The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘poetry’

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.”

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 »

August in the Apple Orchard

July 31, 2015 | by

Charles-François Daubigny, Orchard, 1865–69.

George Bradley’s poem “August in the Apple Orchard” appeared in our Summer 1980 issue. Bradley’s most recent collection is 2011’s A Few of Her Secrets.

It seems someone else was interested in order, too—
The squat trees edging away down the slope
In wavy lines like rivulets—but wasn’t very good at it,
And left you to make the best of the result.
But you can’t very well tear up Uncle Jack’s half-acre
On a whim, and besides, the view isn’t unattractive,
Just arbitrary. Read More »

The Clear Movie-Theater Dark

July 28, 2015 | by

53

From the cover of Issue 53, by Louis Cane.

Happy eighty-eighth to John Ashbery. Many of his poems from the Review are available online, but I wanted to share a meditative passage on film from “The System,” a long prose poem published as fiction in our Spring 1972 issue.

In 1971, Ashbery read from “The System” at St. Mark’s Church, in New York. Someone captured his prefatory remarks on tape, and they’re pretty illuminating in suggesting an approach to the poem:

Oh. I don’t think I have the last page of it with me. Well, it doesn’t really matter, actually. I don’t … I do like the way it ends, but it’s kind of an environmental work, if I may be so bold. If you sort of feel like leaving at any point, it won’t really matter. You will have had the experience. You’re only supposed to get out of it what you actually get out of it. You’re not supposed to really take it all in … you know, think about other things. I am disturbed that it’s incomplete, but maybe that’s good.

You can read the whole thing in Issue 53. Read More »

Masks

July 27, 2015 | by

Confessional poetry and The Twilight Zone.

A still from “The Masks.”

Who wants to be a confessional poet?

Those we’ve saddled with the label—Lowell, Berryman, Snodgrass, Sexton, et cetera—usually react to it with frustration, if not outright hatred. That should come as no surprise. Most poetic movements are met by some degree of disapproval, or at least discomfort. Writers are practically obliged to deny this critical tendency: how dare we readers, critics, English students, reduce entire books, careers, or generations to a singular term. Maybe writers resent words like confessional, imagist, or even Romantic because they inevitably blur a poet’s individual edges into something bland, familiar, and more easily shared. Or maybe the anxiety stems from the fact that labels like this often hover over living writers like tombstones, as critics prepare to title their chapter in literary history.

For whatever reason, confessional poets really hate being called confessional poets. Several of them have unleashed their outrage in the pages of The Paris Review. For example, Berryman: Read More »