North American Review
Odd coinage, “blog.” Because of the consonants, maybe, connotatively echoing blah, blob, bog, fog—all blah and meh and open, lax slack sound, texturally yielding and passive, amorphously maybe moist (a word frequently topping lists of most-disliked words), slogging through a bog. Then there’s trog as in -lodyte. Old media “cavemen” were often named Og—which means “and” in Old Norse. But in Old Irish it means “egg” or “testicle”: and in Kunjen, a Paman language spoken on the Cape York...
Early in the second summer I worked at Mt. Hope, we buried a woman on a Saturday. Monday morning first thing, a taxicab entered the main gate and proceeded to West Memorial, an older section fringed in sycamore and pines. A short, heavyset man in flip-flops, shorts, and a Hawaiian shirt paid the driver and found a bench close to Saturday’s grave. We on the crew assumed him to be the widower, visiting his wife. He sat on the bench throughout the day, adjusting himself occasionally. He...
When the staff of the North American Review sent an email asking me to compose a contributor’s blog post, I thought: What could I possibly say about a poem from eight years ago?
I wrote “The Shelf Life of Robot Food” when I was working as a barista in what was then one of a handful of coffee shops in Birmingham, Alabama. After work, my friends and I split time between a handful of bars and restaurants—or, more often, one another’s porches. The city was small enough back then that you...
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?
That you are here—that life exists, and identity;
That the powerful play goes on, and you will contribute a verse.
I am like the violin no one plays. In the attic
the wood grain’s varnish and veneer
lie with the other mistakes: the batik
banner, the beetle-eaten head of the mounted deer,
the stained cashmere sweater, and the odd love letter
not set on fire. Once you cradled the hourglass
figure, tucked-in your chin and fingered the strings and frets.
The embossed pebbled leather case with brass
hinges is lost; once you carried it back and...
A red car points west. Darkness, plush pine trees and a lemon slice of moon backlight it. A gas pump nudges the car’s rear bumper.
But it isn’t just any car. This car resembles a 1949 Mercury right out of the animated imaginations of the Fleischer brothers, the same kind of car (albeit a convertible) Batman drove in the second serial ...
I started writing poems the first time I read contemporary poetry, in seventh grade. That is when I remember thrilling to Sylvia Plath’s Ariel. Not Shakespeare or Tennyson or Poe with their antique diction and fair ladies—rather, a woman who spoke to me and who made me want to talk back. The germ of my new book, Windows and Doors: A Poet Reads Literary Theory, began, perhaps, four years after that, when the advisor of my high-school literary magazine suggested an addition...
Begin with the naming of things.
“Prairie,” from French via the Vulgar Latin
prataria and further back to the Latin pratum,
meaning “meadow.” And the mound itself,
called by geologists a roche mountonếe—
a bedrock knob shaped but not leveled
by the last Pleistocene glacier.
But long before these names, known to the Omaha,
Oto and Yankton Lakota as Paha Wakan,
On April 1, 2009—while driving to teach—I heard an NPR story about thousands of children stolen, just after birth, during Franco’s dictatorship. This was no April Fool’s joke. I listened to this broadcast and others that emerged over time. It was incredibly systematic: Parents were told their infant had died, the newborn was then sold to a more politically suitable family, the hospital offered to take care of “funeral plans”, birth records were destroyed. Of course, this news story...