Kaveh Akbar interviews poet Wendy Xu about oppressive syntax, imaginary realms, and poems as ecosystems. As she puts it, “Poetry validates the emotional realness of the imaginary.” Pair with Andrew Kay’s Millions essay on the power of poetry.
Congratulations to Millions contributor Lydia Kiesling whose thoughtful essay “Proust’s Arabesk: The Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk” was named a finalist for the 3quarksdaily Arts & Literature Prize. And thanks to all the Millions readers who voted for our essays in the first round of the contest.
“What is missing from Testimony is the customary idealistic hero, the one last encountered in Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass who doesn’t avert his eyes from suffering and sordidness, but who nevertheless is full of hope for a better future. Testimony is a corrective, an anti-epic.” Charles Simić recounts Charles Reznikoff’s long poem Testimony: The United States (1885-1915): Recitative in the NYRB.
“And so despite my esteem for the high challenge of writing, for the reach of the writerly life, it’s not something anyone actually wants me to do. The American mind has made that very clear, it has said: ‘Be a specialised something — fill your head with the zeitgeist, with the technical — and we’ll write your ticket.’”
“In the years before my book came out, I was writing frantically. I remember a week when I was working late at my job, late enough that the buses had stopped running and I had to take a cab home, and I still wrote into the night, trying to finish an essay I had promised an editor. Now I see that I was trying to race against time. I had believed, however irrationally, that there would be a moment beyond which my voice would be taken away from me and I would no longer be able to write.” On writing and tenacity.