Posts Tagged: poetry

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Micro-Review: Tasha Cotter’s SOME CHURCHES

Some Churches by Tasha Cotter (Gold Wake Press 2013)

Reviewed by Emily Corwin

 

“Hold that bird your heart.” I have been thinking about this line lately, with the cold autumn temperatures, with my coat buttoned all the way up. Hold that bird your heart. An instruction, an incantation. It is about tending to your rawest parts. It is about desire—for people, for air, for safety, for something un-nameable. Read more…

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The New Testament, Citizen, and Forgiveness Forgiveness: Contemporary Poetry on the Politics of Race

In light of the recent epidemic of racially charged violence and two grand jury decisions not to indict the policemen responsible for the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, I would like to draw attention to three newly published poetry collections that deserve consideration within the current dialogue on blackness: The New Testament by Jericho Brown, Citizen by Claudia Rankine, and Forgiveness Forgiveness by Shane McCrae. These three books have garnered much attention on their individual merit, but deserve consideration in terms of the conversation we should be having about race relations in America.

A poetry book is a kind of rumination. For the average poetry collection to go from the seed of an idea to an ISBN number takes at least 2-3 years—even for relatively established poets like Rankine, Brown and McCrae. All three books were released within a month of each other and, based on their overlapping subject matter, one might suppose these varying depictions of the expendability of black lives result from the July 13, 2013 Trayvon Martin case verdict. But, assuming a typical publication schedule, these books would have been in the editing stages by the time George Zimmerman’s acquittal made headlines.

I say this because The New Testament, Citizen, and Forgiveness Forgiveness all bear testimony to the importance of poets amidst the voices that respond to today’s atrocities. The fact that these books focus our attention of varying views of blackness, of black masculinity, of disappearance, of youth—while our newsfeeds fill with the loss of one black life, after another black life, after another—is more strategic than anomalous.

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“Middle Space”: Call for Submissions!

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Call for Indiana Review’s Special Themed Folio: MIDDLE SPACE

Bending the rules of craft is not a new thing. Bold steps and subtle transformations are how we move forward in literature, in society, and in ourselves. For a special folio in our Summer 2014 issue, we’re seeking work—in both form and content—that blurs genres and breaks down preconceptions, narratives of transgression that make us question our boundaries of what a literary work is and can do.

Keywords to consider and inspire: boundaries, borders, limits, edges, duality, on the verge, transformation, transgression, travel, movement, bodies, collapse, collage, correspondence, collaboration, middle space.

Click through for guidelines and deadlines!

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The Translation Triangle: My Weekend with ALTA

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Dear Szymborskca, Dear Milosz, and Oh so dear Neruda, it has come to my attention that the countless nights I spent lying in bed relishing your tender lines were actually spent cheating on you. All this time I thought you were whispering in my ear. Instead, I find that I was really falling in love with the mastery of Ben Belitt, the execution of Jan Darowski, the creative literary rendering of Clare Cavanagh and Stanisław Barańczak. Forgive me.

From the first moment I read Letters to a Young Poet to the time I spent with the latest issue of Poetry International, translators have been the ones rocking my world. This past weekend I had the pleasure of fraternizing with leading and emerging translators at the American Literary Translators Association Conference (ALTA). Though my translation skills are limited, participants in the ALTA conference roused my ideas about translation.

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Play It Till It Breaks

As a writer and especially as a student in an M.F.A. program I am often asked what it is that I write.  My answer will vary somewhat depending on the person asking and the context of our conversation but I always find that at the center of that perfectly reasonable question lies a demand to identify oneself through genre.  So the question becomes not just, what are you working on, but rather what are you?

As an undergraduate, I studied poetry and wrote a lot of short, spare, tightly enjambed poems.  These pieces were mostly bad but I was certain that they were poems and therefore I was a poet.

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After I left school and found an amazing writing community in Seattle through Bent Queer Writing Institute, I started to write stories and essays.  Complete, unenjambed sentences!  Those sentences were crammed full of sound and image but since they happily went all the way across the page I was certain that what I was writing was prose and that as a prose writer I should now set to work on writing my novel.

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I would not have owned it at the time but I had a pretty rigid view of genre.  I understood that my fiction could be memoir-based or my prose sentences could be rooted in poetic elements of sound and syntax.  But I felt ultimately that it was my job as a writer (and especially as a writer who wanted to be good) to commit to a specific genre and in doing so eliminate any problematic markers of other genres from the piece at hand.

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Lucky for me I ended up with a lot of smart friends and teachers who introduced me to work that did not easily fit into a single genre category.  I read Lydia Davis, Haryette Mullen, Maggie Nelson, Micah Ling, Michael Martone, Eve Alexandra, and Julio Cortezar.  This work was funny, smart, beautiful, and strange.  It shook my own creative sensibility, my idea of the good, genre-abiding writer. 

What I loved and continue to love about work that pushes the boundaries of genre, work that resides in in-between spaces, is the unruliness of it.  I believe that rowdiness comes not from disregarding form or genre but from inhabiting the space lineated by expectations so fully that the writer is able to push the form until it bends, blurs, or breaks.  It’s the same thing I love about a well-crafted sonnet and a mind-blowing drag performance.

When a piece of classical music like something by Bach is played on period instruments, the notes make use of the instrument to its full capability.  And so every time the piece is played there is the risk of rupture.  As a writer this is what I want to make and as an editor this is what I want to publish.

Speaking of publishing, we just opened submissions for our annual ½ K Prize and there’s been a bit of confusion about what genres we’re looking for in this contest.  And that’s because we’re not looking for a specific genre at all.  I love this contest precisely because it offers a home for pieces that are not easily categorized.  This is an opportunity for us to examine and showcase work outside the traditional boundaries of genre. 

There are a couple of great examples from last year’s contest up on our website now.  J. Bowers’ “Two on a Horse” could be called a series of historical fiction short-shorts.  Megan Moriarty’s “The Clowns Are Leaving Soon” skews more toward the genre of the prose poem.  But neither of my short descriptions here accurately encompasses the wild strangeness that Bowers and Moriarty welcome in these pieces.  So, in terms of genre we at the Indiana Review are inviting you to play whatever instrument you choose and if you play it till it breaks, all the better.

Dying to share your own thoughts on genre?  Have deep feelings about possessive apostrophe preferences?  Come at me in the comments.