Poetry: Not Just for April Anymore

September 25, 2019

Publishing runs in cycles, and libraries consciously and unconsciously follow those cycles. Because April is considered National Poetry Month, there is a temptation to just read all the poetry you like then, and forget about it for the rest of the year. Happily, that is not how Evanston operates. But while ours is a poetry loving burg, even I sometimes forget that we can talk about the wonderful collections on our shelves any day of the year and not just in the Spring. Here then are four recent poetry publications that you may have missed, but shouldn’t miss out on.

Instruments of the True Measure: Poems by Laura ‘Da

Shawnee poet ‘Da writes in a way that Publishers Weekly described as, “a metaphoric system that binds arithmetic, cartography, Indian removal, and personal legacy”. What does that look like? Narrative poems and short essays for the most part, with lines that jump out at you, “like a tongue/ poking around// in the shrill vacancy/ of a shattered tooth.”

You Darling Thing by Monica Ferrell

“Every sixteen-year-old girl likes// A murderer for an admirer.” This book has collected multiple stars from a wide array of different professional journals, and why not? This dangerous little collection is full of magnificent bites of sound. “Somewhere a mutiny is tearing loose from/ Its tree like ripe fruit”. One review called it striking. I can’t think of a better word.

Bullets Into Bells: Poets and Citizens Respond to Gun Violence

Timely. Would that it were not so. If you’ve an interest in reading the poetry of Billy Collins, Patricia Smith, Natalie Diaz, Ocean Vuong, Danez Smith, Brenda Hillman, Natasha Threthewey, Robert Hass, Naomi Shihab Nye, Juan Felipe Herrera, Mark Doty, Rita Dove, and Yusef Komunyakaa as they discuss gun violence, this book is for you. Poems, prose, and an ongoing discussion.

No Secret Where Elephants Walk: Poetry & Images, Africa by Carol and Arnie Kanter

No list is complete with the inclusion of our own local Evanstonian poets. Poetry and photography mix and meld for readers that are interested in wildlife, travel, and the fragile, vanishing places.


Don’t Cry, Darling. It’s Blood All Right

August 30, 2018

Today we shall engage in a little bit of edification for the masses. Poetry! It’s not April, but who says we have to relegate verses to that month alone? Today’s piece comes from the Ogden Nash collection Parents Keep Out, Elderly Poems for Youngerly Readers circa 1933 (it’s out of print but you can order a copy through our library pretty easily if you like). In it, you will find that the more things change, the more they stay the same. I dedicate Nash’s words to all those of you out there who believe that we live in times where children are more bloodthirsty than ever before. Remember – this poem was originally published in the 30s.

Ahem.

DON’T CRY, DARLING, IT’S BLOOD ALL RIGHT

Whenever poets want to give you the idea that something is particularly meek and mild,
They compare it to a child,
Thereby proving that though poets with poetry may be rife
They don’t know the facts of life.
If of compassion you desire either a tittle or a jot,
Don’t try to get it from a tot.
Hard-boiled, sophisticated adults like me and you
May enjoy ourselves thoroughly with Little Women and Winnie-the-Pooh,
But innocent infants these titles from their reading course eliminate
As soon as they discover that it was honey and nuts and mashed potatoes instead of human flesh that Winnie-the-Pooh and Little Women ate.
Innocent infants have no use for fables about rabbits or donkeys or tortoises or porpoises,
What they want is something with plenty of well-mutilated corpoises.
Not on legends of how the rose came to be a rose instead of a petunia is their fancy fed,
But on the inside story of how somebody’s bones got ground up to make somebody else’s
bread.
They go to sleep listening to the story of the little beggarmaid who got to be queen by
being kind to the bees and the birds,
But they’re all eyes and ears the minute they suspect a wolf or a giant is going to tear
some poor woodcutter into quarters and thirds.
It really doesn’t take much to fill their cup;
All they want is for somebody to be eaten up.
Therefore I say unto you, all you poets who are so crazy about meek and mild little
children and their angelic air,
If you are sincere and really want to please them, why just go out and get yourselves
devoured by a bear.

– Ogden Nash, Parents Keep Out


Poet Profiles: Aozora Brockman

April 25, 2017

poetEven though National Poetry Month is winding down, we’re not done celebrating here at EPL. This Sunday, April 30 at 4 pm we’re thrilled to welcome poets Aozora Brockman and Anita Olivia Koester as part of the 2017 Evanston Literary Festival. Both will read from their latest collections, and in anticipation, we recently spoke with Brockman via email. Raised on an organic vegetable farm in Central Illinois, Brockman is the author of two chapbooks, The Happiness of Dirt and Memory of a Girl. She is the recipient of the 2015 Jean Meyer Aloe Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets, and her poems have been published in the Cortland Review, Fifth Wednesday, Reckoning and other journals. She lives, works, and writes in the haven of her family’s farm. You can learn more by visiting her website, and below she discusses her poetic origins and inspirations, her writing process, and her superb poem “Bottomland.” Enjoy!

EPL: Can you tell us a little about your background as a poet? What started you writing poetry? What did you write about when you began, and what do you write about now?

Aozora Brockman: My very first poems emerged as improvised songs when I was young. Some winter evenings, as I went out to feed and water our chickens and goats, the rhythm of my feet crunching on the packed snow set a beat, and my arm swinging my empty egg pail added a counterpoint. When I opened my mouth, words would come tumbling out and follow a melody I made up on the spot.

I am easily overwhelmed by sensations and sounds, so spending whole days cooped up in the house in the winter listening to the constant chatter of public radio made me feel like a helium balloon blown too full. So I loved those rare moments of solitude and silence, when it was just me and the moon and the snow, when all of the words that I had shoved down inside of my throat floated out into the cold air. Most of the time the words were strung together randomly and didn’t make a lot of sense, but at times I found myself singing thoughts and feelings that reflected deeply what I needed right then to express.

I think this is what I love most about writing poetry—sometimes, when you sit down with a pen and paper and allow yourself to write whatever comes into your mind, you discover something deep inside of you that needed to come out into the world. Suddenly something clicks into place, and whatever was vague inside your mind is now concrete, right on the page. I’ve been hooked on that feeling—of empowerment, and joy—since I was young, and that has kept me writing.

But it wasn’t until I took a class with Rachel Jamison Webster through the Creative Writing program at Northwestern that I dared to think of myself as a poet. Growing up, I felt there was a clear difference between poems that I read in school—which oftentimes confounded me—and what I was writing. I used poems as a kind of short-hand for longer essays, and I hardly knew what I was doing with form or enjambment or rhythm. I remember that I was terrified of taking the Reading and Writing Poetry course with Rachel because I thought I would fail at writing “good” poems. Thankfully, I was wrong! Not only did Rachel convince me that I was capable of writing poetry, but she also encouraged me to delve deeper into myself and to write with sensitivity and bravery. She taught me that there was great freedom in writing poetry—that I could be wholly, unabashedly, myself—and that poetry has the power to rupture structures, to heal, and to make people feel tremendous emotion.

The poems I wrote before meeting and learning from Rachel were more reserved and filled with imagery of the vegetable fields of our farm. I still derive inspiration from the beauty of our family farm, but the poems I write now are emotionally open and probing.

EPL: Can you give us a window into your writing process? How do you begin, and what are the essential ingredients of a good poem? Has your idea of what poetry is changed since you began writing?

AB: Ideas for poems often come to me when I’m weeding or harvesting on our farm. The repetitive movements of swiping a hand hoe around seedlings and brushing dirt up against them, or gathering up a bouquet of pink beauty radish and twirling a twist-tie around them engages my body and mind in such a way that I feel intimately connected to the dirt, bugs, birds and woods that surround me. This meditative space is conducive to poetic inspiration.

Sometimes I see something gorgeous and fall in love—a butterfly emerging from a emerald cocoon or a spider spinning an intricate web—and have to write about it, or sometimes I am digging up sweet potatoes and the joy of it sparks an idea. My father likes to say that when he’s working on the farm, he’s not composing songs or writing the next great American novel, but that his mind is essentially blank, fully concentrated on the task before him. I’m not writing poetry while I’m working either, but something about being completely engaged, on hands and knees in dirt, allows my mind to wander off and settle on an idea. Most of the time I am so busy on the farm that I forget the idea or image during the course of a physically intense work day, but usually it comes back to me again while working in the field and sticks in my memory.

When I sit down to write, I close my eyes and think of an image or scene that struck me. I try to remember how it felt to be in that moment: what I was touching, what I was smelling, what colors I was mesmerized by, what voices or sounds I was hearing. Then, with words, I try to recreate that memory as vividly as possible so that it can enter into someone else’s mind. To do that, I have to translate images and hard to describe feelings into language—which takes a lot of trial and error. But I always want my reader to be right there with me, feeling and seeing and hearing through my eyes and body.

For me, the most essential ingredient to writing a good poem is an openness to, sensitivity towards, and love for the world around me. If I am closed off to the world, or fearful and anxious of what surrounds me, my poems become one-dimensional or forceful. Because I fear something, I want to see the world without depth and ignore the complex chaos just below the surface. This way of seeing and feeling makes my poetry substanceless and devoid of truth. I believe the best poetry does not try to bang the reader over the head with an argument, but rather reflects the world in all of its complexity, even if it reveals something ugly or heartbreaking.

I haven’t always felt that poetry was so connected to love and openness—in fact, I think I’ve just recently come to this conclusion. It has been almost two years since I graduated from college, and for most of that time, I found it very difficult to write poetry. As a young adult facing the realities of climate change, political instability, racism, sexism and everything else, I felt an immense weight on my shoulders, and, filled with terror about my future, I retreated inside myself. But this spring, I finally feel myself opening up again, and love and hope are brimming in my heart. Poetry is brimming in me, too, because for the first time in a long while, I am seeing the world clearly and with care, and I want so much to share what I am seeing and feeling, and to connect with others. Poetry, it seems, is all about wanting to connect, and though I probably knew this on the surface-level before, I know this with conviction now.

EPL: What poets have inspired you? What are you reading right now?

AB: Rachel Webster inspires me immensely. Her poems quicken my heart when I’m reading them, and images and thoughts and feelings grow so big inside of me that I have to put her book down to write a poem myself. I feel very connected to her poetry, and that bond lets me break free from where I am stuck in my mind, and hurtles me into a new realm of thought.

I also love Joy Harjo’s poetry, and Audre Lorde’s poem “Power” is one of my all-time favorites. The work of Anne Sexton, Franny Choi, Nicky Finney and June Jordan fascinate and inspire me.

I am reading Wendell Berry’s A Small Porch right now, which is a joy! My grandpa, Herman, adores Wendell Berry and he and my grandma Marlene gifted all six of their children with a copy of the book this past Christmas. My grandpa, who is an avid lover of poetry, always asks me when I see him if I’ve finished reading the book yet. I’m happy to say I am now halfway through it! As a farmer-poet, Wendell Berry infuses his poems with the cycles of the seasons and laments our destruction of the earth. As my grandpa explains it, instead of going to church on Sundays with his wife, Berry spends his Sabbath walking in woods or sitting on his porch, writing poems. I am inspired by this idea and hope to be a farmer-poet like Berry someday.

EPL: Can you tell us a bit about the poem you chose to share?

AB: “Bottomland” is a love poem to the black loamy dirt of our fields, and to my brothers, Asa and Kazami, who played in the dirt with me when we were still too young to help out on the farm. I found with this poem that it is very difficult to describe how we played with the dirt, and the joy of it, to a reader who isn’t intimately familiar with our farm. I mention a “burdock hole” in the poem, for instance, and I am sure that most people have never even heard of burdock, much less know how it is harvested.

Burdock, called gobo in Japanese, is a long black root that extends up to three feet into the ground. To harvest it, we take spades and shovels and dig out around the three rows of burdock, careful not to cut through the roots in the process. The deep and wide hole that remains after we’ve dug out all of the burdock looks almost like a grave. When my brothers and I were little, we’d be just as tall as the hole, and while my dad—who I call Otōsan—hurled shovel after shovel of dirt out of the hole, we would have nothing to do but immerse ourselves in the soil all around us: feeling it, smelling it, looking at it up close, or even tasting it. (My brother Kazami was infamous for eating handfuls of dirt!)

During one of those burdock harvests, Asa noticed how some of the dirt Otōsan piled up next to the hole came trickling down the side of it, and since the edge of the hole wasn’t perfectly smooth, the streams of dirt would catch on little knobs and ruts on the way down. Asa showed me how to take a handful of dirt and let it run down the side of the hole, then gather it up from the bottom and run it down again and again. We observed how the finest dirt would settle on the knobs and ruts while the coarser dirt would tumble all the way to the bottom of the hole, and something about this process was beautiful and fascinating to us. I loved to touch the dirt that coated the knobs and marvel at its rabbit-fur-like softness.

When Asa read Memory of a Girl, he told me “Bottomland” was his favorite poem and that it made him nostalgic for our childhood. I wrote “Bottomland” to remember and relive the most joyous moments of growing up on our farm, and the poem makes me nostalgic too. What I miss most is being able to derive so much happiness from playing with what surrounded us—dirt. Since not many people grew up playing the way we did, it is easy to feel that what I remember from my childhood is imagined or not real. But “Bottomland” allows me to capture those memories, and live again the days when the bottomland field was my whole world.


Poet Profiles: Anita Olivia Koester

April 14, 2017

April is National Poetry Month, and here at EPL we’re celebrating with a very special poetry event. On Sunday, April 30 at 4 pm we’re excited to welcome poets Anita Olivia Koester and Aozora Brockman as part of the 2017 Evanston Literary Festival.  Both will read from their latest collections, and in anticipation, we recently spoke with Koester via email.  A Chicago poet and editor for the lit journal Duende, Koester is the author of the chapbooks Marco Polo, Apples or Pomegranates (forthcoming), and Arrow Songs which won Paper Nautilus’ Vella Chapbook Contest. She is the recipient of Midwestern Gothic’s Lake Prize, the Jo-Anne Hirshfield Memorial Poetry Award, and the Bread Loaf Returning Contributors Award, and her poetry is published or forthcoming in Vinyl, Tahoma Literary Review, CALYX Journal, Tupelo Quarterly, and elsewhere.  You can learn more by visiting her website, and below she discusses her poetic origins and inspirations, her writing process, and her excellent poem “Confessions of a Childless Woman.”  Enjoy!

Evanston Public Library: Can you tell us a little about your background as a poet? What started you writing poetry? What did you write about when you began, and what do you write about now?

Anita Olivia Koester: I published my first poem in December 2013, and I would say it was my first or second serious poem. Before that I wrote poems here and there, but had always intended to be a novelist and therefore I read novels. I hardly knew how to read a poem back then, nor had I been exposed to much contemporary poetry. That poem was unlike anything that came after it, mostly because it was written as a fictional poem and from a man’s perspective. I haven’t written a poem from a male’s perspective since. My poems, though often mythical and imaginative, are essentially autobiographical. And I suppose in some ways that first poem was as well, as it was about a husband who cheats on his wife and is experiencing an almost paralytic guilt. Sometimes acquiring empathy for the people who have hurt us can begin the healing process.

Though I had known since childhood that my desire was to become a writer, it wasn’t until I divorced that I was able to start out on the journey to finding my own voice. And many of my poems revisit this theme, the odyssey of a woman in search of her voice, the many beasts she must slay along the way both societal and internal. And for me this journey involves a tremendous amount of loss, and even guilt for leaving one life behind for another. When I first started writing, I was writing fiction, and then I began performing poems at open mics when I lived for a time in Paris. Even though I was always nervous to go up on stage, I loved how immediate the emotional connection could be with other like-minded people. If I read a poem about my father people would come up to me afterwards to tell me about their fathers, and there was a palpable feeling of celebration of emotion and language that I had never known in my life. Nor had I ever felt part of a community before, when I was married I lived an isolated life. I suppose I started writing poetry because of poets, because poets are some of the most welcoming, curious, and interesting people I’ve ever met, and in many ways it felt to me like I had discovered a new family.

book coverEPL: Can you give us a window into your writing process? How do you begin, and what are the essential ingredients of a good poem? Has your idea of what poetry is changed since you began writing?

AOK: I feel like my process is always changing, not necessarily developing, but changing. I don’t allow myself to ever say I can only write in one state, and therefore I can allow writing to happen at any time and in any place. I probably write more often than not at home on my computer, but I compose poems on walks to the park, on trains, on planes, in the morning, just as I’m falling asleep, in the shower, while I’m washing dishes. And many times those poems are never put to paper, they just form within me and drift off or perhaps lay in wait (I doubt it though, since I have a terrible memory). But if the piece strikes an emotional cord with me, eventually I will find my way to my phone or computer to write it down, I wish I could say I still wrote on paper, but it’s become a rare occurrence. Not all of these compositions become poems, and even those that do, do not always get sent off to journals. But, they will stay in my files and when I’m feeling stuck I can look to them for lines, words, or images.

Occasionally I write a poem that never has to be revised or reworked, and often times these are my best poems. But even then they’re usually built off the back of lesser poems, I might write five or ten poems on one subject before I finally write the poem that gets it right. And then there are the poems that go through countless drafts, and that is when poetry is like chipping away at a boulder in order to end up with one good quality nugget. Sometimes the poem can seem so small in comparison to the process of arriving at it.

I couldn’t possibly claim that my poems always have the essential ingredients, but when I read poems, I respond to the emotional quality of them first. I always want to be moved by a poem. Beyond that, it varies. I’m personally fond of lyric poetry, poetry that is concerned with the musical elements of a poem – syntax, alliteration, prosody, assonance, slant rhymes, anaphora, repetition, and such. I like to be transported or enraptured by the language itself even at the expense of meaning. For me, the words should dance, or sing, or at the very least sway and hum. I’ll take those poems over poems of wisdom any day. Knowledge can be rather cold. I’d rather read a person’s messy and scattered thoughts that in the end only culminate in experience than be told anything definitive by a poem.

I think my understanding of poetry and poetics has deepened immeasurably since I started writing poetry, and I still have much to learn. It’s one of the things I love about poetry, the continual discovery of just how many ways there are to write something as common and as oft-written as a love poem. It’s hard to appreciate a poem until you’ve read a thousand of them, but once you’ve read a thousand of them, you can’t wait to read a thousand more and go back and read that first thousand again and again. Poems alter depending on the reader and their engagement of it, where they are in their life and what they are feeling, and in that way the life of a poem – as long as it is being read somewhere by someone – is endless.

EPL: What poets have inspired you? What are you reading right now?

AOK: Oh gosh, I’m always reading 10-30 books at a time. I’m an exceptionally slow reader of poetry, and one reason I love chapbooks is that I can sometimes finish them in a sitting or a few days. Otherwise, I can spend months reading a book of beautiful poems. Each poem is often like a long story compressed, and sometimes I’m so emotionally exhausted after engaging with one knock-out poem that I have to put the book down. (I don’t recommend reading this way at all.) In order to force myself out of this way of reading I sometimes sit at the park and just read a book of poems out loud from cover to cover and let it wash over me without allowing myself to overthink or analyze which I can always do later. We had precious few warm days this winter in Chicago, but on the last warm day I went to the park and read Ocean Vuong’s Night Sky with Exit Wounds, which is a remarkable book for both the gentle quality within the strength of his voice and for how diverse it is formally. Another one of my favorite books that came out this year was Joshua Bennett’s The Sobbing School, which I might be reading for years since each poem is so emotionally intense it’s like a kick to the stomach and yet the poems are also complex and intellectual.

Other books currently on my nightstand include, Natalie Diaz’s When My Brother Was an Aztec, Roger Reeve’s King Me, Marianne Boruch’s Eventually One Dreams the Real Thing, Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello’s Hour of the Ox, and Jennifer S. Cheng’s House A. And then there are those poets that my poetic universe revolves around, and those currently are Sharon Olds, Pablo Neruda, Adrienne Rich, and Larry Levis.

EPL: Can you tell us a bit about the poem you chose to share?

AOK: “Confessions of a Childless Woman” has a rather long history. It began at the first writing residency I ever went to, a magical place tucked away amid the cornfields of Nebraska called Art Farm. Because I had all this time to create and was surrounded by visual artists, I found myself inspired to do a photo shoot with a number of vintage mannequins I found on the property. Some of the torsos were in the trunk of an abandoned Peugeot which smelled rank when I opened the rusted latch to pull them out. It was the kind of place where you might find some odd pile of materials to repurpose, basically a creative person’s ideal setting. And this one mannequin in particular spoke to me because of a crack she had running down her side. That mannequin – and one other with a beautiful though weatherworn face – became the main subjects of a self-portrait series I did in which the mannequins were placed in various roles I’ve lived. I’ve exhibited this series in a few places in Chicago including the public library, and people always remark on how eerily emotional the mannequins seem.

I spent a great deal of time both shooting and editing the series, as well as printing, framing, and exhibiting them, and now since I’m too lazy to find them another home, they decorate my apartment. The crack running down the one mannequin’s rib cage and breast has so occupied my imagination I’m sure I’ve dreamt about it. In some ways it was cathartic to take some of my emotions and place them on these mannequins, and in other ways it left me exposed and vulnerable. It gave a kind of physical shape to my own psychic pain. One of these photos became the cover of my first chapbook, Marco Polo, and other ones have gone on to be published in journals and books, though I never sold one of the prints, I think in part because they can be disturbing, though not to me.

The poem itself explores my deepest personal struggle, one I share with so many women. We are still brought up to think that a woman who doesn’t ever experience pregnancy and childbirth is not a really a woman.  If we cannot have children, we feel shame and perhaps unworthy of love, and if we chose not to have children, or it just never happens along the way, then we feel guilty, like we are perhaps not whole. This places such tremendous pressure on the woman, and so in the poem I pose the question of why can’t the aberration – the deviation from the norm – be beautiful, be celebrated. And what does it mean to be an aberration, how is the word defined? As it turns out the word has such a wide range of definitions – none of them particularly positive – and yet the definitions themselves are beautiful and poetic and have to do with light, images, seeing, and even the movement of celestial bodies.

This poem was published in Tupelo Quarterly along with two of the mannequin photos which I digitally manipulated to engage further with this poem. Visually, the poem mirrors the crack in the mannequin, which creates a duality that further illustrates my own struggle between two possible selves, the one with children, and the one without. The last line becomes a kind of suture – yes, these issues seem to separate women, but they ultimately draw us together on a deeper level. The poem is also about distortion. The first line is deliberately not capitalized in a kind of rebellion against norms. Everyone who looked at this poem – excepted for the editors who published it – was bothered by that, and at times I was too. But that was exactly the point! As a writer I find it important to always be interrogating ideas of normality as well as language, societal structures, rules and laws.  If we are not vigilant, all of them can be used against us.


Emily Grayson’s Best Reads of 2016

January 3, 2017

My name is Emily Grayson, and I live in Evanston with my daughter and husband in a very cool six-unit building with some of my dearest friends. I hold a variety of great jobs around Evanston and Chicago: I work professionally as an actor and singer, I’m a standardized patient at the Feinberg School of Medicine, and I’ve been a massage therapist for the past 16 years and currently see clients at the Evanston Athletic Club. In my spare time, I can often be found knitting, sewing, singing or drinking coffee at various Evanston locales.

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1) The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson (2010)

This was the first in a series of books I read for a Black Lives Matter reading group I started last January. It began a year-long discussion about race in America and the conversation has never been dull and has often been humbling. Wilkerson’s book and its first-person accounts of the three migrants at the center helped to give us context for our subsequent reads, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

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Janine Macris’s Best Reads of 2016

December 29, 2016

janine macrisMy name is Janine Macris, and I have lived in Evanston for a very long time. I appreciate its love of trees and the arts and its community, and I have spent many hours at the Evanston Public Library, even before I could read. I teach children, including my own, through my love of the power of words, and my husband builds me furniture and I love it. We read every night and it’s a great gift.

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1) The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway (1926)

It took me years to finally make it beyond a few chapters in this book. I had never been able to get past my college life’s raw imagining of the Running of the Bulls, but once my professor helped frame this feminist reflection of a woman traveling along and craving companionship with a friend filled with the same strain, I re-sought existentialism as a crisis amid hope. It was through this read that I saw Hemingway’s infamous short-and-sweet style being as transient as his characters’ lives. I finally understood his talent for code-switching symbolic gestures in a rebellion to be free. From there Hemingway’s door opened for me, and I felt accomplished and proud to get to the root of time’s angular woven ways.

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Tyler Leach’s Best Reads of 2016

December 19, 2016

Tyler Leach photoMy name is Tyler Leach. I am the Middle School Latin teacher at Baker Demonstration School, which draws many of its students from the Evanston community. While my book choices trace back to my love of language, my hobbies revolve around a love of family, music (listening and playing), food (cooking and dining out), and sport. I am a transplant to the Middle West from the Northeast, and my wife Emily (born and raised in Evanston) and I currently live in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood with our two sons Henry and Palmer.

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1) Aeneid by Virgil, translated by Stanley Lombardo (19 B.C., 2005)

For those who have never read the Aeneid, Lombardo’s translation makes the text accessible to a modern audience, and the theme of the poem is easily relatable to the story unfolding in modern day Syria. Having attempted to translate Virgil’s work myself, I cannot help but marvel at Lombardo’s keen ability to bring the text to life while all the while remaining true to its classical roots. For anyone who has the time and interest, Lombardo’s translations of the Iliad and Odyssey are real gems, too.

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An Interview with Poet Amy Newman

December 2, 2016

amy-newman1If Amy Newman’s On This Day in Poetry History is topping your must-read list, you’re certainly not alone. Poetry lovers here at EPL have been clamoring for a copy since the summer, and demand for her follow-up to Dear Editor only continues to grow. Described as a “dazzling new collection” by the NY Times, On This Day in Poetry History finds Newman exploring the lives of poetry heavyweights such as Sylvia Plath, Robert Lowell, Elizabeth Bishop, and John Berryman in search of that elusive “moment when a person becomes a poet.” A wholly innovative mix of biography and stunning verse, Newman’s latest showcases what Image praised as her “true mastery [of the] ability to play with language.” We recently spoke with the Northern Illinois University professor via email about rediscovering poetry in Manhattan, the history and allure of the “Confessional” poets, the challenges of biographical poetry, and how her favorite poem from the book came into being.

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Poetry 365: Eleanor Chai

July 25, 2016

admin-ajax.phpThis month for Poetry 365 we’re highlighting the remarkable debut collection from poet Eleanor Chai.  In Standing Water, Chai takes readers to a small Paris museum where she encounters a bust of Japaneses dancer Little Hanako by sculptor Auguste Rodin that triggers painfully complex memories of the mother erased from the poet’s life since her childhood.  Described by Mark Strand as “a masterpiece,” Colm Toibin declared, “The last poems of the book are outstanding, chiseled and perfect, line by line by line.  Standing Water is a great achievement.”  So don’t miss this hauntingly honest debut, sample the opening poem below, and make sure to stop back next month for Poetry 365.

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Poetry 365: Nicholas Christopher

June 10, 2016

nicholas christopherThis month for Poetry 365 we’re featuring Nicholas Christopher’s engaging new book On Jupiter Place.  Favorably compared to the work of Wallace Stevens, Elizabeth Bishop, and James Merrill, this eighth collection of poetry from the Tiger Rag author is perhaps his most personal and autobiographical work to date.  Filled with intimate portraits of his grandmother, father, and even Lois Lane, On Jupiter Place shows why W.S. Merwin described Christopher’s poems as “vibrant with light and the surprise of recognition.”  So don’t miss this engaging new book, sample a poem below, and make sure to stop back next month for Poetry 365.

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