The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘poems’

What Happened to O?

August 27, 2015 | by

The death of an exclamation.

William Blake had me thinking about death.

I was lying on my couch, Norton Anthology in my lap, when I stumbled on Blake’s poem “The Sick Rose.” I’d read the poem before, and I remembered its famous opening lament: “O Rose, thou art sick!”

What follows is a compact poem built of stark imagery. An invisible, amorous worm is flying through a storm at night. It descends on a rose. A death is at hand. And the perpetrator of the rose’s death, Blake warns, is none other than the worm’s secret love.

I reread the poem, parsing its lines for meaning. Then I read it once again. The night was late, and I felt drowsy. As sleep approached, an inchoate thought began to surface.

I sat up. O Rose, I thought. O Muse. O death.

I stood from the couch and found a pen. I tore off a piece of scratch paper, and on it I wrote myself a note: “What killed O?” Read More »

Announcing The Unprofessionals: Our New Anthology

August 25, 2015 | by

Click to enlarge

This November, we’re publishing our first anthology of new writing in more than fifty years. The Unprofessionals: New American Writing from The Paris Review features thirty-one stories, poems, and essays by a new generation of writer. It’s a master class, across genres, in what is best and most alive in American literature today.

Take a look at the cover and you’ll recognize names such as John Jeremiah Sullivan, Atticus Lish, Emma Cline, Ben Lerner, and others who have become emblematic of a renaissance in American writing. Although these are younger writers, already any history of the era would be incomplete without them. At a moment when it’s easy to see art as another product—and when writers, especially, are encouraged to think of themselves as professionals—the stories, poems, and essays in this collection have no truck with self-promotion. They turn inward. They’re not afraid to stare, to dissent, or even to offend. They answer only to themselves.

In the coming months, we’ll reveal more about the anthology, which Akhil Sharma calls “the best possible introduction to the best literary magazine we have.” Stay tuned!

Wait in the Chair

August 25, 2015 | by

Cynthia Macdonald.

“Wait in the Chair,” a poem by Cynthia Macdonald from our Spring 2004 issue. Macdonald, who died earlier this month at eighty-seven, taught for many years at the University of Houston; she was also a psychoanalyst. Richard Howard wrote that she drew her poems “from the grotesque.” “Grotesque comes from the grotto,” she said in an interview: “the grotto is, if you want, the hidden part of everybody … all writing comes from the grotto, whether it comes out as overtly odd or very conventional. So I would agree with that definition. I would say I am interested in strange things that happen, because they seem like a sharpened metaphor of what happens all the time.”
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Snort to Win

August 19, 2015 | by

“Coke,” a poem by Scott Cohen from our Summer 1971 issue. Cohen’s collection Actual Size was published the same year.

The difference in the speed of the thought process of a man who has just snorted coke and a man who hasn’t is a very strange number which has a cosmic meaning, that is, it enters into the cosmic processes. This number is 27,000.

I was glad to find the Bar-B-Q Book sitting on my desk because sitting on the Bar-B-Q Book was another gram of coke. Read More »

Last Days of Prospero

August 12, 2015 | by

Joseph Severn, A Scene from the Tempest, Prospero and Ariel (detail) 

“Last Days of Prospero,” a poem by Donald Justice from our Winter - Spring 1964 issue. Justice, born on August 12, 1925, is remembered for his formal mastery; he had a special fondness for sestinas. He died in 2004. Michael Hofmann has said that Justice “probably has few peers when it comes to the musical arrangement of words in a line.” In 2011, John Jeremiah Sullivan wrote about his poem “There Is a Gold Light in Certain Old Paintings” for the Daily.

The aging magician retired to his island.
It was no so green as he remembered,
Nor did the sea caress its headlands
With the customary nuptial music.

He did not mind. He would not mind,
So long as the causeway to the mainland
Were not repaired, so long as the gay
Little tourist steamer never again Read More »

Pet Brick

August 7, 2015 | by

“Ethics,” a prose poem by Adam LeFevre from our Winter 1975 issue. LeFevre, now sixty-four, is also a playwright and an established character actor.

Where I went to college in the purple valley of northwest Massachusetts, there was a fellow in my class who used to drag a brick around by a string. He called it his “pet brick.” Every night he would drag his brick into the campus snack bar when the snack bar was most crowded, and order two vanilla milkshakes—one for himself, one for his brick. The first time I saw him I laughed at the absurdity of the proposition. A pet brick! A brick drinking a milkshake! The subsequent occasions of my seeing his fellow and his brick made me respond differently. Often I was angry, thinking he dragged the brick for just the clamor that will always attend the outrageous. Sometimes, when I could convince myself that he and his brick were actually a charade protesting technology gone wild or man’s inhumanity to man, OI could feel the pleasant twinge of belonging to a fraternity of hoodwinkers. But when I saw him in the early morning, dragging his brick through the empty quads, my heart would fill with the silent despair that rose from the strange interplay between them. Just as it was impossible to know exactly how he felt about the brick, in those days I never knew how I should feel about anything. Only one thing was clear. He did not love the brick. Nor did the brick love him. This fact became my reference point in all matters of faith.