The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘poetry’

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 »

Of Plums and Iceboxes

August 27, 2015 | by

Passmore_Wickson-plum-1896

A watercolor of the Wickson plum by Deborah Griscom Passmore, 1896

Because my neighbors were out of town, I had been offered the gift of their weekly fruit and vegetable share from Community Share Agriculture. And because they are a family of four, when I came home from the nearby church where the produce is distributed, it was with bags heavy laden with corn, summer squash, celery, peppers, and stone fruits. It was more than I could eat.

The soft little sugarplums were especially ripe—several had burst in one of my totes on the way home—and clearly needed to be dealt with quickly. In that moment, I realized that I had no idea whether one can refrigerate a ripe plum. I knew, of course, that it had to ripen at room temperature—but what about afterward? Did it go horrible and mealy, like a tomato? Or was it stable and delicious, like a grape? It wasn’t that I’d grown up without fruit—in season, there was always a large bowl in the kitchen. But we ate them all so greedily and quickly that the refrigeration issue (at least in my memory) never came up. Read More »

A New Kind of Refinement

August 26, 2015 | by

Guillaume Apollinaire and Madeleine Pagès in December 1915.

A letter from Guillaume Apollinaire to Madeleine Pagès, dated October 11, 1915. Apollinaire had met Pagès, who taught literature, on a train in January of that year; by August they were engaged and Apollinaire was stationed in the trenches of Champagne, fighting the Great War. His prolific correspondence with Pagès from this period is remarkable not just in its erotic candor but in its portrayal of life in the trenches, down to the finest details: “mud, what mud, you cannot imagine the mud you have to have seen it here, sometimes the consistency of putty, sometimes like whipped cream or even wax and extraordinarily slippery.” At times he rebuked his lover for not writing often or well enough, though the beginning of this letter finds him pleased with her efforts. The following year, he was wounded by shrapnel; the injury so disturbed him that he refused to receive his fiancée during his convalescence, and soon the letters, along with their engagement, dried up.

My love, I had two letters from you today. I am very happy with them … especially out here, where your precious sensuality is a consolation to me, the sole remedy for all my troubles. Please do mark this well, my love. You said yourself that we should strengthen the secret between us, so do strengthen it, and fear for nothing. Be naked before me—as far away as I am … Your meaningful look in Marseilles is admirably clear to me in memory, charged with all the voluptuousness that is part of you. You are very beautiful. I kiss your mouth through your hat veil, tearing it like a Veil of Isis and grasping the whole of that little traveller who is now my own beloved little wife and clasping her madly to me …

I take your whole mouth and kiss it, and then your breasts, so sensitive, whose tips harden at my kiss and strain towards me like your desire itself. I wrap my arms about you and hold you fight forever against my heart. 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.”
Read More »

Loved the Ocean, Lived in the Desert, and Other News

August 25, 2015 | by

Agnes Martin, Untitled #1 (detail), 2003, acrylic and graphite on canvas.

  • The poet Cynthia Macdonald has died at eighty-seven. Hayden Carruth praised her “light sardonic touch”; her poems sometimes drew on her career as a psychoanalyst, in which her specialty was, appropriately enough, writer’s block. “All people who really want to write and can’t, or who really need to write and can’t, have real conflict and real oppositions,” she said in 1998. “One part of them is saying you have to do this, you want to do this, and the other part is saying you’re not allowed to.”
  • Dismaland, Bansky’s sprawling, much-touted parody of Disney theme parks, is supposed to indict consumer capitalism by immersing us in a grim portrait of social collapse—but its real appeal is as banal as anything with the Disney insignia on it: “it remains a fun ‘family day out. For all his protests, Banksy is a showbizman. The night this correspondent visited, the organizers were laughingly dispensing unlimited quantities of prosecco, strangely unaware of their resemblance to the portrait above them of Prime Minister David Cameron, sipping white wine insouciantly while the curtain is drawn on old Blighty. Fireworks lit up the dark. Hollywood stars joined in the frivolity. Dandily dressed salespeople circulated with price-lists of objets-d’art, and Banksy has auctioned his work elsewhere for hundreds of thousands of pounds. In 21st century Britain, even anarchists have joined the champagne society.”
  • Richard Diebenkorn—who died in 1993, and whose art was featured all the way back in our Fall 1984 issue—kept sketchbooks throughout his life, often putting one down only to pick it up years later: “The books are filled with stunningly gestural sketches of bits and pieces of daily life, both mundane capturing of everyday things, and powerful vignettes of intimate family moments … We see brief visual meditations on vistas seen on travels, and we see carefully built studies that would become the large-scale finished Ocean Park paintings we know so well.”
  • A new biography of Agnes Martin brings her many contradictions into sharp relief: “the Martin who insisted that nothing was more important to her than the ocean yet lived most of her life in the desert; Martin the ascetic guru, subsisting through the winter on hard cheese and walnuts and homegrown, preserved tomatoes, yet also the margarita- and steak-loving life of the party … Martin the disciplined practitioner who woke up early every morning to paint, and who admitted, ‘I don’t get up in the morning until I know exactly what I’m going to do. Sometimes, I stay in bed until about three [in] the afternoon, without any breakfast.’ ” (She was also, in her life as a motorist, an inveterate speeder.)
  • Henri Cole elaborates on his equivalent of Proust’s madeleine: “You take a piece of Wonder Bread and spread butter over it and sprinkle Domino sugar on top. It’s love-food. It’s dessert for people who don’t have a dessert, like in the Depression era. By eating it as an adult, I am recreating childhood and the purest pleasure of love-food.”