Sunday, December 10, 2006


In addition to the rhetoric and composition journals I subscribe to (College English, College Composition and Communication, Rhetoric Review, and Writing on the Edge), as well as The New Yorker, Newsweek, and The New York Times Book Review (Do I subscribe only to weeklies whose titles start with "New?"), I take various literary journals, altering my choices year to year. My current subscriptions include Southern Poetry Review (edited by my friend Bob Parham), Tar River Poetry, Atlanta Review (which I like for its international flavor), Crazyhorse, and Iron Horse Literary Review.

The current issue of Iron Horse contains a series of "readings," by various well-known poets, fiction writers, and essayists. Each reading consists of a bio, a story/essay/series of poems, and a brief Q and A with the writer. One question to Kelly Cherry is "Have these poems undergone revisions?" She responds, "I started work on the sonnets in 1999 (though there'd been a half-sonnet from 1994 or thereabouts that I'd hung on to) and have rewritten all of them many, many times."

In contrast, Bob Hicok claims of his three poems, "These three were not revised, beyond how they were revised during composition. I tend to revise a great deal as I write, which is why I bow down to the computer.... While I don't believe 'first word, best word,' I trust the intention of that philosophy and want to come as close as I can to capturing my thoughts and emotions in a given moment. There's something lost for me once I rise from a poem into the day, something particular to each poem that I find almost impossible to get back. However long it takes, I try to finish each one on the initial go-round."

After her five poems, each motivated by a different line from a poem in Spanish, Leslie Ullman explains the origin of this series in her reading of a bilingual anthology of 20th-century American poetry edited by Stephen Tapscott. She chose this as a text for a poetry class. Then, she says, "My professionalism gave way to enchantment and then to irresponsibility as the energy in those poems entered me like a tonic and made me itch to write poems of my own rather than think about classes. I was particularly seduced by elements easiest to preserve in translation--swiftness of association, a delicious mixing of the senses, astonishing juxtapositions, and incantatory rhythms."

Reading this makes me want to return to my own free-form translations from poems by Eugenio Montale in Italian, a language I don't know. It also reminds me of the series of poems Melissa Morphew wrote in response to Pablo Neruda's questions in Libro de las preguntas (Book of Questions - 1974).

No comments: