capital art writers’ grant. In 2010 the Poetry Society of America gave her the Shelley Memorial Award and in 2011 she received the Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Fiction for her novel Inferno. She contributes to a wide number of publications including ArtForum, Bookforum, Parkett, and The Believer. She is a Professor Emeritus at UC San Diego, where she taught for five years. She lives in New York.
Anna Joy Springer is a prose writer and visual artist who makes grotesques – creating hybrid texts that combine sacred and profane elements to evoke intensely embodied conceptual-emotional experiences in readers. Formerly a singer in the Bay Area bands, Blatz, The Gr’ups, and Cypher in the Snow, Anna Joy has toured the United States and Europe being a wild feminist punk performer, and she has also toured with the all-women spoken word extravaganza, Sister Spit. She is author of the illustrated novella The Birdwisher (Birds of Lace) and a graphic narrative, In An Egg, forthcoming. She received her MFA in Literary Arts from Brown University in 2002, and she is an Assistant Professor of Literature at University of California, San Diego where she truly loves teaching courses in Experimental Writing, Graphic Texts, and Postmodern Feminist Literatures.
These poems describe a universe that is as populous and diverse as it is ephemeral and evanescent. They are born of the world and of books and art in equal measure, and tell of the unyielding granite truths of people’s roller-coaster lives. And always there is the poet looking back, facing life and death and everything in between with equanimity, holding a steady hand to the quivering breast wherever there is breath.
The author of more than forty published works of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, which have been translated into twenty-eight languages, Barry Gifford writes distinctly American stories for millions of readers around the globe. He is literary heir of Conrad, of Hemingway, of Algren and Camus, exposing the underbelly of the American Dream in ever surprising twists and turns. His novel Wild at Heart was made into a film by David Lynch, which won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, and his novel Perdita Durango was made into a feature film by Alex de la Iglesia. He cowrote, with David Lynch, the film Lost Highway, and with Matt Dillon, the film City of Ghosts. Gifford has received awards from PEN, the National Endowment for the Arts, the American Library Association, the Writers Guild of America, and the Premio Brancati in Italy.
For more information, visit www.barrygifford.com.
Born and raised in Reno, Nevada, Willy Vlautin started playing guitar and writing songs as a teenager and quickly became immersed in music. It was a Paul Kelly song, based on Raymond Carver’s Too Much Water So Close to Home that inspired him to start writing stories. Vlautin has published three novels, The Motel Life, Northline, and Lean on Pete.
Vlautin founded the band Richmond Fontaine in 1994. The band has produced nine studio albums to date, plus a handful of live recordings and EP’s. Driven by Vlautin’s dark, story-like songwriting, the band has achieved critical acclaim at home and across Europe.
Vlautin currently resides in Scappoose, Oregon. An avid fan of horseracing, Vlautin can often be found writing behind a closed circuit monitor at Portland Meadows racetrack.
Kevin Young and Arisa White stopped by City Lights Bookstore on Thursday, April 19. Kevin Young read from his new book The Grey Album: On The Blackness Of Blackness, winner of the Graywolf Nonfiction Prize, and Arisa White read from Hurrah’s Nest.
Taking its title from Danger Mouse’s pioneering mashup of Jay-Z’s The Black Album and the Beatles’ The White Album, Kevin Young’s encyclopedic book The Grey Album combines essay, cultural criticism, and lyrical chorus to illustrate the African American tradition of lying—storytelling, telling tales, fibbing, improvising, “jazzing.” What emerges is a persuasive argument for the many ways that African American culture is American culture, and the centrality of art—and artfulness—to our daily life. Moving from gospel to soul, funk to freestyle, Young sifts through the shadows, the bootleg, the remix, the grey areas of our history, literature, and music.
praise for The Grey Album:
“This work is significant for smart readers.”
—Barbara Hoffert, Prepub Alert, Library Journal
“Kevin Young’s The Grey Album: Music, Shadows, Lies is a page-turning dynamo. Here’s a surge that nudges the reader into a bluesy terrain; its panoramic wit and critical certainty cut through the hokum and reveal a timbre of endurance. The Grey Album resonates like a spasm band, generating waves of intimate discourse on black music, literature, entertainment, culture, folklore, and American history. The collection of essays is propelled by a kinetic passion that’s heroic, tessellating on the page into its postmodern shape. This poet-critic has created an unforgettable, robust trove of insights and lyrical gestures for us to query and embrace.”
“This is a narrative of surprises—a book of secrets, too, though many of those secrets, as we discover, are cunningly hidden in plain sight (or in plain speech). The Grey Album investigates, even as it also performs, an American covert history—the stories behind any official or familiar story—as well as some emblematic escapes from and into American history. Veering across many vernaculars, from literature into music, theory into autobiography, Kevin Young writes cultural criticism of the most audacious, skillful, and ultimately touching sort.”
—Robert Polito, judge’s statement for the Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize
Hurrah’s Nest is a vivid and varied collection that addresses family loyalties, dysfunction, violence, and differences, Hurrah’s Nest is White’s imaginative and emotionally honest exploration of growing up the second oldest, first daughter of seven siblings. Childhood experiences are looked at with rawness, sensitivity, and crafted with precision: be it the cutting of her dreadlocks, mother’s abortion, drug trafficking, or her sister’s developmental disability, the language is tender and startling. Hurrah’s Nest—from the confusion of our lives—asks us to make meaning and good from what we’ve bargained and haven’t bargained for.
Kevin Young is the author of seven collections of poetry, including Ardency: A Chronicle of the Amistad Rebels and Jelly Roll: A Blues, a finalist for the National Book Award. He is a curator and Atticus Haygood Professor at Emory University.
Arisa White is a Cave Canem fellow, an MFA graduate from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and author of the poetry chapbooksDisposition for Shininess and Post Pardon. Her poetry has been published widely and is featured on the recording WORD with the Jessica Jones Quartet. A blog editor for HER KIND, and the editorial assistant at Dance Studio Life magazine, Arisa is a native New Yorker, living in Oakland, CA, with her partner.