Posts Categorized: Poetry

And all the poetry people said “Amen”

At an editor’s meeting a few weeks ago, I found myself struggling.

There was a particular poem I just loved—when I read it, a sucker-punch wave washed over me and I knew I wanted it in the journal. But why do you like it, a colleague asked, what exactly does it mean here, another chimed in, and while I could point to several details and had a decent grounding within the piece, I couldn’t put my finger on it, exactly. But I wanted to return to it again and again—to me the poem was mesmerizing.

This got me thinking about what we look for in poems, and what a poem sets out to do. This is not a post to expound on the wonders of elliptical poetry, or even to say that I don’t look for meaning in poems—I definitely do. But I think that poetry has an intangible quality that works in a more mysterious way. The other night reading Poetry, I came across “One Whole Voice,” a commentary on faith written by a collection of writers. In the first section Jericho Brown talks about poetry and prayer, stating that poems “ask us not to understand in the same way that we often find ourselves not comprehending the possibility of a God in this world.”

We may not be able to fully comprehend a poem or the divine, but would he be God, would a poem be a poem, if we understood perfectly? He continues, “I’ve never believed that what attracts us to poems is knowing what’s going on in them. As a matter of fact, I think just the opposite. Maybe that’s the problem people have with poetry. That’s not what we’re taught about how words can be used. I do want poems to have meaning, but I also think that having meaning isn’t the end of the conversation about poetry—or about faith.”

And when I read a really good poem, it does require a little faith. To see it as something a little sublime, and to revel in it. If that’s the case, maybe to even say ‘amen.’


Poetry Magazine, February 2012

Inside IR: Meet the Editors

As you might imagine, Indiana Review‘s poetry editor is a busy, busy woman, but Cate Lycurgus takes a moment to speak in exclamation points and spread a little literary love.

Where are you from?

I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and did my undergraduate degree there. I miss the sun and the ocean and the tart frozen yogurt!

Favorite issue of IR?

33.2 because it’s here! And because it was the first issue that I really remember fighting for poems. There were pieces I felt strongly about, and wanted to see them published.

Fave non-IR journals?

Too many to count! I love Crazyhorse and Pleiades and Hayden’s Ferry. I also can’t get enough of Poetry, and I look forward to it every month. Especially the “Q and A” issue in December. Hearing writers answer questions about craft and about particular poems is such a treat, and I learn more from them than many literature classes and lectures.

What/who is on your reading wishlist right now?

When they come out this spring, Todd Boss’ Pitch and Mike McGriff’s Sequence of the Night. I want to read Kimberly Johnson’s A Metaphorical God, and Juliana Spahr’s Fuck You-Aloha-I Love You. I always want to return to Rilke, to his Duino Elegies. For fiction, The Art of Fielding by Chad Harback, then so much non-fiction: Reza Aslan’s Beyond Fundamentalism, Melissa Coleman’s This Life is in Your Hands, Walter Isaacson’s Benjamin Franklin: An American Life–I want to read that to my dad.

What do you hope to see next for IR?

Previews of poems that will appear in our next issue online and maybe some new online content. While holding a journal comes first in my heart, I appreciate a tasteful website that has inspiring work so I can get a flavor of it through browsing. I want people to see what a stunning journal IR is and to subscribe!

¡Felicitaciones!

Image: Curtis Bauer

IR contributor Curtis Bauer‘s Spanish Sketchbook is now out in a bilingual Spanish/English edition, España en Dibujos! (Psssst…you can find two of his poems in translation in Indiana Review 33.2).

Bauer also has a new collection of poems, The Real Cause For Your Absence, forthcoming from C&R Press in Chattanooga. He is the author of a first collection of poems, Fence Line, and he currently lives in Lubbock, Texas, where he teaches at Texas Tech.

You can read an interview with Curtis Bauer here.

Or, a wonderful essay by Curtis here.

Or, listen to him read his poems here.

This guy is unstoppable. Congratulations, Curtis!

Public Poems

Here’s a project for your weekend: Write a poem and then send it off into the world — into the hands of a stranger, maybe, or chalked into the sidewalk.

This can be difficult for us writers who want to keep our poems safe and warm until they are nestled into the pages of a respected publication, so consider it a brave and generous thing to let one of them wander into the unknown.  The GOOD people want you to take that leap, and then send them a photo of it.  Are you up for the challenge?

Of course, if your poem gets shy, you can always send it to us.

Photo by miki via flickr.

Head Off and Get Head Off and Split

In case you haven’t heard,  2011 National Book Award nominations were released in mid-October, and among the five titles (the winner will be announced November 16th in New York) named is Nikky Finney’s latest collection, Head Off & Split. I read the book this summer after attending a workshop with her, but have been surprised to discover many of my colleagues do not know her work at all.

In Head Off & Split, Finney invokes many influential African-American figures–Rosa Parks, and Condoleezza Rice, for example, in addition to a girl struck by lightning and a woman stranded in the floods of Katrina. While the collection deals with particular historical moments and people, and while she engages in a specific dialogue, these are in no way limiting; rather her collection serves as a much needed light in contemporary  American poetry. Finney’s dedication to what can be salvaged, her unfaltering consciousness and conscientiousness, and her dedication to the sublime power of language demand our attention. This fourth book is stunning, a definite must-read.

You can find more of her work here, or listen to her read     the poem “My Time Up With You” from Head Off & Split