A crossing point for ideas, words, images, and energies

Jared Carter

The ancient Greeks often greeted one another with “Where have you come from and where are you going?”  Underlying that question is the insight that origin is a source and also a point of departure, where we start but also what we leave behind.  So for me the definitive moment in Jared Carter’s work is not his most famous line, the last line of “The Purpose of Poetry,” in which the poem’s speaker declares that “The purpose of poetry is to tell us about life,” but the moment in the last stanza of “Mourning Doves” when the speaker says to his beloved, “… it is out of not knowing that I brush away / strands of hair from your face, and begin to kiss / your eyes, your lips….”


Poetry, like love, does come out of not knowing, in all the ways one might mean that.  It originates in not knowing, and also, no less importantly, departs from — leaves behind — not knowing.


Carter, Jared.  Darkened Rooms of Summer: New and Selected Poems. Univ. of Nebraska Press, 2014.



Rupert Loydell

In poetry, to choose convention-challenging subjects occasions further challenges to convention, in process of composition, in “form” and “content” of the poems themselves (as if those were separable), and in their “personal” and “political” enactments as reading (as if those were separable).  As a result, “the poem forces us,” Gerald Bruns observes, “to expand our boundaries of what we think of as meaningful.”  Ballads of the Alone does not merely collect its fragments as (in Heraclitus’ formulation) “a heap of random sweepings,” but arrays them as a realization on the page of the “biological operation” in the brain that Barbara Maria Stafford claims is “akin to the rhetorical function of analogy” and is “responsible for the synaesthetic convergences of discrete information distributed all over the brain occurring when we think coherently.”  Thinking coherently, in other words, may be more distributed than localized, more arrayed than sequenced, more shuffled than hierarchized, more combinatory than monumental.  To borrow the words of David Mutschlecner, Loydell’s book is a “sapient / concatenation: / language braided with creation.”  As words combined in relation to a linguistic grammar may result in discovery, so may fragments combined in relation to a “grammar of collage.”


Loydell, Rupert.  Ballads of the Alone.  Shearsman Books, 2013.



Sara Pritchard

The concluding story in Sara Pritchard’s Help Wanted: Female recalls, by the way it looks on the page (with individually-titled sections), William Gass’s “In the Heart of the Heart of the Country.”  The similarities don’t extend far beyond that, but do include the enactment of a possibility available to the story collection.  If it is typical of fiction to progress, to move by cause and effect from beginning through middle to end, it is also possible for fiction to add up, to accumulate into a whole by the assembly of numerous parts.  In taking that approach, “Personal Effects,” Pritchard’s concluding story, also replicates in miniature the structure of the whole collection, itself an adding-up.


Pritchard, Sara.  Help Wanted: Female.  Etruscan Press, 2013.



Peter Jay Shippy

When Peter Jay Shippy ends his new book with a one-line poem, I take it as a moral told slant.  The line, in reference (as the title indicates) to a ruined dance hall, is “Moths ham up the rafters, the applewood purrs.”  The moral, I take it, casts back over the whole book, and might be translated as something like this: There is a dizzying energy in desolation, a fizz to decay.


Shippy, Peter Jay.  A spell of songs.  Saturnalia Books, 2013.



Yahia Lababidi

It is stated often, but in this case it seems worth stating often: poetry attends with care to the perceptible, what is present to the eye and ear, but also attends with care to the imperceptible, what is not available to the senses.  In Wallace Stevens’ frequently-cited words, poetry “beholds / Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.”


As Yahia Lababidi succinctly demonstrates in his short poem “Dusk to Dawn,” with its two haiku-like stanzas, each offering an evocative sense-impression, one of dusk and one of dawn.  And there between them, imperceptible but immense, is the whole of night.


Lababidi, Yahia.  Barely There: Short Poems.  Resource Publications, 2013.



Rodney Koeneke

The speaker in “I Should Feel Happy” formulates a dilemma: “I have the most awesome friends ever, / I am not happy at all.”  The presence of that dilemma suggests that one way to read this particular problem, and possibly the whole of Etruria, the collection in which it appears, is as an attempt to take up Sara Ahmed’s challenge from The Promise of Happiness, that “we need to think about unhappiness as more than a feeling that should be overcome” (217).  At what insights might such thinking arrive, if pursued far enough?


Koeneke, Rodney.  Etruria.  Wave Books, 2014.




In his “Ceci n’est pas Surrealism: A Musical,” Gary Barwin worries the relationship between speed and thought: “Think fast: do we think faster now?  Speed itself is faster.  And complicit.  Did words get slower or faster?”  A vexing question: does the “continuous partial attention” (Barwin’s words again) imposed by the ubiquity of screens and search engines make words slower or make them faster?  Which would resist the acceleration?


Rampike 22:2.



South Dakota Review

In some journals, the editor writes an introductory essay to orient the reader.  (I think of Sven Birkerts’ essays introducing each issue of Agni, and Minna Proctor’s essays introducing each issue of TLR.)  Lee Ann Roripaugh’s insightful essay, “Memory, Remembrance, Commemoration, Anniversary,” introducing the current issue of South Dakota Review, includes this observation: “In the age of the internet, memory becomes communal — a sort of commemorative Wiki, if you will.  Photo albums move from private to public spheres, and even the most banal moments of daily existence begin to take on a voyeuristic glamour.  The instantaneous nature of digital mechanical reproduction means that the time between action and memory, collection and re-collection, has been completely collapsed.  Memory becomes a form of obsessive image making that’s simultaneously choreographed and shared at the moment of its happening.”


South Dakota Review 50 (Fall/Winter/Spring 2012-2013).




What does reading mean, in the middle of what Minna Proctor describes as “our moment, redredyellowredblugreenblueblue faster and faster bleeping and blinking into the abyss of time spent”?  Is reading always an attempt to resist that abyssal profligacy?  Has reading already been co-opted by, and into, that abyss?  Or is there room — and time — for reading to operate as a field still susceptible to decision and wisdom?


TLR 56:4 (Late Fall 2013).



Denver Quarterly

Who knew that there existed star nurseries, until invited by to Eric Pankey to reflect on their similarity to a silty sea, to ask what it is “One sees in the place / Where the light // Will be, / But is not, / But is not yet”?

Denver Quarterly 48:1 (2013).