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Poetry

Illustration by Matt Manley

     The Polish government designated it the Year of Zbigniew Herbert and organized a celebratory reading at the Polish Embassy in DC, where a handful of Polish American poets read and discussed his singular influence. I read a Herbert-influenced poem along with an excerpt from my translation of Pan Tadeusz, the great nineteenth century Polish Romantic epic—the scene where all nature and all the inhabitants of Lithuanian Poland react to the advancing Napoleonic forces with an eerie...

Illustration by Matteo Gallo

So far, it has been a constant.  Ants drawn in from under the front door; cockroaches flitting into their spaces whenever the light is flicked on; that one spring when ladybugs huddled upside down in the corners of my ceiling; mice; rats; bedbug welts the size of golf balls. My house has never been able to keep them out. There always seems to be something unwanted. And I began to wonder if this was a long tradition, something inherited.

            I remember my parents setting...

Illustration by Kali Gregan

            Grief and regret are two of those ghosts that seem to frequently haunt my creative process.  More often than not, whenever I sit down to write, they will pull me far from where I want to go and inevitably towards where I need to.  And then, especially in those moments where I most resist them, I will somehow unexpectedly find myself caught in their orbit.  It is such a strange commitment we are asked to make as writers: attempting to capture in words the inherently unsayable. ...

Illustration by Jessica Mercado

     Poetry gives me a chance to document reality in an emotional way.

     I have lived in New Mexico for twenty-three years now. I bought my house nine days after I drove into town. From the start, I loved watching the way the clouds bubbled and shifted. The light blistered like a lit match, especially on overcast days, and I realized I needed this sort of glory. The climate was nearly perfect. Summers were not too warm and never sticky like the East Coast had been. And they came...

Illustration by Matteo Gallo

I came to writing late, starting at age thirty-four. My artistic life was born a month after my first child was born. I’m not fully conscious of the reasons for this. I only know that my writing often rises out of the dissonance between artistic and family life and that the poem included in the North American Review is no exception. Time is always the enemy. The need to spend time with my wife and children. The need to spend time with my...

Illustration by Matt Manley

 

Line

There are rungs across the plains. If you’re ok with not looking  too close, they become the kind of ruled mirage you find on cereal box  stickers where holographic animals twitch and transform by tilting  the angle of the card. If you don’t mind squinting, tree stands turn  to their fields and caress the pastured cheeks. Take a step back and silos  lean to hold one another’s hips. There is living in nondescript places, ...

Mizna

This blog originally appeared as the introduction to a section of Arab American Poetry in NAR 302.2 (Spring 2017).

If there were ever a time for politically galvanizing literature, this is it. But, perhaps not in the way you might expect. It’s true that hateful political rhetoric has won the day and is making way for a bewildering political reality. The intolerance that has been normalized is sobering...

Art by Tom Moore

 

Not the Thing but a Fossil of the Thing

 

Fern fronds fletched like a feather etch ache into gray slate,    

five petals float in a now-unbound crown,     

 

a thumb-sized spine curls and fans out to a tail, a spall splits

into stone pages stamped with tree bark

 

repeating like wallpaper, a leaf shines like oiled leather, oblate,

and an ammonite’s dull weight   

 

smells of new snow. A clam...

Illustration by Melanie Lambrick

There have been many writers who could be described, to varying degrees, as Gnostic, but Susan Howe is one of the most important. Just as William Blake’s Gnostic poetry endeavors to break out of the Corporeal realm and into the Eternal, Howe uses the materiality of language, writing, and history to break beyond them into a psycho-spiritual realm, into the transmundane. Her poetry connects with minds on the other side of living.

In her meditation on Chris Marker’s filmmaking, Howe...

Matt Manley Art

As the semester ends, I find myself trying to gauge the slipperiness of this thing called improvement. Has Dave’s portfolio of writing displayed that he’s become a better poet this semester? Yes, his specifics are more specific, his forms more formed, but there’s something I realize I haven’t talked about enough: happenstance. The beauty of it. The necessity.

In my desire to impart the craft of poetry, I didn’t emphasize enough the chance of poetry. And chance is what gives life,...

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