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Book Review

A Banquet of Imagery: Mary Jo Bang's The Bride of E

Christy DelahantyChristy Delahanty is a former Poetry Center intern, and recent graduate in Creative Writing and Linguistics from The University of Arizona.

Mary Jo Bang will be reading with Joni Wallace at the Poetry Center on October 6, 2011 at 7 p.m. at the University of Arizona Poetry Center.  Joni Wallace will be leading a shop talk on Mary Jo Bang's work on October 4 at 6 p.m. prior to the Oct 6. reading. Both events are free and open to the public. Join us! To read an interview between Mary Jo Bang and Joni Wallace, click here.

Mary Jo Bang's books of poetry include Elegy (Graywolf Press, 2007), which received the 2007 National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry and was listed as a New York Times 2008 Notable Book, and The Bride of E (Graywolf Press, 2009). She was the poetry co-editor at Boston Review from 1995-2005, and has been the recipient of the Alice Fay Castagnola Award from the Poetry Society of America, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a Hodder Fellowship from Princeton University. She is a professor of English at Washington University in St. Louis. Her translation of Dante's Inferno, with illustrations by Henrik Drescher, will be published by Graywolf Press in July 2012.

Perhaps the first thing to notice about Mary Jo Bang's The Bride of E is the heft of it. The book itself is slim, but the pages are dense with the poetic conventions of allusion and self-referentiality, peppered with recursion and persistent themes. What results is an intensely playful work, singing in spite of its heavier truths.

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Friday, September 30, 2011

Improving the Taught Toolbox: A Review of Thomas Sayers Ellis

Christy DelahantyM. A. K. Halliday, a prominent British linguist, has expressed the difference between written and spoken language thus: "While the complexity of conscious language is dense and crystalline, formed by a closely-packed construction of words and word clusters, the complexity of unconscious language is fluid and choreographic." If we, like Halliday, are used to such a distinction being upheld -- in the differences between newspapers and small talk or memos and meetings -- then Thomas Sayers Ellis' Skin, Inc.: Identity Repair Poems will at first seem strange indeed.

Ellis, commenting on poetry's split into spoken-word and academic camps, stresses that his aim is "to make every line do both." And because his most recent collection is a book rather than a performance or a recording, his lines strike their reader as shockingly choreographic for their form.

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Thursday, September 15, 2011

What You See in the Dark: A review

What You See in the DarkYou know the scene. The actress is standing under a stream of running water. You get a glimpse of her collarbone, of her calf. You understand that she is at her most vulnerable. You worry something horrible is going to happen. And then it does.

The shower scene from Psycho has become one of the most legendary and recognizable moments in film history. So much has been said, analyzed, parodied from Psycho that you might think that there is nothing new to be explored, but What You See in the Dark is evidence that this is not true. In his past short story collections, Manuel Muñoz has revealed his stellar lyricism in prose and skillful craft of individual stories and in his debut novel, he seamlessly weaves in and out of voices, in and out of parallel narratives to reveal something about the intricate nature of human beings' motivations, desires, and fears.

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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Review of Barbara Cully's Desire, Reclining

In Desire, Reclining, Cully weaves philosophy, mythology, history, memory, loss, and the self into poems that flow and beckon like water. These elegaic prose poems create the effect of ocean upon the mind--they are meditative, expansive, uncontainable even as they are formally contained.

The book is organized into sections that count off their poems in numbers, like the passage of time, like breathing.  We are lulled by the counting, and could easily get lost in the vastness of the ebbing words that follow.  The section titles help us keep our bearing, guide us along a life, toward the inevitable coming to rest.

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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Celebrating the Desert with Byrd Baylor: A Retrospective

by Julie Swarstad

Byrd Baylor, When Clay SingsByrd Baylor is the author of more than twenty books of children's poetry.  Her writing primarily focuses on the places and people of the Southwestern United States.  Four of her books--When Clay Sings (1973), The Desert is Theirs (1976), Hawk, I'm Your Brother (1977), and The Way to Start a Day (1979)--have been recognized as Caldecott Honor Books.  Baylor is a resident of Arivaca.

Byrd Baylor will be signing books at the Poetry Center's Young at Art Festival on April 30th following a performance of Baylor's Desert Voices presented by University of Arizona's Stories on Stage.

Byrd Baylor is one of the most ubiquitous names in Southwestern children's literature.  Baylor's stories are told in free verse that moves quietly forward, celebrating the desert and calling for her readers to spend more time listening to and appreciating the world that surrounds them.  Baylor's publications span a period of over forty years, but the constant throughout her entire career is this sense of a deep and abiding connection to the desert.

Baylor's earliest available publication is Amigo (1963), a surprisingly sweet story of boy and prairie dog who befriend one another told in a sing-song rhyme.  Although Amigo is very different from Baylor's usual style, Baylor's story is simple and fun.  After Amigo, Baylor published several other books (Coyote Cry and Before You Came This Way) before publishing When Clay Sings with illustrations by Tom Bahti in 1972.  Baylor's text--now the free verse that she would continue to write in throughout her career--uses designs from native Southwestern pottery as a point of departure for imagined stories about the people who may have created the images.  Tom Bahti's illustrations were recognized with a Caldecott Honor Medal, but the book deals with the artwork at a very surface level, taking the figures as they are and weaving a little story out of them.  It's worth reading, but readers may find the work a bit dated in its approach.

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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Skirting the Issue: Indirection in Ali and Bozicevic

by Julie SwaBright  Felon by Kazim  Alirstad

Kazim Ali is a poet, novelist, essayist, and founding editor of Nightboat Books.  He is the author of three volumes of poetry and two novels, including The Far Mosque (2005), The Disappearance of Seth (2009), and Bright Felon: Autobiography and Cities (2009).  Ali is an assistant creative writing professor at Oberlin College in addition to teaching for the Stonecoast MFA program.

Ana Božičević was born in Zagreb, Croatia in 1977. She emigrated to NYC in 1997. Her first book of poems is Stars of the Night Commute (2009), a Lambda Literary Award finalist. Her fifth chapbook, Depth Hoar, will be published by Cinematheque Press in 2010. With Amy King, Ana co-curates The Stain of Poetry reading series in Brooklyn. She works at the Center for the Humanities of The Graduate Center, CUNY.

The Next Word in Poetry program was initiated in 2003 to present emerging poets whose work heralds a dynamic new era in contemporary poetry.  In February 2011 the Poetry Center presents two pairs of New Word poets to read and engage in conversation with one another concerning their literary interests and influences.  Kazim Ali and Ana Božičević will read at the UA Poetry Center on Thursday, February 24 at 8 p.m.

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Out of Breath: Dissociation in Morrison and Moten

by Julie SwarstaRusty Morrison Bookd

Rusty Morrison is a poet and co-founder of Omnidawn Publishing.  She is the author of two volumes of poetry: Whethering (2005) which won the Colorado Prize for Poetry and the true keeps calm biding its story (2008) which won the 2008 James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets.  Her poetry, essays, and reviews have been published in Boston Review, Chicago Review, and New American Writing, among others.  She is a contributing editor for Poetry Flash.

Fred Moten lives in Durham, North Carolina, where he teaches in the Duke University Department of English. He is author of Arkansas (2000), In the Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition (2003), I ran from it but was still in it. (2007), Hughson's Tavern (2008) and B Jenkins (2010).

The Next Word in Poetry program was initiated in 2003 to present emerging poets whose work heralds a dynamic new era in contemporary poetry.  In February 2011 the Poetry Center presents two pairs of New Word poets to read and engage in conversation with one another concerning their literary interests and influences.  Rusty Morrison and Fred Moten will read at the UA Poetry Center on Thursday, February 10 at 8 p.m.

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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Human Side of the Issue: Ann Cummins' Yellowcake

With Yellowcake, Ann Cummins walks a dangerously thin line.  Her story is one of disease, radiation, and cultural struggle, all issues that many of us might find difficult to write about without ending up on a figurative soapbox.  Cummins, however, never makes that error; she approaches her story from an angle that is utterly human in perspective.   Cummins walks the line between political activism and the minutiae of daily life with such grace that the reader doesn't notice the balancing act and can simply engage with her fully realized, realistically flawed characters.

Yellowcake reads like a collection of several distinct stories woven together with the common threads of family, old friendships, and long exposure to radiation through yellowcake in the uranium mills of Colorado and New Mexico.   Ryland Mahoney, Sam Behan, and Woody Atcitty are the three men whose history as workers in a uranium mill near Shiprock, New Mexico drive the story forward; Ryland, an Anglo, and Woody, a Navajo, are slowly dying from radiation-caused illnesses, and their families and friends must struggle with the guilt, fear, and loss tangled up in their sickness.

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Confronting the Darkness with David Wojahn

by Julie SwarstadInterrogation Palace by David Wohahn

David Wojahn is the author of eight books of poetry, among them World Tree (2011), Interrogation Palace: New and Selected Poems 1982-2006 (2006), The Falling Hour (1997) and Icehouse Lights (1982). He has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and The National Endowment for the Arts.  Interrogation Palace was a named finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and winner of the O.B. Hardison Award.  An alumnus of the University of Arizona Creative Writing MFA Progra m, Wojahn is a professor of English at Virginia Commonwealth University.

David Wojahn will read at the UA Poetry Center on Thursday, January 20 at 8 p.m. along with fellow UA alum Ann Cummins.

While David Wojahn is often noted as being "a poet of witness" to political injustice and other violence, in the poems collected into Interrogation Palace, he also acts as a witness to the struggles within individual lives.  His writing is filled with moments of personal struggle and pain: the loss of his wife Lynda, of unborn children, of friends, along with all the simple, small losses we go through each day.  Wojahn writes from a place of trouble and pain, but while his topics are weighty, he charges us to look them full in the face.  "How can you turn away?" he asks in one poem.

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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Joshua Marie Wilkinson's Exploratory Imagery

by Julie SwSelenography by Joshua Marie Wilkinsonarstad

Joshua Marie Wilkinson is the author of five books of poetry, including Lug Your Careless Body out of the Careful Dusk (2005) which won the Iowa Poetry Prize, and Selenography (2010).  He has edited two anthologies for University of Iowa Press, including Poets on Teaching (2010), and his first feature-length film--a tour documentary about the band Califone--has just been completed.  Wilkinson is an alumnus of the University of Arizona Creative Writing MFA Program.  He lives in Chicago where he is an assistant professor at Loyola University.

Joshua Marie Wilkinson will read at the UA Poetry Center on Friday, Dec. 3 at 8 p.m. along with fellow UA alumna Kate Bernheimer.

Wilkinson will also be teaching an afternoon seminar on ancient images and threads at the Poetry Center on Saturday, Dec. 4th from 1-3 p.m.

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Thursday, December 2, 2010
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