Featured Essays BACKUP

Issue Four: October 31, 2018


Jennifer Franklin, “How Can It Be That I Am No Longer I: One Student Remembers”

“I will never forget her saying that every poem is an utterance to God, “Dear Lord—pay attention to me!” Since poetry had already been my religion for years, I was primed for a priestess. And there she was, in velvet, with hundreds of lines of poetry memorized, a melodic and haunting voice that was as cutting as it was soothing. She seemed at the same time deliberately crafted artifice and completely authentic.”


Alexandra Lytton Regalado, “I See Myself In Her: Three Women Poets Through the Lenses of Time, Sexuality, and Nationhood”

“As a young poet, I had a difficult time talking about my history because all I knew about my birth country, El Salvador, was from headlines, my parents’ memories and childhood photo albums of our summer visits. El Salvador underwent many changes in those twenty-plus years that I lived in the United States. Land Reform. Armed conflict. Earthquakes. Death squads. Night bombings in the capital. Perhaps, I was so absorbed in my own struggles that I didn’t look outside my self; perhaps, I felt I did not have the authority to write about those events.”


Kevin Prufer, “Writing Against Your Music”

“As a student, I often heard that the music of a good poem ought to be inseparable from the poem’s meaning. I had no idea, however, what that meant, though I could play like I understood it. I could talk about prosody with some fluency, nodding occasionally toward the neat fit of form and function in certain classic poems. But when it came to my own work—or when it came to discussing the work of most other writers—I was, for many years, unable to separate words from their most reductive meanings. Then I saw Stanley Kubrick’s brilliant A Clockwork Orange, and I began to think about poetry in an entirely new way.”


Adrienne Su, “The Way to the Heart Is Through the Ear”

“Once, these formal elements were the definition of poetry. Now that writing in rhyme and meter is anything but the default, poets must consciously decide when to do so. It might pay off especially well in love poems, where conflict is in shorter supply than in unhappier poems. Formal elements themselves can act as sources of tension, even suspense. The reader, along with the poet, wonders what is going to rhyme with “down if,” or “examine.” A stanzaic pattern, once established, can be adhered to or disrupted, to convey conformity, transgression, or transgression within conformity….”

Issue Three: July 26, 2018

Jericho SQUAREJericho Brown, “If God Is Love”

“I want to call Housman’s poem a religious one and not just because its music is hypnotic in its consistent rhythm and rhyme. The poem believes in a God who is omnipotent and omniscient. It wants to fill its well-formed space with as many ideas and as much material as possible. And it wants us to know it is larger than it looks. It uses “and” because it is a poem about joining the provincial to the worldly. And it uses “and” because it is a poem about life and death. And it uses “and” because it is a homoerotic poem about how a man can find space for the affection of another man where masculinity only allows for shepherding and soldiering. In other words, every “and” in the poem mounts and mounts until they join things that seem opposite.”
Shara SQUARE“A Conversation with Shara McCallum”

“I was trying to engage with this cultural figuration of woman in relation to parts of my own experience, mythological figures we tend to read as ‘mad,’ and historical or ‘real’ women who have stood outside of the dominant culture’s modes for what a woman should be and how she ought to behave. I wrote many of the poems that turned into [Madwoman] to try to answer some questions for myself: What are the various sources of Madwoman’s ruptures of self? Who is this Madwoman, again in relation to my autobiographical self as much as to the selves of other women I have known personally or through storytelling (literature, myth, history)? Where does she end and I begin, and vice versa?”
sandy_in_monterey_400x400-1Sandy Solomon, “On “Adlestrop”

“All of Thomas’ work earlier in the poem has set up these lines — the contrast between sentence stress and metrical stress, between rising and falling rhythm, the contrast between the hesitations and the go-aheads, the presences and the absences, the silences and the sounds. We’ve been on an express train that stops, but the stop is the signal for the imagination to move quickly up and out and into the countryside. What is still and what is moving? What is still and what is noisy? What is uninhabited/empty and what is inhabited/full of life and sensory detail? The poem is setting us those problems in its very fabric and attaching our feeling to those problems as we read. A small miracle, in fact.”
Sherraine headshot squareSherraine Pate Williams, “The Upside of Sincerity”

“This type of poetry, rather than simply using language and imagery to liken an abstract idea to something concrete, develops a conceit (metaphysical poetry’s most common identifier) by equating the intangible to something actual. The reader then experiences the abstraction acutely and achieves an understanding that is not only conceptual or semantic, but also emotional, palpable.”