Links to Other Poets' Pages

 

Links to Poets’ Pages

When I first got the idea for this page, I saw it as a list of links to the web sites of poets whose work I enjoy. But I started with Heather McHugh, and just had to say a few words. Then it just seemed rude not to say something about everyone else. 

Then I realized this was going to take a lot of time. No worries! Just know, dear reader of my web site, that I will continue to randomly grab books from my bookcases and add links to those poets, along with comments, reviews, cautions, etc.

Click on a poet's name to get to her/his web site.

Heather McHugh

What can one say of a poet whose linguistic knowledge and play with words produce poems that are academic, gut-wrenching, hysterically funny, nerdy, compelling, brilliant, and slick, often all in the same poem? Her books are treasures, her readings will make you laugh and cry, and in person, Heather is a joy to be around. One might think a MacArthur Genius Grant recipient would be intimidating and humorless, and I bet some are; however, Heather is as down-to-earth as they come, even though she has written some serious brainiac poetry and essays. Honestly, if I were being shunted off somewhere (desert island, solitary confinement, space travel, etc.) and could only bring a few books, I would take Heather’s. Some of my favorite McHugh poems:

  • “Practice Practice Practice,” “And the Greatest of These,” “Webcam the World,” and “The Gift” in Upgraded to Serious, 2009
  • “Four Poems After Rilke,” “The Oven Loves the TV Set,” “What He Thought,” and “What He Thought” in Hinge & Sign, 1994
  • “Note Delivered by Female Impersonator” and “For My Fathers” in Dangers, 1977

“Etymological Dirge,” “The Gulf Between the Given and the Gift,” and “The Starrier the Scarier” in The Father of Predicaments, 1999

Heather is currently expanding her Super Human rep with her connection to CareGifted. This organization offers time off for artists who are also long-term caregivers. They accept donations as well as applications, and are worth checking out.

 

Erica Jong

Is it okay yet to admit to liking Jong's poetry? Is it? Well, even if not, I am going to admit it--I like Erica Jong's poetry. 

Here Comes and Other Poems was one of the poetry books I read and reread in high school, and many of the poems hold up (unlike some things I loved in high school). She was mixing food and sex in poems in ways that anyone writing about either these 30+ years later needs to read before continuing. Why? Because whatever you are thinking, Jong probably already wrote it. Her feminism was often served—not tempered—with humor, which makes the poems both more shocking and more palatable. While the rest of the country had their noses in Fear of Flying, I savored The Poetry of Erica Jong, a three-book collection. Some of my favorites:

  • “Seventeen Warnings in Search of a Feminist Poem,” “Two More Scenes from the Lives of Vegetables,” “The Man Giving Birth in the Dark,” “Where It Begins,” and “How You Get Born,” in Here Comes and Other Poems, 1975

Paula Bonnell

Heather McHugh’s web site is silly and provocative. Erica Jong’s is a bit too . . . too . . . well, check it out, and you’ll see. Both reflect their subjects. I know nothing about Paula Bonnell and learned nothing more at her web site. She has two books, and two poems on her site, as well as an essay she’s written on Wislawa Szymborska. So it’s not a great web site for someone interested in finding out more, but the poems are quite good. 

I have her book Message, which I bought after hearing Garrison Keillor read “Midwest” on The Writer’s Almanac. I used to buy record albums, then cassettes, then CDs, for the love of one song. Now I have iTunes. But I still buy books of poems for one poem. And “Midwest” is a fabulous poem: “My heart is like Chicago’s Union Station.” is the first line. I love simile, I love that the poem immediately goes to the heart, something contemporary poets are supposed to avoid (too sentimental), and I love conceits, which this poem is. The rest of the book is quite good—someone who didn’t fall in love with one poem first would be more subjective about the book as a whole. I can say that my other favorites in this collection are "Anaesthesia," "The Dispossession of Frogs," "Healing," and "The Genius of Childhood."

Bonnell has recently added a link to her reading a poem that was recently published in a fabulous lit journal, Rattle. There is also a section in which Bonnell writes of having actors read some of her poems from her book, Airs & Voices. I completely agree with her that a poetry reading is a performance--that does not necessarily mean anything specific, but poets need to think about audience and performance when they give readings.

Anyway, I hope she continues to add to her web site!

Cornelius Eady

On his home page, Cornelius Eady says that his page is still under construction (it has a 2009 date at the bottom). However, it is 2014, and the page still is un-done. Information about Eady, as well as poems, can be found on other web sites.

I am glad I popped onto his web site (although fingers are tightly crossed for updates to it!) there as I did not know he had published a book recently (2008’s Hardheaded Weather, a collection of new and selected). I love finding poems by Eady in journals and on the web, although that doesn’t seem to happen as often as it once did. Maybe all of his writing energy is going into book poems. Maybe I am just not looking at the right journals.

No matter. I have Victims of the Latest Dance Craze and Brutal Imagination, as well as random poems I have found over the years, to tide me over. “Radio” and “The Dance” are my favorites in the 1985 book. It’s difficult to choose a few poems from Brutal Imagination; as Eady states at the top of the book’s first poem, “The speaker is the young black man Susan Smith claimed kidnapped her children.” This persona is brilliant and bold—every aspect of this crime is so horrifying. In the hands of a lesser poet, this persona/this book could have been a latching on to a news-worthy event, a leeching of tragedy. 

This book does not do that. In fact, I feel that this book sets out to illuminate one part of this complex crime. By furthering Susan Smith’s invention—for she first created this persona—Eady is able to investigate so much about this crime, race, gender, society, and our fears. The second stanza of the first poem, “How I Got Born,” reads:

When called, I come.
My job is to get things done.
I am piecemeal.
I make my living by taking things.

I should point out that this persona is the focus of the book’s first part. The second part is a poem cycle which “became the libretto to Diedre Murray’s score for Running Man, a jazz opera that had its premiere . . . in February 1999.” (page 61) Another unusual series, and in the same book! They are good poems, but I admit to being so completely blown away by the first section that I cannot go on reading. (One of these days, I need to start reading at the second section, but the first always pulls me in.)

Diane Gilliam Fisher

Diane does not have a web site, but she has a Wikipedia page (in which someone misspelled Cleveland!). Do not let this fact keep you from her poetry! 

Kettle Bottom is a book of persona poems. All of the speakers are involved in some way to the Matewan, West Virginia coal mining wars of 1920-1921 (Diane provides a short but thorough history at the beginning of the book). She has an incredible talent for making these people sound real, and sound different from one another. Her children sound like children, which is very difficult to do well. Her characters aren’t stereotypes of miners, West Virginians, hill people, or any other group. 

My favorite poem—although I truly like them all—is “What History Means to Me.” In this prose poem, five children write a paragraph on the title. The last speaker is Pearlie Webb, Grade 8, who has a number of poems throughout the book. 

This book was published in 2004 by Perugia Press; it was, I believe, the winner of their manuscript contest that year. It is easy to see why.

After reading this book, rent or buy or download John Sayle’s movie Matewan. It’s an outstanding film and a great companion to this collection.

I also know that Diane has recently started quilting on a long arm quilter. I hope she doesn't neglect her poetry fans, although I understand the Siren Song of quilting.

 

Martin Espada

I apologize--I have not yet figured out how to put an accented "i" in Espada's first name, the way it should be. 

Espada's poems manage to combine beauty and politics, which is a rare treat. I am so often bored by political poetry, as it is usually so awful; this makes Espada's poems even more enticing. 

His web site is quite good--lots of poems, as well as essays and links to interviews Espada has given, including a couple of wonderful videos with Bill Moyers. The same combination of beauty and politics and language and passion that comes through in his poems also comes through in his essays and interviews.

Like many of the poets here, it is difficult for me to choose a favorite Espada poem. My favorite book of his is Trumpets from the Islands of their Eviction and I admit that it may be my favorite because I have owned it the longest (and therefore read and reread it) of Espada's books I own. Plus that title! What poet would not pay cold hard cash to have such a wonderful book title?!? 

The Martin Espada poem I have read the most often, usually because I have used it in classes and workshops, and I share it with others, is from the book with another great title: Rebellion is the Circle of a Lover's Hands. The poem is "Jorge the Church Janitor Finally Quits," and it is on Espada's web site here

Espada's Alabanza collection has poems from a 30 year period, and includes the title poem, written in response to the attacks of September 11, 2001. It is definitely a collection any serious reader of poetry should own.

 

Dina Ben-Lev

Ben-Lev does not have her own web site, and this link to Mid-List Press is old. You can find other partial bios at Amazon, Goodreads, and elsewhere, but I would love to see her invest in a web site. 

I do not remember why I bought Broken Helix; I don't know if I spotted it at an MLA or AWP conference, or received it as my consolation prize for submitting a manuscript to the contest this book won (1996 Mid-List Press). Maybe I read a poem of hers in a journal and sought it out. I really cannot remember.

But I have loved this book for a long time. There are many outstanding poems, and Ben-Lev is a poet of first lines/phrases/stanzas to envy. Here is a sampling:

"Let's go to the diner, to the back booth

of bad news . . . "

     --from "Psalm For a Second Marriage"

"Stories often begin in the sky."

     --from "What a Trappist Monk on the Plane to Paris Told Me"

"There is nothing to hate on Mars."

     --from "The Planetarium"

"One day I hope you see apricots

are dangerous; their color embarrasses

the unsatidfied."

     --from "Curse For the Burglar Who Fumbled with My Windows"

You can find a few of Ben-Lev's poems online. I am hoping for, as I said, a web site, and more books.

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