Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The Poems of Basil Bunting (2016)

Available now from Faber and Faber

FREE SHIPPING WORLDWIDE (and best price) via The Book Depository

New Statesman Book of the Year, 2016

Sunday Times of London Book of the Year, 2016

London Review Bookshop Poetry Book of the Year: An astonishing scholarly undertaking, beautifully produced and sensitively annotated.

Richard Burton, author of A Strong Song Tows Us: The Life of Basil Bunting: A fantastic achievement.

Rory Waterman, Essays in Criticism: A considerable work of scholarship... the only book of Bunting’s poetry any reader needs.

Jeremy Noel-Tod, The Sunday Times: Splendidly edited.

Paul Batchelor, The Poetry Review: A major event in the literatures of this...archipelago.

            Chris Miller, PN Review: The annotations are magisterially organized.  Well done, Don Share. 

Mark Hutchinson, TLS: Deft and meticulous...  More than fulfills the task he has set for it...  You'll have a field day exploring the notes and commentaries.

Peter Robinson, Poetry London: Don Share has provided a canonical Bunting in a thoroughly convincing and usable edition.  He has done the poet, these poems, and their readers, an invaluable service. 

Matthew Hollis: A rigorous, unquestionably thorough and well-presented piece of scholarship that tells us very much more than we once knew about Bunting's work and working background.

Max Porter, author of Grief is the Thing with Feathers: The book of my dreams!  What a gift to readers.
Peter Quartermain: What an accomplishment this book is!
Steve Silberman: One of the most significant poetry books of the last 25 years.
Devin Johnston: The editing is excellent. This volume cleanly replaces a ragged stack on my shelf of books and photocopies, as well as gaps and question marks. It will be an immensely useful book for me, as Bunting's poetry is always a technical resource (as well as an active pleasure). I'm sure it's bringing new readers to Bunting.

David Wheatley, The Literary Review: Masterfully harvested by Don Share... Bunting has been more than lucky in his editor.

Ian Pople, Manchester Review: This collection of Bunting’s poetry and Don Share’s meticulous editing of them will keep us reading and re-reading the poems for a very long time. 

Anthony Howell, Fortnightly Review: By including anything and everything Bunting wrote about his poems in the annotations, we get to know a lot about the man through Don Share's painstaking scholarship and his discreet editing.
Emily Van Houton, Research English at Durham: Don Share has completed more than just an unprecedented task but a greatly needed one. 
Steven Waling, Write Out Loud: Is it worth the money? I would say, every penny. Basil Bunting was one of the greatest British poets of the 20th century.


Link to errata/corrigenda

Monday, July 10, 2017

One Small Thing

The author constructs a very cogent argument about contemporary culture, in particular its narcissism. “Bad art is from no one to no one”, she states. “Aspiring to fame is aspiring to a life of small talk.” She draws a very sharp line between writers under thirty and writers over forty. “The former, like everyone their age, already know how to act like famous people whose job it is to be photographed.” Turn forty (she was born in 1974) “and suddenly you’re too old to die tragically young, but at least you have a chance of dying fascinatingly old”. Manguso’s advice for aspiring authors is about craft, not outcome, the mastery of what she calls “one small thing”. Small might be the most important word in this book, small as an aesthetic principle, a way of constructing sentences, but also small as a way of being in the world and being with other people. “The smallest and shortest pieces of art strive for perfection; the largest and longest strive for greatness.” In the context of a noisy political arena in which greatness is seen as an unambiguous good, Sarah Manguso’s philosophy of smallness is more radical than it seems.

Jonathan Ellis, on Sarah Manguso, in the Times Literary Supplement, June 27, 2017

Friday, April 22, 2016

Poems for PRINCE

"what other dude you know own a whole color?" - Nate Marshall

As a public service, I offer a compendium, the compilation of which is still in progress, of legit PRINCE-related poetry.

The poetry of Prince's lyrics. - via Slate

Rowan Ricardo Phillips, "Purple Elegy"

Excerpt from Michael Robbins' poem "New Bridge Strategies" from "Alien vs. Predator" -

"Poems I wrote for Prince."   - E. Kristin Anderson reads from her chapbook Pray, Pray, Pray: Poems I Wrote to Prince in the Middle of the Night (Porkbelly Press, 2015), a collection of poems penned to, and inspired by, the late Prince.

"When Doves" by R.A. Villanueva - "Consider this, from Carl Phillips' 'The Art of Daring': 'The poem is a form of negotiation with what haunts us ... insofar as what haunts us is, in part, who we are.' To believe that means trusting in echoes and spirits and strange rhymes. And so, I am: secret frescoes and cave churches; the drum loops and distortions of Prince and the Revolution; my mother's devotionals, her defiance." - R.A. Villanueva

"Alphabet Street," by Randall Mann

(Note: the image heading this post is from the Folger Shakespeare Library, an image from a book containing Josua Sylvester’s poem Lachrymae Lachrymarum, mourning the death of Prince Henry.  See the full post here.)

Monday, November 9, 2015

Confusion that exists on the subject of what is meant by "understanding" a poem

This is no place to add my mite to the confusion that exists on the subject of what is meant by "understanding" a poem.  "Understanding" is something that people more respectable than myself assure me that they burn to apply to everything.  If they look, for example, at a picture, and are in danger of feeling pleasure from it, they either declare that "they don't understand it" or they apply their understandings to some object which, but for their assurances to the contrary, I should have suspected wasn't the picture: in either case, it seems, they feel better for having avoided submitting to the dignity of pleasure.  With a poem, the same sort of difficulty arises. 

-- C.H. Sisson, from a review of Ezra Pound, Pisan Cantos

Friday, October 30, 2015

... there’s very little that you ever actually need when it comes to appreciating and getting something very valuable from a poem. You probably need to be able to read and write, except that people could read poems to you; you probably need to know English, though you and I have probably had the experience of reading poems in a language that we don’t know and being very thrilled by their music and by a strong sense of emotion and pulsation that is in them. I don’t know any Portuguese but when I heard Alberto de Lacerda read his poems and I thought, these are very beautiful, and I wanted to read them in translation...

Do people need to know all the bootleg versions of Bob Dylan songs? Do they need to know all the different outtakes? No, they don’t need to. I think there is a wonderful bonus, repeatedly, in finding out how these poems came to be written, exactly what they may be suggesting, all the ways in which you might have missed this pun here because there was something you didn’t know. You might have missed some things that are going on in a line. I think there was a review of the Larkin edition [by Archie Burnett] where Paul Muldoon said, “anybody reading Larkin for the first time would think…”, but you wouldn’t read Larkin for the first time in an edition which had a hundred pages of notes. So it’s the difference between reading for pleasure, and reading with the pleasure that comes from study. Some of us get terrific pleasure from study—others, my brother was one of them, never read poems for study. He read them solely for pleasure, and that was great except he didn’t have the pleasures of study.

-- Christopher Ricks, interviewed at Prospect

Monday, December 1, 2014

They Are Back, the Angry Poets

They are back, the angry poets. But look! They have come with hammers and little buckets, and they are knocking off pieces of The Monument to study and use in the making of their own small tombs.

-- Mark Strand

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Open Letter to White Poets from Danez Smith

An open letter from Danez Smith, whose poem "alternate names for black boys" has been sadly all too resonant with recent events.  

We Must Be the New Guards: Open Letter to White Poets

"But when a long train of abuses and usurpation, pursing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security,--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world."

            - The Declaration of Independence

To my kin and colleagues in letters and art, I come to you out of ink, of breath, of patience, & almost emptied of any belief that there is anything this country that doesn’t seek to end me, keep me and my black & brown loved ones from living lives that are not designed around your comfort and benefit. I’m not mad at you. I, in my best mind, believe in a borderless world of unified citizenship, not a utopia, but a place where justice is birthright and peace is promised, protected. But we live in a history well versed in repetition, where the people who built this country on burdened, wound-red backs are the same people today waiting for some declaration of independence, equality, or ceasefire.

The skin tone of the oppressed along color lines in this country’s history reads like bad alliteration, our skin a hard sound echoing endlessly in a unjustified fear we have renamed “self defense” or “probable cause.” I’m not saying that self-defense doesn’t exist, but I question what men like Darren Wilson and George Zimmerman were defending themselves against except a fear they nursed since elementary school, a fear that screams “SHOOT” somewhere deep in their minds, their hands.

I did not come here to talk about these men. I came to talk to you, my partners in verse who build a life’s work documenting their brief time on this earth. I come you to asking to question the landscape of our pastoral muse. I ask you to question to what makes you safe? What frees you to write odes of the low country of America, to mention the trees and not their wicked history, to write the praise song of night, but not sing of what dark bodies hide cold in daylight? My family, and I pray we can call each other family, I am asking you to do what you do best: Write.

We must be members of the New Guards for those whose futures have been deemed questionable and expendable. I am asking you to explode the canon with what we must make sure is remembered in this nation. We cannot leave the duty of elegy for black bodies and calls for our fellow citizens to rise, even if wounded or enraged or scared, to the catalogues of solely black artists. We must write the American Lyric like Claudia Rankine so fearlessly writes, no matter now brutal or reflective it might be for you. There are people I cannot reach because what I make is degraded (& why not glorified?) for its label of black art. I implore, I need you to make art, black, dark art that shines an honest light on the histories of your paler kin. I ask you to join those fighting, under the cry of “Black Lives Matter”, in whatever way you can. Research ways you can be involved in your local community, think critically about how you can use your privilege and influence, effect change; I challenge you to make art that demands the safety of me, of many of your writing siblings, of so many people walking the streets in fear of those who are charged to protect us, even of people who we hesitate at times to call our fellow Americans.

And this is not the only fight we must rage, there are many suffering the awful weight of a society and judicial system that has edited “for all” from “with liberty & justice”. We must create work that refuses to leave this world the same as when we entered. We do not have the luxury of only writing the selfish confession, we must testify in our court of craft that these poems we write are bold, unflinching, and unwilling to stale idle in a geography of madness. We must demand of ourselves to write the uncomfortable, dangerous, shift-making poems. How much longer will we write casually in the face of a beast? Submit your facts to the candid world! I ask you to join me and others in utilizing verse to not rewrite our shared, grizzly history. I end this letter by not begging you “please”, but by telling you “you must.”

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

What matters about asking "Does Poetry Matter?"

Poetry has been slammed by Harpers. It’s been declared dead at the Washington Post. It’s been called AWOL by NPR Books. Whenever recent observers announce poetry’s demise, their autopsies tend to offer impalement by ivory tower as a major cause of death. They tell us that poetry is out of touch, that the genre is too much a part of the incestuous relationship between graduate creative writing programs, literary journals, and publishers, all of which are controlled and operated by (mostly academic) insiders. This has marginalized what was allegedly once a mainstream art and disconnected it from those masses apparently yearning for poetry out there in the wide world. The critics, then, are standing up for the vague notion of a “general” public when they attack the academic version of poetry, though I’m still not sure how any of these folks writing for Harpers, the Post, or NPR is any less a part of the overeducated middle-class literati than any member of the AWP.

The editors of the New York Times took a more conciliatory approach in addressing the state of the art by posing the question “Does poetry matter?” to a forum of highly decorated poets. (As far as I’m concerned, Jonathan Farmer’s response to this exercise in the LA Review of Books far outshone anything included in the original forum.) The editors’ introduction included the sub-question “Can poetry ever regain its relevancy?” Even if I ignore their frame of reference—I’m not sure when poetry ever was “relevant” or ever did “matter” in the way they mean—the fact that these questions are being asked at all suggests there’s a crisis in the art so severe that its very existence needs to be interrogated. On the other hand, even while the editors question poetry’s validity, their decision to present this particular forum seems an endorsement of poetry’s viability as a topic of interest for their general readership, which is a funny thing for dying art. The Times seems to be banking on the idea that there’s enough merit in the question for it to be taken seriously and that there are enough people seriously invested in poetry for the forum to attract traffic to their site in serious numbers. I suspect the argument did exactly that for the Times as well as for the Post, Harpers, Slate, and even here at the Poetry Foundation—and wherever else it tumbled onward.

If there’s a credible complaint in the criticism, it’s that we can’t distinguish art from the context in which it’s produced. The critics, however, focus on factors of aesthetics and personality when they ought to be paying attention to factors of economics and market forces. There is a desire in graduate-educated poets to write for the sake of readers, but there’s also a desire to leverage that writing into a career. We need to impress each other as much or more than we need to impress those outside of our immediate industry. A consequence of this is an interiority to the poetry we produce, but I don’t think that interiority is the result of snobbery, meekness, or obliviousness among poets the way critics have alleged. Too many of us are politically motivated in our writing and politically active in our lives for those accusations to hold up. I think it has more to do with the subtle effects that academia and the privilege inherent to it has on our language. If we intend for our work to appeal to an audience outside of ourselves, the first step might be to acknowledge the isolating effects of that privilege and admit that we need to learn as much about WIC checks and second shifts as we do about disjunctive narrativity and postmodernism. If we come from places that have taught us something about the former, our writing might benefit from not losing that culture and language to the culture of graduate schooling.

This isn’t to say that I have no problem with the critics’ complaints. It’s true there are poets, both established and aspiring, who have long forgotten or never acknowledged the ways they’ve benefited from the class advantages of higher education. There are also poets for whom the esoteric concerns of academic scholars and critics have become the primary motivating force in their writing. Both types of writer have little need for or interest in a mainstream audience. These are aesthetes writing for aesthetes. There isn’t any sin in this, but it does contribute to the perception that poetry is out of touch with the wider culture. Still, one of the reasons I’m not naming names here is that for every staid or esoteric poem, for every too-big-to-fail poet I might offer as an example in support of these observations, I can offer another that counters them. The fact is, there’s simply too much poetry out there coming from too many sources to make for believable generalizations about the art, and the trouble with recent attacks on poetry is that they’re based on too few examples without credible knowledge of the vast numbers of alternatives.

Beyond this, when critics call for a more relevant brand of poetry, their impulses might be well-meaning, but to believe that poetry should trump Facebook, cable, the movies, music, the news, Twitter, and the fact that more than a billion people now carry the entire Internet around in their pants is a weirdly capitalist ambition. It’s a desire for the elevation of one mode of expression over all those others, and I’m not sure why these critics believe that desire should matter more than somebody else’s need for something else. The thing that’s more troubling is that their nostalgia is for a time when self-expression was available to too few, when education and publication were far more limited than they are today. The times and places poetry mattered in the way its critic-defenders mean were those in which freedom of expression wasn’t the default for all.

In other places where this continues to be the case, poetry does have a truly existential value. Poets are being executed in Iran and jailed in China. Their voices matter because there are so few of them in those countries and because they are willing to say things that nobody else is willing or able to say. Meanwhile, in this country where terrible injustices and inequities continue to persist, poetry is only one of many ways to confront them. Poems of witness and protest are being written, and they are being published, and they can be extraordinarily powerful. If they seem more difficult to find than they might have been at a moment in the past, it isn’t because they don’t exist. It’s because they’re part of a much larger cultural machine in this country founded on freedoms of speech. In such context, it doesn’t seem to me that poetry has suddenly stopped mattering. It’s that a whole lot of other modes of expression matter too.

-- excerpted from Jaswinder Bolina, "The Writing Class;" read full essay at Harriet