Welcome from Amy D. Unsworth

Language, Literature, Learning & Life.

Take Three

In the last two or three days, I've had three types of poetry publications land in my lap. First of these is The Imaginary Poets from Tupelo Press. Next, I picked up the Complete Poems of D.H. Lawrence while at a local bookstore, and in the mail today was the January issue of Poetry.

The Imaginary Poets, from Tupelo Press, is an anthology of translated poems, bios, and translator's statements, all of which are, as you might have guessed, sprung from the imagination of the poet. Unless I've been reading in all the wrong places, it seems to me that "persona" poems have been out of favor in preference to poems of authenticity, realism, and poems of the experimental persuasion. So, to see an entire anthology that not only prints but demands what amounts to a collection of persona poems is quite refreshing. But the authors had to go beyond the poem, and consider how their imaginary person might have lived, who their influences were, and how this imaginary world coincided with the author's real world. I imagine that the poems along with their respective essays tell us more about the true author than the poems alone, about the poet's area of scholarly interest perhaps or of a formative trip abroad or notable life experience. When this anthology appeared in my lap, I meant to flip through a few pages and then set it aside to be experienced later, but I found myself reading entry after entry in their entirety. There is more to be discussed about this anthology, and if time permits, I'll write a fuller review in the near future.

The new issue of Poetry has poems by Billy Collins and Tony Hoagland (and more, of course!) I was suprised though by Hoagland's "Cement Truck," I thought at first that I was reading Collin's writing. It's all there, the trademark slyness of Collins, the slight tone of poking fun at one's self, the witty description; it reminds me a bit of the way that Collins's "Workshop" works, conjuring images. The other two Hoagland poems were satisfactory, and Collins's work was much as you'd expect: one pokes a bit at ancient Chinese poetry ( and perhaps our fascination with it) and the other at Valery. As far as influence goes, it's interesting to see how much we like to turn to other cultures to give ourselves a little boost. Perhaps this is what Collins is really poking fun at, or maybe he's illustrating how little culture matters in the end; we find the poetry we need no matter where it comes from.

There is also an interesting exchange about the role of the designator "woman's poetry," and I am not sure how to feel about that label. I'm post-women's lib, and I've never felt that there was anything holding me back because I am a woman, but I realize it hasn't always been this way. I've read Rhys's Wide Sargasso Sea and found the desire to burn down the hallowed halls (which I take to be of the canon) a little disturbing. I've read H.D's Bid Me to Live and understand that she was at times discouraged from writing. I've read Rich's Snapshots of a Daughter-in-law, and plenty more. Yet, I have to say the canon is what drew me to literature in the first place, even if much of it was writen by white guys. If I hadn't first read Shakespeare, I'd not have ended up in a Modern poetry class reading Rich and Bishop, if I hadn't been in the Modern class, I might not have started reading more contemporary poetry. I know that women are still less likely to submit and less likely to win the big awards, but there are women writers out there that demand to be read. So do we need a label "women's poetry?" I still don't know.

And speaking of white guys, and ones who weren't always on their best behavior. . .I've been flipping through D.H.'s Complete Poems. I am reminded of a field of wildflowers that has been mown and every stem crammed into a vase, obliterating the perfect, delicate blooms that must have flourished in the field. If I had come to D.H.'s work only through this collection, I'm afraid I would have set it back on the shelf. But, luckily, I know of a few poems that must be read, like "Snake" and "Piano," so I plan to winnow further to see if there are others there that can equal these.

The Sacred and the Mundane

As it is the season to celebrate, I'd like to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! May you find peace in these hectic times. We still celebrate by going to church on Christmas Eve, and listening to the carols, and the Christmas story:

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, everyone to his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city called Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem: (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her first born son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them at the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flocks by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone about them; and they were sore afraid. And the angel said to them,
Fear not: for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born today in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will towards men.

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another,
Let us go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.
And they came with haste, and found, Mary, Joseph and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.


I'm also going to be updating my links over the next week or so, if you'd like to be added to my blog-roll (or deleted from it) please let me know through my hotmail account : small_branches(at) hotmail.com and as I tidy up my blog I'll add you in.

How to be a Happy Poet

Seth has an interesting post about the chaos that is the publishing/academic/po-biz world. He talks about how there is no "right" way to go about being a "poet" and how what happens to us as poets is more chance than anything. In many ways I feel he's right about this, I have always been the type of person that decides what I want to do and then takes the proper steps to accomplish what it is that I desire. So, how do you go about doing this as a poet? What is the correct path? I'm not sure that I know and that is a bit frustrating When I was just writing and submitting, I had a few small sucesses but noticed that the people I saw publishing the most had an advanced degree. I also think that I'd like to teach, which demands an advanced degree as well. But, if fate prevents me from further schooling, I know I can always study on my own, write on my own and still feel as if I am a poet. I don't know if the world will call me one, but still I'll write.

That's a Wrap!

In the past several weeks a few projects have come to their conclusions.

I've finished with eight rounds of chemotherapy. I'm no longer taking any prescriptions. We're down to the part of my care where I just go to the doctor and get lots of x-rays and scans to make sure nothing has survived or returned. Maybe one day soon, I won't be a part of the "shaved head club" like Steve & Steve. Perhaps I'll be able to get my shampoo down off of the shelf where it has lived along with my pony-tail holders and barrettes for the past 5 months. They tell me that afterwards, that hair grows back in differently, that it is probable that I'll now have curly hair instead of the straight hair I've had all my life. I'm used to being bald now, it hasn't been as terrible as I imagined. My hair was waist-length before, and the process of losing it was hard, but I've learned that there are cute hats in the world, and it's much quicker to get out the door when you don't have to mess with your hair.

By the grace of a very generous professor, I was able to take my first poetry-writing class this semester. It was a joy. My fellow students wrote a variety of interesting poems, several which made me push my aesthetic boundaries. I feel as if I also honed my editorial skills this semester because we were required to provide comments in a written form for several poems. I also loved the give & take of the conversations we had about poetry & poetics both about student poems, our own understanding of the art, and about various well-published poet's works. We also were graced with a visit from Ted Kooser this semester, which was lovely. I wrote several poems that I am pleased with, and feel I've significantly improved another poem I'd been working on for quite some time.

Today, I also turned in my selections for Touchstone, Kansas State's Literary Journal. It was a pleasure to read the work we were sent. I was amazed to find an excellent selection of formal work, including sestinas, villanelles, and ghazals in my reading pile. There were prose poems, lyrical poems, narrative poems, and visual poems. I wonder about those who say that writing programs produce "cookie cutter poetry"--my experience would seem to contradict this idea. We certainly had a wide range of work to choose from, and I can't wait until I can officially announce our selections.

Other thoughts, I am leaning towards a MFA next. I have enjoyed the critical aspect of the literature field, but I am ready to be in an environment with other people who take the art and craft of poetry seriously and who want to hone their skills.

After waiting for four years to hear, one of my poems will appear in 2006 in a mother & baby anthology: "This Changes Everything." The publisher is Paycock Press .

But even better than that news is the news that Reb has had a poem selected for the 2006 BAP from MiPo! Congratulations to her & the staff at MiPo!

I really need to send some work out again. It's been over a year.

Live with Joy!