Monthly Archives

June 2016

Poetry Makes Nothing Happen

June 15, 2016

51hnlWJ4w2L._UY250_Auden said that, not as a criticism of poetry but as a defense of it against ideological pressures in the 1930s from both the right and the left that poets take sides.  When it comes to writing my own poetry, I am with Auden, and with John F. Kennedy, who declared that “Society must make the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him [or her].”  And I agree with Yehudi Amichai that “all poetry is political. This is because real poems deal with a human response to reality and politics is part of reality, history in the making. Even if a poet writes about sitting in a glass house drinking tea, it reflects politics.”  Following a number of recent tragedies people have posted Adam Zagajewski’s poem “Try to Praise the Mutilated World,” just as the New Yorker did after the nine-eleven attacks.  He didn’t write the poem to address any specific event, but it speaks to our hearts and minds about many of them.  I’m interested to hear your thoughts about how poetry speaks to tragedy, and whether it’s most moving to you if it does it deliberately or indirectly.

First Loves

June 6, 2016

41ZFN5K8D5L._SX308_BO1,204,203,200_Sometimes I start a class with a book that takes me straight to the heart of wanting to write poetry: First Loves: Poets Introduce the Essential Poems that Captivated and Inspired Them, edited by Carmela Ciuraru (Scribners 2001). If you don’t already know it, I’d recommend the amazon page review for a sense of what it’s like. Ciuraru asked a wide range of contemporary poets to choose a poem that inspired them early on and say a few words about it. Every time I read around in the book I’m taken back to some of my own sources, and the same thing happens to students when they read it: a direct line opens to those original urges. The book is full of surprises: Robert Creeley chooses Alfred Noyes’s “The Highwayman” and Wanda Coleman picks Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky,” for example.

 

A number of experiences made me fall in love with words: my father asking “What’s black and white and red all over?” I was stumped. “A newspaper.” What? Oh! Read! That language could do that. Or my grandmother writing out “Mairzy doats and dozy doats and little lambsy divey” after she’d sung it. Later it was Poe’s “Annabel Lee” and—like Creeley—the galloping “Highwayman.” But it was Frost’s ability to see through tranquil surfaces to the depths below that resonated with something in me, from the opening of “My November Guest” (“My sorrow, when she’s here with me/ Thinks these dark days of autumn rain/ Are beautiful as days can be….”) to the horrifying “Out, Out—,” where a young boy is mortally wounded as he’s sawing lumber. But one in particular seemed to speak directly to me, where I lived in Utah’s arid landscape:

 

DESERT PLACES

Snow falling and night falling fast, oh, fast
In a field I looked into going past,
And the ground almost covered smooth in snow,
But a few weeds and stubble showing last.

The woods around it have it – it is theirs.
All animals are smothered in their lairs.
I am too absent-spirited to count;
The loneliness includes me unawares.

And lonely as it is, that loneliness
Will be more lonely ere it will be less –
A blanker whiteness of benighted snow
With no expression, nothing to express.

They cannot scare me with their empty spaces
Between stars – on stars where no human race is.
I have it in me so much nearer home
To scare myself with my own desert places.

 

I’m curious to hear about your first loves. Please add your own thoughts and choices to The Poetry Conversation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome

June 4, 2016

 

Welcome to The Poetry Conversation with Sharon Bryan.  I’ll be posting weekly thoughts on poetry, and I hope you’ll join in.  I think of this site as a big room with comfortable chairs where we can gather to talk about poems and poets, craft, translation, what it is to be a poet, what others are reading and listening to, whatever interests you.  I’ll be inviting other poets to do guest posts, so please feel free to make suggestions.

 

bookcollage

Sharon Bryan

June 4, 2016

Sharon Bryan is a poet, teacher, and editor who has published four books of poems and edited two collections of essays.  She has taught in almost two dozen universities and writing programs around the country, and is currently on the poetry faculty of the low-residency MFA Program in Creative Writing at Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

     ♦♦♦

Sharon Bryan has published four books of poems: Sharp Stars, Flying BlindObjects of Affectionand Salt Air. She also edited two collections of essays, Where We Stand: Women Poets on Literary Traditionand, with William Olsen, Planet on the Table: Poets on the Reading Life. She edited the literary magazine River City from 1988-1993.

Her awards include two fellowships in Poetry from the NEA, the Isabella Gardner Poetry Award for Sharp Stars, a Governor’s Award and Artist Trust Grant from Washington State, a Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center fellowship, a Utah Arts Council grant for the film collaboration Eureka, a Tennessee Arts Commission Fellowship in Poetry, an Arvon Foundation Award, a Discovery Prize from The Nation, and an Academy of American Poets first prize. She was poet-in-residence at The Frost Place in Franconia, New Hampshire.

Her poems have appeared in more than a dozen anthologies, including Poetry 180, ed. Billy Collins, Good Poems, ed. Garrison Keillor, and Writing Poems, ed. Robert Wallace and Michelle Boisseau. They have been published in many periodicals, including the American Poetry Review, The Atlantic, Crazyhorse, The Georgia Review, The Gettysburg Review, The Iowa Review, Ploughshares, Paris Review, and Poetry.

Her books have been reviewed in Book List, The Boston Globe, Field The Georgia Review, The Gettysburg Review, The New York Times Book Review, Publishers Weekly, the Seattle Times, The Southern Review, Women’s Review of Books, and a number of other periodicals.

She has taught in almost two dozen programs and universities around the country, including the University of Connecticut, Emerson, Brandeis, Fresno State, San Diego State, the University of Missouri-St. Louis, the University of Ohio, Western Michigan, Wichita State, the University of Houston, and Dartmouth. She is currently on the poetry faculty of the Lesley University low-residency MFA Program in Creative Writing in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

contact: sharonbryanpoet@earthlink.net

The Poetry Conversation

June 4, 2016

WELCOME

 

Welcome to The Poetry Conversation with Sharon Bryan.  I’ll be posting weekly thoughts on poetry, and I hope you’ll join in.  I think of this site as a big room with comfortable chairs where we can gather to talk about poems and poets, craft, translation, what it is to be a poet, what others are reading and listening to, whatever interests you.  I’ll be inviting other poets to do guest posts, so please feel free to make suggestions.

 

bookcollage