Welcome from Amy D. Unsworth

Language, Literature, Learning & Life.

Brown Paper Covers

Well, if you get something in the mail wrapped in brown paper, this week it just might be a poetry magazine. Hey it worked for Fence, so the Mass. Review thought they'd try too.

I guess good writing isn't enough these days to sell copies, so we "need" to show a nude woman on the cover.

With the Publisher's Weekly article and now this, it's just a little much for one week. Is my calendar wrong? Is it really 2006?

(Or is this the New-New Feminism and we're really "celebrating" the beauty of the female body?)

Why folks? Why?

You Can See God Going to the Islands

You Can See God Going to the Islands
by Amy Unsworth

Where else but walking on sand and water
the last splinter of perfection, the crescent
edge of Bunut Bay, flip-flops in hand?

Or in Bolivia waiting patiently on the boardwalk
at Calacala, to see the paintings on the rising rocks,
one white llama surrounded by the red herds?

Further South the next week, among chinstrap penguins,
stepping gingerly over the clutches tucked in the rocks.
He smiles as they dive, bodies suddenly lissome, into the sea.

A day or two in Turkey visiting the springs at Pamukkale,
resting his feet in the thermal pools, touring the ruins and
recollecting the pillared architecture of Rome.

Maybe then, a few stops to admire the streaked and spotted
gazelle, giraffe, hyena and the scrawny cattle of the savanna;
to wade the Nile winding its way across the continent.

No place but then to return to the hillside gardens,
to inhale the once familiar scent of night air in Jerusalem,
the first almonds hastening to bloom.

from The New Pantagruel

A Bridge is a Better Metaphor

Interesting conversation going on, I'm trying to catch up. I did note that there's a bit of talk here about the role of the internet in women's lives and she's talking about Niederngasse which I've been working for off and on for some time now.

For me the 'net has been a bridge over a chasm which I thought for many years was impassible. I remember the smell of peanut butter and a sense that something essential was missing from my life. I had not been writing; I had been nursing babies and cleaning up spilled juice from sippy cups. I had not been reading other than "Good Night Moon" and "Hop on Pop."

Then one night, I found the 'net. I found conversation about poetry, I found people posting drafts of poetry, I found people willing to comment on my own poetry, I found places to submit. I had no idea of "po-biz" or book contests, or publication stats; I don't know that anyone was blogging yet.

It was the time of the on-line workshop. I workshopped, I critiqued, I grew less hurt by criticism, I learned to take what was important and leave what wasn't. I met a few poets, many of whom you can find on my blog-roll. My writing improved, my understanding of craft improved, my desire to read skyrocketed.

Much of my poetry life, still is here in the virtual world. But I'm finishing graduate school this year,and this is a step I'd probably never taken if it had not been for the support and encouragement of the writers I've met on the web. We move so often that I've never been able to build a group of writers to work with "off-line" but my friends are still here on-line, still accessible with a few keystrokes. Workshop takes dedication and time to spend thinking other poems in progress. Since I'm in school, it's a luxury I don't currently have. I started my blog to have a place to talk about poetry and poetics. Sometimes others join the conversation. Mostly I put my words on the screen and readers visit like ghosts.

I wish the PW article would have talked about how important the web can be for women; how the web has been the bridge between a world of toddlers and a world of letters; how women have been able to participate in the conversation that we might have otherwise missed. Maybe that's the article we should write.

About Poetry: a multitude of tongues.

Well, there's grumbling out on the blogsphere that us poets need to talk more about poetry. So, here goes: On Poetry

Well, I've been doing a lot of thinking about Bakhtin and how he seems to be bad-mouthing poets for what he sees as a self-serving use of language. But, if you look at his description of how poetry works to create context which limits the "meaning" of the words and thus sentences, it is actually a compelling argument for how poetic language actually must work. He argues that at least on one, basic, level of "meaning" that poets exclude alternative meanings and lock in a single (although some poets do play with alternative meanings) meaning for words which are shaped by their context.

This idea, that the meaning is changed when a poem is “explained,” brings about such truisms as Coleridge’s “Poetry: the best words in the best order” and Robert Frost’s “Poetry is what is lost in the translation.” What makes poetry poetry is that the words are locked into this best order to create a precise meaning regardless if we can determine the author’s intended significance(I'm using Hirsch's defintions of "meaning" and "significance" BTW).

But then Bakhtin wants to say that the language in the poetry only is revealing the poet's "self." This seems problematic to me. Does every painting reveal the painter's "self"? Would you criticize the painter for "only using the paint colors on his palette to the exclusion of all other paint colors"? If words are the poet's medium as paint is the painter's medium, why would you criticize him or her for only using "his own words/ meanings" ? What else can one possibly do? Run down to the word store and pick up another few tubes of language? And what's more, even in a novel which Bakhtin champions, the author can only use words that she already "owns" even if they are from a variety of languages. It is impossible to speak or write in any manner that communicates without using one's own word horde. ( I know not everyone cares about that communication issue, and lots of folks believe it's impossible, but I try to communicate when I speak and participate in communication when I listen and read. )

Maybe Bahktin would like the post-modern attempts at heteroglossia, books of poems like "Poeta en San Fransico" and other poems that attempt to cross language borders. But the words are still, must be, can be no other than the poet's own words, even if the poet uses a multitude of tongues.

Reading to the Wind part 2

One should watch what one says. The wind in fact was incredibly strong while I was reading and was blowing my papers around and actually moved a 6ft. long folding table that was set up next to the podium. What was delightful was that several members of my department were on hand to hear me read. Thanks folks!

You can read a bit more about A&S Day here, as well as a (very) brief take on my reading: The Collegian

[And tomorrow, the winning lotto ticket! ]

Reading to the Wind

In celebration of Arts & Sciences Day at KSU, I'll be reading my poetry on April 11 at Bosco Plaza(at the Union)at 12:30. The reading begins at 12:00 and runs through 1:00 and features four readers from the English Department.

Happy Poetry Month!

He says this as if it's a BAD thing. . .

“The language of the poetic genre is a unitary and singular Ptolemaic world outside of which nothing else exists and nothing else is needed. The concept of many worlds of language, all equal in their ability to conceptualize and to be expressive, is organically denied to poetic style.”
-- Mikhail M. Bakhtin

Poem A Day Project

Ghost Road Press will be featuring one of my poems on April 3rd in celebration of Poetry Month.

Cheers! Read More Poetry!