Sunday Apr 14

Brown Kurt Brown is founding director of the Aspen Writers' Conference, now in its 35th year, founding director of Writers' Conferences & Centers (a national association of directors) now in its 21st year, past editor of Aspen Anthology and past President of the Aspen Writers' Foundation. He served on the board of Sarabande Books for many years, and on the board of Poets House  in New York for six years.  His poems have appeared in many literary periodicals, including The Ontario Review, The Berkeley Poetry Review, The Southern Poetry Review, The Massachusetts Review, The Indiana Review, The Harvard Review, Ploughshares, Kansas Quarterly, Crazyhorse, and Rattapallax.  He is the author of six chapbooks: The Lance & Rita Poems, which won the Sound Post Press competition in Columbia, Missouri (1994);  Recension of the Biblical Watchdog, which won the Anamnesis Poetry Chapbook Competition (1997); A Voice in the Garden: Poems of Sandor Tádjèck (Beyond Baroque Literary / Arts Center, 1998); Mammal News (Pudding House Press, 2000); Fables from the Ark, which won the Woodland Press Poetry Chapbook Competition (2002), and Sincerest Flatteries: A Little Book of Imitations (Tuplelo Press in the Masters’ Series, 2007).  His full-length collection of poems are Return of the Prodigals and More Things in Heaven and Earth (Four Way Books, 1999, 2002), Fables from the Ark, which won the 2003 Custom Words Prize (WordTech), and Future Ship (2007) and No Other Paradise (2010), both with Red Hen Press.  A book of translations, with his wife  Laure-Anne Bosselaar, entitled The Plural of Happiness: Selected Poems of Herman de Coninck, was published in the Field Translation Series in 2006. He is currently working on translating a book-length selection of the poetry of Louis Aragon. He is the editor of three annuals: The True Subject (Graywolf Press, 1994), Writing it Down for James (Beacon Press, 1995), and Facing the Lion (Beacon Press, 1996) which gather outstanding lectures from writers’ conferences and festivals as part of the Writers on Life & Craft Series.  He is also the editor of Drive, They Said: Poems about Americans and their cars (1994),Verse & Universe: Poems about Science and Mathematics (1998), and co-editor with his wife, poet Laure-Anne Bosselaar, of Night Out: Poems about Hotels, Motels, Restaurants & Bars (1997), all from Milkweed Editions.  In addition, he is the editor of The Measured Word: On Poetry & Science (U of Georgia P, 2001), and a co-editor of the tribute anthology for the late William Matthews, Blues for Bill (U of Akron P, 2005). He is also co-editor of Conversation Pieces: Poems that Talk to Other Poems (Random House, Everyman’s Library Pocket Series, 2007).  A new anthology, co-edited with Harold Schechter, entitled Blood Lines: Poems about Murder & Mayhem, is currently under consideration at Everyman’s Library as well. He has taught poetry workshops and craft classes at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York and was recently the McEver Visiting Chair in Writing at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, Georgia and a visiting writer at Westminster College in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Laure-Anne Bosselaar is the author and of The Hour Between Dog and Wolf and of Small Gods of Grief, which was awarded the Isabella Gardner Prize for Poetry for 2001. Her third poetry collection, A New Hunger, was selected as an ALA Notable Book in 2008. She is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize, and her poems have appeared in reviews such as The Washington Post, Georgia Review,  Ploughshares, AGNI, Harvard Review, and many others.  Her poems appear in numerous anthologies. She is herself the editor of four anthologies: Night Out: Poems about Hotels, Motels, Restaurants and Bars, Outsiders: Poems about Rebels, Exiles and Renegades, Urban Nature: Poems about Wildlife in the Cities, and Never Before: Poems About First Experiences. Bosselaar taught at Emerson College and Sarah Lawrence College, and she now teaches at the Low Residency MFA Program at Pine Manor College.  She translates American poetry into French and Flemish poetry into English. With her husband, poet Kurt Brown, she translated a selection of poems entitled The Plural of Happiness, by the Flemish poet, critic and essayist Herman de Coninck.


“There’s nothing that can be called a mainstream movement
in our poetry—or an avant garde.”
Edward Field, 1978


It’s common nowadays for editors of poetry collections to assert at the very beginning—in introductions like this—how various and unique are the poems they’ve collected, and how many individual perspectives are represented in the pages that follow, and so on, leading to the inevitable conclusion that American poetry is in a period of great creative ferment and that no one aesthetic rules the day. But how could it be otherwise? We believe that what Edward Field said in 1978 is true today. Uniformity of style, if it ever existed, is repugnant to the very idea of making art, and no two artists could produce exactly the same kind of work if they tried. “Schools” of art may foster shared principles, but in truth each individual, if he or she is really an artist, will produce work that is shaded, but not enslaved to, the general practice of the day. We learn from each other—and from the past—then go our way producing work that reflects, for better or worse, who we are and what we are capable of crafting.

So the work represented here both resembles, and does not resemble, the work of others, but its originality is, or should be, obvious in each word choice, in each poet’s approach to subject matter, tone of voice, or formal strategy, in their individual interests and obsessions, their unique relationship to language, and their primal experience of art, and what they have made of it.

From the dazzling, linguistic orchestrations of Elena Karina Byrne to the elegant, formal lyrics of David Starkey, the far-reaching meditations of Virginia Slachman and the stark, urban landscapes of a poet like Andrey Gritsman, or the familial poems into which Bruce Willard weaves a number of questioning voices, and the quirky, sophisticated southern California odes of Suzanne Lummis, these poets exhibit common influences but radically different sensibilities, personalizing various traditions in inventive and effective ways.

Add to these the inspired colloquialism of Steven Huff, the terse, tense lyrics of Eugenia Leigh, the wit and imagination of Shawn Delgado, Kamilah Aisha Moon’s affective portraits of human fallibility, the child’s-eye view of the world that turns Janlori Goldman’s poems into adult fables of good and evil, and Ginger Murchison’s crisp, sculptured memories of a southern upbringing and you have a perfect representation of the spectrum of work that characterizes our poetry today. No mainstream, but a wide, turbulent, forward rolling river into which manifold influences flow.

We are happy to present the work of these poets and hopeful it will find a greater audience in the future. Each of them is a working poet, a poet who has something to say, and believes in the efficacy of art. Even in these economically challenging times. Not all poetry is a celebration, but we can celebrate the fact that poetry flourishes and poets continue to write, working to make something valuable, useful, and lasting out of their own experience and the language they’ve been given. Poets write because they have to write, hoping sooner or later the world will take note. In a modest way, we are taking note.


Photo by Star Black