Nouns XXI


I. “To make art representing another victim’s pain can be ethically thorny. Susan Sontag wrote, “The appetite for pictures showing bodies in pain is as keen, almost, as the desire for ones that show bodies naked.” Images of suffering can arouse our horror, simulating an illusive identification between us and the victim or “a fantasy of witness” before we are conveniently deposited back into our lives so that someone else’s trauma becomes our personalized catharsis.”  Cathy Park Hong gets to the heart of it in her essay “Against Witness” in Poetry.

II. These lines from new-to-me but certainly not new poet William Matthews cut deep.

“To love the dead is easy.
They are final, perfect.
But to love a child
is sometimes to fail at love
while the dead look on
with their abstract sorrows.

To love a child is to turn
away from the patient dead.
It is to sleep carefully
in case he cries.”

III.  A collection of nudes through the years.  Art is one long conversation.

IV.  Mr. Bear’s Violet Hour Saloon radio show featured the inagural issue of New Mexico Review (and even read my poem at minute 32.)  This is a new to me podcast and really, it’s incredible.  Listen.

V. “…when schnapps and words/ are everything I have left/ to believe in.” This short and poignant poem by Nana Nyarko-Boateng at Prairie Schooner is like a shot of something strong and warm.

VI.  “I want us to matter like ephemera:/ old stock certificates, the postcards we buy/ in the gift store.”  These two poems by Corey Van Landingham at Four Way Review capture desire like sun through a magnifying glass.

VII.  “…mapping the negative space/ of sudden departure.” Desire and loss are soulmates.  Here, Merit O’Hare shows us that with birds in her poem “Ornithology” at Willow Springs

VIII.  “We’ll want some sign of water, a sign of the earth opening up its offer of new, and we’ll follow it all the way.” More desire and loss in the collaboration between Jill Talbot and Justin Lawrence Daugherty at Hobart (thanks, Michael, for sharing). 

IX.  All of this is awesome.  Wear literature.  Donate books.

X.  Eavan Boland, the suburbs, motherhood, the stars … it’s all there and Jee Leong Koh writes it together at Prairie Schooner’s blog.   “Even stars have routines they must follow, forces they must obey. Though the poet accepts “brute routines” grudgingly (how else could one accept them?), by the end of the poem she has imaginatively transformed the stilled hub of the suburb into the rotating earth of the solstices.”

XI.  Libraries are a sanctuary.  This piece in the NYT is a short, poignant reminder to support them.  Not just in New York City, but everywhere.  “You can add up all the yearly visitors to the city’s baseball stadiums, its basketball and hockey arenas, all its performing-arts spaces, city-owned museums, gardens and zoos and you’ll never get to 37 million, the number of people who used the city’s underfunded, overburdened, utterly essential libraries in the last fiscal year.”

XII.  I hope your weekend finds you lost somewhere in a scene like Deanna Lankin’s paintings of the West Coast (featured above).

XIII. Let this sonnet by Pablo Neruda carry you there.

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