Amy King’s irascible and incantatory sprawlfest, The Missing Museum, which won the 2015 Tarpaulin Sky Prize (a fact which alone makes it the Heavyweight Champ of World Poetry as that year’s TS Prize anointed literal dozens of books of astonishing breadth and beauty as finalists and semifinalists), begins with a one-poem prologue/manifesto, the beautiful, frustrating “Wake Before Dawn & Salt the Sea,” which reads like a sonnet that refuses to restrain itself to quite the syllables required and yet still manages to convey precision and restraint, and which tells a reader everything about poetry: explicitly, that it is useless, it is fuckworthy, it is love; implicitly, it is the only choice that can be made by this glib, driven, passionate, jaded speaker, or anyone with any intelligence and heart. It is a warning and a dare: “We are not edges of limbs or the heart’s smarts only.” It is a fitting introduction to this book of poems that, as it demands, wrestle and make love, and which unsurprisingly leave the reader breathless, dazzled, exhausted, and slightly bruised. Continue reading
For many poets, place is more than physical or lyrical proximity. Place can be an impetus, the inspiration for how and why their verse goes where it does. But, where it begins and where it ends is something of a protean contract between poet and process, between reader and time. We humans are ever locating ourselves. The recent discovery of a potentially habitable world orbiting, as Susan Firer calls it in a new poem, our “next nearest star,” reminds us how much imagination is at play in place: despite the facts, that this planet has no seasons, an 11-day year, that the sky is likely the general color of orangutans, etc., the news exploded with headlines translating those findings into hope, the Most Earth-like Planet Has Been Found! It seems we care most about places we can imagine being in, inhabiting. Continue reading
“I know how to make matzo balls/big as fists/and how to live on nothing/but cottage cheese, cigarettes, and air/but I know, too/that my mother is involved/in everything I know”
Last year, I watched my mother lose her mother. As my grandmother approached hospice care, we sorted through her stuff. My grandmother hoarded things: coffee mugs, clothes bought from garage sales, cookbooks, newspapers. My mother and her sisters spent weeks clearing out half a duplex stuffed with our matriarch’s many belongings.
My grandmother saved many things, including items from her own mother—my great-grandmother. On the day I visited the emptying house to divide up items with the other grandchildren, I found my great-grandmother’s purse stuffed in a drawer, full of what was in there when she died in 1990—a full wallet, pens, tissues, all the items intact. Continue reading