Posts Tagged ‘Arlene Weiner’

Poetry & Race

Friday, May 13th, 2011

by Arlene Weiner

Ought poetry to address, or embody, important subjects?

Louis Simpson wrote, in “American Poetry”:

Whatever it is, it must have
A stomach that can digest
Rubber, coal, uranium, moons, poems.

Is race important?

In an essay in American Poetry Review in 2007, “Mystifying Silence: Big and Black,” Major Jackson wrote, “Contemporary fiction writers, it seems to me, are more willing than poets to take risks and explore reigning racial attitudes of today and yesterday.” and “Luckily, a few contemporary white poets writing today, even at the risk of criticism from contrarian black poet-critics such as myself, actually do exhibit great hubris and are willing to take the risk of censure and disapproval.” One of the poets he includes is Tony Hoagland. “I would rather have his failures than nothing at all. At least his poems announce him as introspective in a self-critical way on this topic. Self-censorship should never be an option for poets.” Jackson writes that Hoagland’s poems provoked the organization of a “conversation” at the Geraldine Dodge Festival on the topic Race & Poetry, which featured Lucille Clifton, Terrance Hayes, Hoagland, and Linda Hogan in dialogue.
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Poetry in a Tea Shop

Saturday, March 27th, 2010

by Arlene Weiner
(poem by John Balaban at end of this post)

Recently I was in a Vietnamese teashop in Burlington, Vermont. The room in back of the shop was charming. Sunshine came through windows with bright green frames. There were plants on the sills and board games and a few dozen books. From my table I saw what looked like a poetry book.

Yes, it was: Spring Essence, a book of Vietnamese poetry in three presentations: in the familiar Vietnamese typography with its many notations that make it look like a little like musical notation with its slurs and rests; in a calligraphic script (Nôm); and in an English translation by John Balaban. Read the rest of this entry »