poetry

For the Record: Voice and Orality in Guillaume Apollinaire’s “Lettre-Océan”

The poet Guillaume Apollinaire was for the record. Between 1913 and 1914, he wrote repeatedly about the impact of recording technology on lyric poetry.

Miss Lowell Regrets

Amy Lowell is tired. “This is a work, this poetry,” she writes Harriet Monroe in March of 1922, finalizing the poems she’ll have included in the 1922 version of Monroe and Alice Corbin Henderson’s The New Poetry anthology. Lowell had published her eighth and ninth books the previous year, and would publish her tenth in ten years later that fall. She has pulled back on the rigorous lecturing schedule which has kept her away from her home in Brookline, Massachusetts and has had her crisscrossing the country the past several years.

Ruth Lechlitner’s Extinction Poetics 

Other papers in this cluster illuminate how modernism and extinction are closely historically related, but my contribution here is specifically concerned with the utility of reading a poet—Ruth Lechlitner—who allows us to think about modernism and extinction along parallel tracks. Lechlitner’s work is attentive to extinction in diverse ways; her poetry confronts the extinction of human solidarity, the extinction of organic life by the machines of extractive capitalism, the extinction of our embeddedness, as human animals, in a multispecies ecology, and the global extinction threat of nuclear war.

“That sunny dome! those caves of ice!”: Hunting Bison in Modernist Caves

In the autumn of 1941, David Jones is carving “bison in the caves of ice” into a hurried single-page fragment, one of the early “experiments” which would, a decade later, yield his late modernist epic poem The Anathemata. Before the final manuscript’s publication in 1952, both the bison and their ice caves will disappear from Jones’s drafts, their meltwater pooling in the footnotes where Jones anticipates the end of the world:

Harry Crosby: Selected Poems. Edited by Ben Mazer

In 1927, a disapproving Edith Wharton presciently pronounced Harry Crosby “a sort of half-crazy cad.” Ernest Hemingway, who spent the summer of 1927 in Pamplona with Crosby, once told Archibald MacLeish, “Harry has a great, great gift. He has a wonderful gift of carelessness” (Wolff, Black Sun, 171). Crosby is a liminal figure hovering in the background of modernist literature—a now largely forgotten poet whose work inspired MacLeish and an aesthetically sophisticated publisher whose Black Sun Press published Hart Crane’s epic poem The Bridge, Short Stories by Kay Boyle, and the first excerpts of James Joyce’s Work-in-Progress to appear in book form. Ben Mazer’s Selected Poems by Harry Crosby brings Crosby’s poetry out of the background of literary modernism and into the foreground for our examination.

Hart Crane: The “Architectural Art”

In the near-century since the publication of The Bridge (1930), Hart Crane has been widely recognized as the poet of urban modernity, or, in his own words, as a “suitable Pindar for the dawn of the machine age." He has been acclaimed as celebrant and critic, by turn, of America’s myth of itself and as a pioneer cartographer of the queer spaces of the modern metropolis. Paradoxically, perhaps, it is his rendering of the late nineteenth-century Brooklyn Bridge (designed by John Roebling, started in 1869 and opened in 1883), which has been taken as central to his vision of early twentieth-century America’s tensile complexity.

Pillars of Process: Muriel Rukeyser, Franz Boas, and the Poetics of Birth

In a 1947 letter to Ernst Boas, the son of anthropologist Franz Boas, the American writer Muriel Rukeyser confesses, “May I tell you how, as it begins to open before me, how much this inquiry into your father’s life is meaning to me? The stories are very beautiful, the clues to further meaning are illuminating. I begin to see the power of the connections. I am very happy to be doing this.” In the same letter she writes that she is pregnant, a “happy” complication to the work.

Red Comet: The Short Life and Blazing Art of Sylvia Plath by Heather Clark

When it comes to writers’ lives, what remains is fragmentary and incomplete. In her 1963 novel The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath’s protagonist Esther Greenwood refers to such remnants as “the tatty wreckage of my life.” The image of Plath in popular culture is linked to her poetry, but often emphasizes her suicide. Red Comet addresses these assumptions as it sheds new light on Plath’s cultural moment and relevance today. Any biography must confront the fact of an incomplete archive.

Marianne Moore’s Tone Technologies: Elocution, Poetry, Phonograph

In a letter written on August 30, 1964, Marianne Moore recounts listening to an old recording of her poem, “Rigorists,” that was playing that night on the BBC. “We had dinner at a little Greek Casa Blanca (very near) but stayed up late to hear me on the BBC—on a borrowed transistor,” Moore writes to her friend Hildegard Watson.

Past Process

This column for Process is about poetry that tries to make sense of sharing time together as it passes. For that I turn to John Ashbery, about whom I have never been willing or able to write, except in a very brief and unsatisfying conclusion to my first book. I live with several of Ashbery’s poems ricocheting around in my consciousness, along with stray lines by Herbert, Dickinson, McKay, and Rich. The idea of writing something about his poetry is particularly daunting because it carries a lot of emotional weight. More than anything else, the name Ashbery calls to mind the people who shaped and continue to shape what I know or feel about poetry. So when I think about Ashbery, the situation in which I think about his poetry is, almost automatically, a social one.