“But now that my first book of poems has come out, I’ve become increasingly aware of the challenge of writing a good inscription to a reader. As soon as I’ve got the pen in my hand, I become the most unoriginal message-writer on the planet.” On a little-known gripe about book signings.
Arisa Wright hits the nail on the head in this piece for LitHub, titled simply “In Praise of Our Black Women Poets“: “Clifton’s remark disabused me of the idea that there is something I must erase to make my poetry universal. She freed my mind and body; she freed my verse.”
Longtime writers know how hard it can be to tell when a piece is finished. Tolstoy famously tried to revise War and Peace right up to the book’s publication. At the Ploughshares blog, Amy Jo Burns offers tips for evaluating a piece before deciding to give it to someone else.
New this week are Ron Rash’s The Cove, Brian Evenson’s Immobility, and Volume Two of Susan Sontag’s Journals (all books highlighted in our January preview). Out in paperback this week is David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King, from which we recently ran a previously unpublished excerpt.
“We all use a ‘persona’ or mask, to some degree, all the time,” writes poet Robert Pinsky as he challenges the notion—widely held in English classes throughout the world—that a poem’s “speaker” is necessarily separate from a poem’s author. The latest release from Pinsky, the former Poet Laureate of the United States, is Selected Poems, and you can hear him read some excerpts in this video.
“We’ve often thought First Nations and indigenous students — if they don’t see themselves reflected.. how engaged they can be with the educational system?” The Huffington Post reports that a school board in southern Ontario is making a native-focused literature course mandatory after learning that those books “were more interesting and engaging to students than the classics.” The class curriculum includes As Long as the River Flows by James Bartleman, Green Grass, Running Water and Medicine River by Thomas King, the 7 Generations graphic novel series by David Alexander Robertson, and Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese. (Story via Book Riot.)