May 2013 Contemporary Poetry Reviews

05/31/2013 10:06 pm ET | Updated Jul 31, 2013

Each month, this contemporary poetry review series selects between five and ten collections published since 2000 to recommend to its readership. These collections are selected from a pool of more than two thousand books of supplied and already-held contemporary poetry. A full list of books reviewed and a partial list of titles held can be found here. Publishers interested in submitting review copies to the series should contact the author of this article using this form. All submitted books remain eligible for inclusion in the series for a ten-year period.

1. Not Even Then, Brian Blanchfield (University of California Press, 2004). One of the more reasonable critiques of the creative writing workshop--or, in any event, the least inspiring iterations of the workshop convention--is that in a poorly-run workshop the emphasis is primarily or even exclusively on craft rather than poetics. Poets in such environments are encouraged to perfect, rather than complicate, their understanding of language generally and poetry specifically; just so, they're encouraged to perfect their competence in superficial literary gestures rather than pass beyond mere gesture into genuine innovation. Many poets, subjected to such low expectations for a period of two or three years, write accordingly. Others are able to see "craft" for what it is: Another tool available for use or (as appropriate) discard by the working poet.

Still other poets use their knowledge of craft to push their aesthetics to the breaking point and beyond; such poets exhibit what we might term "metacraft," an ability to subsume craft to poetics in the same way that (hypothetically, at least) Marxism requires as precondition for its birth the most advanced and decadent stages of capitalism. Metacraft revels in the decadence of excessive craft, finding in the byzantine intricacies of artifice a new means of earnest expression.

Brian Blanchfield has taught creative writing workshops within at least two institutions of higher learning, and perhaps has labored as a student in such workshops as well--that query lies outside the purview of this review--but in any case he exhibits in his work such an expert understanding of craft that his Not Even Then successfully cobbles together a new poetics from an old aesthetics. Consider the first poem in the "Weremen" section of Not Even Then, "Thirteen Point Three Three," a bricolage of techniques and sensibilities familiar to many creative writing students but rarely used to such striking effect. The forty-three lines of the poem feature, variously, double-duty enjambment ("A cunning policy, the sunrise/ announcing new and same with light"); classical parataxis ("its body east, shot as it was stalled"); asyntactic subclauses ("it was stalled/ late west and, to broiling score, identifiably"); end-stops, linear narrative, and conventional grammar ("We knew there had come a night and gone./ We knew Cujo was under the engine,/ as ever, as three into ten goes three..."); the staccato of the iambic ("fucked/ by dog on chance of sound in shade"); sonic play ("by dog on chance of sound in shade,/ by sun on car far..."); the periodic sentence ("fucked.../ by sun on car far, God, from help"); the anaphoric compound direct object ("fucked.../ by dog.../ by sun..."); alliteration ("All the while in the world..."); aphorism ("empathy subsists on estimation"); personification ("the sunrise/ announcing"); and metaphor (e.g., the sunrise as both "policy" and "body"). And this is merely a cursory reading of this forty three-line poem's first stanza. In short, Blanchfield's verse is a veritable clinic of advanced aesthetics, precisely the sort of exemplar of literary expertise any student of poetry should be exposed to and expected to close-read expertly. For all that we bemoan writing that is merely technically competent, we ought to note, too, that most of the writing tarred with the false praise of "technical competence" isn't, for starters, even a tenth as technically proficient as Not Even Then.

But the reason Not Even Then is more than just a gorgeous compendium of well-wrought language is that its gestural toolbox isn't just substantially larger than almost any other collection we might stumble across--later in "Thirteen Point Three Three," the reader is confronted with diction shifts, fragmentary language, mathematical notation, and much, much more--but because Blanchfield's metacraft rises to the level of an authentic poetics. In short, Blanchfield understands craft as a means to an end rather than an end-in-itself (the latter folly being, unfortunately, endemic to most young writing, just as it is endemic to most poorly-run workshops). A hint of the poetics undergirding Not Even Then can be found in the section-title "Weremen," which besides exhibiting yet another slice of poetic craft--the pun--also hints at an abiding interest in hybridity, in the same sort of between-state implied by the title's collection. (Another section is entitled "Islands Equidistant.") These section titles, as with the poem-title "Thirteen Point Three Three," allude to an accuracy in speech and reckoning that is never, as the poet and his poems well know, attainable, one reason the poems of Not Even Then cycle through so many different aesthetic gestures and competencies.

In "Thirteen Point Three Three," the poet asks the question, "How do we go in the dark?/ We come home, commonly..." This juxtaposition of "how" and "where"--for the answer "we come home" is really no answer at all to the question "how do we go"--as well as the double-duty done here by the word "commonly" (suggesting both frequency and lack of imagination), is not mere coincidence. Indeed, too many creative workshops and too many literary theorists seem to forget that craft is not merely a path to poetics for the poet, but also for his reader; New Critical "close readings" are indeed grotesque in the countless high school settings in which they're treated as a logical terminus, but they can be invaluable to advanced readers just beginning to ken an individual poet's peculiar relationship with language and the poetic genre. It's one reason we may one day feel less fear than we presently do that so many of today's younger readers and writers of poetry are being exposed to New Critical close readings in high school and college and craft-oriented creative writing pedagogies in college and graduate school: Provided these skill-sets are treated as instrumental rather than inherent goods, more's the pity we can't expose even more students to such an education.

All of this is to say that Brian Blanchfield is a poet with a vision, and an important one. He sees in gestural hybridity and the juxtaposition of the narrative "where" ("content") and the compositional "how" ("form") a possibility to entertain and delight even as he also implicitly instructs us on "how to go in the dark." With so much language in the water in contemporary America, we can choose to turn from the communicative altogether (as do certain strains of post-Language poetry), mock the culture that engenders linguistic surfeit (as do certain modes of postmodernist collage), or, like Blanchfield, consider our present excess of language (and excess of language about language, as is often found in creative writing workshops) a starting point for more embodied forms of interconnection. In other words, more language means more tools for more humans, just as more poems means more language for more humans to use their tools upon, just as more humans using language means more tools for language to act upon. The decadence of our present period, in which nearly any aspiring writer can access a creative writing workshop, and nearly any aspiring reader can find all the poetry they need with the click of a mouse, need not devolve into a poetics that's either self-loathing or mean-spirited.

Not Even Then is a speech-act of consequential generosity, and one whose metaphysical approach to the material of language renders its artifacts significantly more illuminating than any mere detritus of craft could ever be. The flotsam of aesthetics encompasses but a little ground; without it, though, it's not just tiring but ultimately fruitless to plot the coordinates of literary landscapes. Much contemporary poetry--and much superlative contemporary poetry--uses as its originary coordinates theories of language and the mind which, because they are found nowhere on the page itself, add little to the poem thereon until the poem is put into conversation by its interlocutors in the Academy. Blanchfield's work creates high-level conversations about language and creative writing without the necessary setpiece of an entire English department and its attendant lit-theory specialization. Highly recommended for this reason and a more general one: Artistic excellence, front to back.

[Poems online: Seventeen recent poems (from author website].

2. The Stupefying Flashbulbs, Daniel Brenner (Fence Books, 2006). Daniel Brenner's The Stupefying Flashbulbs is described in its copy as a "symbolist fantasy," and that's not far from the mark. We must remember, though, the difference between symbolism the conceit and Symbolism the movement. Too many contemporary students of literature read Ezra Pound's 1914 throwdown with Symbolism ("Vorticism") as a jeremiad against the symbol per se--perhaps because Pound peevishly never capitalized the term--rather than the use made of symbols by a discrete group of nineteenth-century French versifiers. In this error of writing and reading lies the beginning of much confusion over the role of the symbol in poetry.

Many would argue that Pound's summation of the Symbolist credo (expressed admirably in the 1886 Symbolist Manifesto, a document that rejected "plain meanings, declamations, false sentimentality and matter-of-fact description") was itself an abomination of the truth. According to Pound, "the symbolist's [sic] symbols have a fixed value, like numbers in arithmetic"; in fact, as noted, the Symbolists had already unambiguously stated, a quarter-century earlier, their hostility toward "plain meanings"--and therefore the "fixed values" plain meanings underscore.

In any case, we need not belabor a largely historical issue: Pound did not understand Symbolism, or else he merely detested certain of its practitioners, and so his circumscription of the movement's tendencies was unsurprisingly stunted and our contemporary understanding of the symbol is (in consequence) not what it might have been otherwise. In point of fact, symbolism the conceit and Symbolism the movement both embrace that quality Pound reserved for his own movement ("Imagism"), that being the capacity of the symbol to carry "variable significance." The French Symbolists may have been significantly more invested in the Ideal than was Pound--though this too is debatable--but that hardly meant they considered the Ideal readily reducible. Pound derides Symbolism, for instance, by equating the image of a cross with the nebulous concept of a "trial"; as any Christian child will tell you, however, the image of a cross could just as easily act as replacement for terms like "punishment," "faith," "community," "God," "sacrifice," "charity," "sanctuary," or any one of dozens of other associations.

Pound's relegation of Symbolism to the realm of arithmetic is outrageous; indeed, there can be no more nuanced endeavor than the search for the Ideal. Perhaps this is why "Vorticism" is, as manifesto, a stunning piece of rhetorical incoherence: Pound at once trumpets Imagism's "direct treatment of the thing" while lauding Imagism's ability to transmit "variable significance" through imagery. This paradox--the coupling of "directness" and "variability"--is far better resolved, it says here, by poetic Symbolism (the movement) than the poetic image (the technical component).

Enter Daniel Brenner's 2006 masterpiece, The Stupefying Flashbulbs, which liberally uses symbols and does so to striking effect. Brenner's aim, one surmises, has little to do with arithmetical calculations of the Ideal and much to do with how longstanding associations between images and ideas can be and are endlessly subdivided over time. Indeed, this is a collection which, for much of its length, revels in short lines and short words and the way we are brought up short by each. Ampersands and aggressive enjambment speed the read even further. Consider the final words of the poem "Ancestral Superhero": "Well I tell the whirlpool the poor lions/ Deserve I get to then it cuts in says I know best". Languid lines of conventional lyric narrative these are not.

What Brenner's lines are are compelling curios of folksy diction (reminiscent of Maurice Manning's excellent Bucolics) coupled with substantive obsessions with the Ancients, evil, Chaos, and morality plays. The result is spellbinding, furious fun. Consider: "McGill got mad when she found out that I made her/ The metal sphere with her face on it instead of/ Something cuter but I twirled my moustache and said/ Your youth McGill that is all I am capturing/ With horrorscopes and mad delinquent rushes..." (from a poem entitled, if you'll credit it, "There Is Some Orange Soda Left Though").

The madcap pacing of The Stupefying Flashbulbs--narratively as well as rhythmically, for indeed these poems speak to and with one another admirably and often quite directly--is perfectly appropriate to the serious business of Symbolism, whose preoccupation with glimpsing the Ideal is as frenetically compulsive as any other agenda to which contemporary poets are prone. There's an urgency to Brenner's work that belies the grandness of its aim, but is also a testament to the Symbolist objective of avoiding the rhetorically and descriptively overwrought in favor of the striking and audacious. Throughout The Stupefying Flashbulbs there's evidence of a simultaneous desire to Know and to Not Know, to Be Known and to Not Be Known, that is consistent not merely with the longstanding project of Idealism but also (and seemingly, paradoxically) with the workaday drudgery of living. Yet there is no drudgery to be found in Brenner's collection, merely riveting verse with more gumption and hard-nosed whimsy than any hundred other poetry collections put together. If soda, sugar, and mayhem are recurring motifs in these poems, it's because this is amped-up, caffeinated poetry like none other you've ever read. So: Read, savor, and share.

[Excerpts: "Liquefied," "Apple Washer," "Ancestral Superhero," and "Machines" (click on "Look Inside!" image at link)].

3. Proxy, R. Erica Doyle (Belladonna, 2013). How appropriate that a poetry collection whose epigraphs are all taken from A Tour of the Calculus should be so devastatingly accurate in locating and positioning its preoccupations.

Proxy maps love and sex and loss to coordinates impossible to mistake--or contest--for anyone who has experienced all three of these things in succession (and in whichever order). Line after line hits its mark: perfectly, again and again, rigorous and indefatigable. Poetry is rarely this bracing; it is difficult to imagine a sentient heart incapable of finding this work endlessly promising. Consider: "The moment you knew/ everything--when she lifted her eyes from the plate. Her gaze was/ a solar wind, stripping. All the years I--The horse of your heart." Or: "You are a third generation beast in a first generation world of/ open legs." Or: "You were six when you read your mother's Marquis de Sade. It/ explained so much about things in the house." This is simple, urgent language, marshaled to complex ends and exhibiting an intricacy of significances extending well beyond mere denotation. Even more, it's a genre-bending mix of drama, erotica, mystery, and lyricism whose passages could likely be read (and to great profit) in other orders besides the one present here--itself another testament to the fact that love, sex, and loss are all markers of time that also inflect time irrevocably. Imaginative, transgressive, and richly layered, Proxy does more or less everything you'd ever ask a poetry collection to do.

The literary second-person can (to a reader of a certain temperament) be infuriating--either write and publish this to and/or for yourself, such a reader is wont to think, or else not at all; no half-measures, please--but in Doyle's hands this sometimes controversial POV (Is it reflexive? Is it didactic? Is it self-indulgent to a fault?) is a bona fide discovery. If Doyle's half-literal, half-figurative "you" is not already the actual "you-the-reader," it ought to be, and some day it must be: Doyle's words are that compellingly apt to human affairs of all stripes.

While the prose poems of Proxy easily cross the threshold of poetry, it is worth noting how eminently readable these brief paragraphs would be to any of today's young literary artists or (to coin a term) "genre-positive" readers--those for whom the section titles endemic to brick-and-mortar bookstores are increasingly incoherent and thus counterproductive. This is, in short, compelling work in view of any readership.

It is worth noting, too, that while thus far Doyle's work has been celebrated most ardently within several subcommunities of the national literary scene--previous publications include anthologization in Our Caribbean: A Gathering of Lesbian and Gay Writing from the Antilles, Gathering Ground: A Reader Celebrating Cave Canem's First Decade, Best Black Women's Erotica 2, Gumbo: A Celebration of African American Writers, Role Call: A Generational Anthology of Black Literature and Art, and Bum Rush the Page: A Def Poetry Jam; moreover, Belladonna, the imprint behind Proxy, self-identifies as a feminist avant-garde collective--given how expansive the sensitivity and emotional intuition of these poems is, it would be little surprise to see this work continue to reach, and be supported and promoted by, an ever wider and wider community of artists. This reviewer would wish a place for work of this scope and caliber in any anthology--and with any publisher--of any self-identification, aim, inclination, or target audience. For now, we can simply enjoy yet another sterling entry in the list of fine poets published by Belladonna (a list that includes Harryette Mullen, Lyn Hejinian, Carla Harryman, Anne Waldman, Eileen Myles, Vanessa Place, Elizabeth Robinson, Elizabeth Willis, Laynie Browne, Sharon Mesmer, Joan Retallack, Caroline Bergvall, Nada Gordon, Leslie Scalapino, Lydia Davis, Alice Notley, Rosemarie Waldrop, Lisa Jarnot, Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, and Fanny Howe; in other words, Belladonna's list reads as a Who's Who of Who You Should Be Reading).

Bravo to Belladonna for publishing such fine work, and to Doyle for penning an outstanding collection whose proper audience and sphere of influence is quite literally limitless. While Proxy indeed does yeoman's work as a fearless underscoring of issues (physical, emotional, and spiritual) of particular interest to queer women, black women, and others whose culturally-marked bodies are often sites of sociological and political contention, there ought be no doubt whatsoever that this is a work of significance to any human whose capacity to feel has not yet been stunted by cynicism or fear. Highly, highly recommended.

4. Flemish, Caroline Knox (Wave Books, 2013). There are, most certainly, parts of Caroline Knox's Flemish that are merely lineated prose disguised in the artificial homogeneity of arbitrarily-enjambed tercets; for instance (in a prose rendering)--

Stoked with very old chokecherry, dried and checked, the new stove has a tiny low-relief lion on it holding a hatchet. It's a Jotul F 602 CB; the old one was an Upland 27; we bought it for $128 in 1979; everyone thought we were crazy. Well, we offered this old Upland to the Stove Museum, who said, Oh no, we don't take any stove made after 1935. Fine: with some help I got the Upland out to the curb at a quarter to five on a Friday, with a sign on it saying FREE in red electrical tape. At 6:45 the Upland was gone. The Jotul beamed heat waves at, to, and for us. I incinerated seven-year-old paper records in its 'color-range, black to red.'

--but it's 2013, and who in the world cares about such generic squabbles anymore? Caroline Knox is a poet, her medium is poetry, and if it does no or little violence to an anecdote about an old stove to put it in one unit of measure (the stanza) rather than another (the paragraph), what matter that? In the broader project of Caroline Knox's wonderful Flemish one finds consistently excellent use of the disjunction, juxtaposition, and bricolage for which poets have long been known and, not for nothing, given Knox's particular appeal as a poet, for which the world's best storytellers have likewise long been known. There is room in every text for disruption, digression, interruption, and intercession--whether between and among genres, or between and among subunits of a single genre--and Knox's most recent book is a perfect exemplar of how a generously encompassing work can be absolutely engrossing as well.

By turns funny, esoteric, and absurdist, Flemish is also positively enthralling, an energetic paean to language, the object, and the history of language and of objects. What begins as a book whose poems are straitjacketed into tercets for no evident reason beyond visual allure--an increasingly wan excuse, now that the conceit is in its four-thousandth year--quickly expands into one whose poems experiment with every visual form imaginable: angled text, found text, intermittent capitalization and italicization, field composition, off-set alignment, sectioning, dramatic poetry, and liberal citation of other texts and sources.

Knox succeeds at bringing poetry's performative element to the page in a way few others can: Notably, by imbuing her verse with a delight and exuberance too rarely evident in verse composition. These lines don't just sing, they zing; any risk of drag is eviscerated by the poems' evident glee in zigging and zagging. At one moment Knox may be crafting an acronym for a painting whose title is too long by far (the result: "S L A B W G W P B T C P F T M A T B S H N"), at another she may be carefully encoding a key-shaped concrete poem within the text of a longer work (the result: "Sloth, like/ rust, consumes fast-/ er than labor wears, while the used/ key is always/ bright," words Knox nestles into the heart of a poem about artifacts and artifice).

Such zaniness is of course destined to miss on occasion, and indeed there's the odd misfire here, as in any project so ambitious. But Flemish does such serious work in the context of such good-natured folksiness that you'll invariably find yourself grinning ear to ear. More than that: Flemish earns some genuine guffaws, something precious few books of poetry ever do. Read this book and rediscover your love of poetry.

5. Debts & Lessons, Lynn Xu (Omnidawn Publishing, 2013). The lines of Xu's Debts & Lessons oscillate between the discursive and the sublimely implicit, as is appropriate for a book whose intricate, preamble-like first poem ("Say You Will Die for Me") compellingly makes an improbable case: That all language is prayer because it brings into being the illusion of interconnection. The truth, Xu seems to say, is that sound possesses us, rather than vice versa, and the most profound notes ever struck are those unpositioned within, and thus imperatively organic to, our environment. Xu is compelled, that is, by the notion of incidence, a term that means at once our risk of suffering a specific condition, the arrival of said condition, and a post mortem of the frequency with which such a condition has visited or will visit itself upon its subject. For Xu, the condition in question is sound itself, and the subject is the human heart, which Xu likens to a "long dagger" in one particularly glorious metaphor. "Say You Will Die for Me" is consequently the perfect prelude to a work of staggering insight, tenderness, and determination: Xu repeatedly maps the duration of things--faith, love, language, the spaces between language, the absences filled by language--and the coordinates she positions her reader between are heartbreakingly precise.

In "Fear of Narrative and the Skittery Poem of Our Moment," Tony Hoagland makes some compelling observations about contemporary poetry (for instance, that "energetic cadres of [recent] MFA grads have certainly contributed to...associative and 'experimental' poetries, in a wild variety of forms and orientations," a contention the largely non-MFAed experimentalists of the seventies and eighties would likely, and moreover self-aggrandizingly, dispute) but also some observations that continue to demand the scrutiny and skepticism of contemporary literary critics (for instance, that contemporary poetry exists in a moment of "great aesthetic self-consciousness and emotional removal"). Hoagland's implication that any period of literary production, be it contemporary or classical, has ever been characterized by "aesthetic un-consciousness" significantly undercuts his core contention that somehow the aesthetic self-consciousness of our present literary moment is superlative.

In other words, our predecessors in poetry were surely as self-conscious about form as we are today; what's changed is merely how the prevailing forms are constituted. The peculiar breed of expressiveness in evidence in the Romantic period was appropriate to the culture of that time; in a nineteenth-century culture in which earnest public expression was fraught with complications, unfettered emotive discourse was necessarily subversive. We now live in a very different time, one in which earnest public expression is as cheap as it's ever been; it takes merely the click of a mouse to inform between five hundred and a thousand strangers precisely what level of psychic damage you're experiencing today. (And poets, for what it's worth, have been more gregarious in exploiting the new technologies that aggregate such disclosures than most other segments of the American population.) The result is rather obvious: The terms of emotional disclosure have changed, as have the stakes, and therefore the methodologies and technologies by which we invest ourselves emotionally must also, necessarily, change. To call contemporary poetry's deep, abiding, and penetrating approach to personal emotional investment a form of "emotional removal" merely because it fails to conform to the forms of emotional investment considered most subversive in previous epochs is folly. Likewise, to use the shallow cover of the term "associative" to imply that contemporary poetry is less intellectually rigorous or robust than the poetry of other centuries is not just unkind but unfair.

Debts & Lessons is the consummate testament to the complexity of feeling--the verb, not the noun--in contemporary America. It puts certain critics' anxiety over contemporary poets' openness to earnest emotional expression to shame, not because Xu's poetry is emotionally expressive in a classical or even more contemporary (say, confessionalist or post-confessionalist) sense, but because it is expressive in the way today's most intelligent, self-aware, and psychically diligent human adults are communicative about the self/environment and self/Other paradoxes. Daily living in America is not a jolly narrative of movement between Point A and Point B, as not just the recent economic downturn but our ever-swirling media culture makes rather evident, but instead a morass within which one subsists rather than glides. Hoagland's essay harkens back to a time when verse was (so he says) typified by "systematic development," as though any human looks at the circumstances of their own lives and sees a clear system of development by which all things past, present, and future can readily be mapped and explained. Hoagland is skeptical, implicitly, of what he calls "obliquity, fracture, and discontinuity," which is merely aesthetic terminology for human conditions that are in fact exactly the opposite in character: immediacy, consumption, and indivisibility.

The upshot of the foregoing is that a literary critic may well read a poem that uses disjunction and juxtaposition as aesthetic technologies and miss the fact that those technologies are the consequent expression of their real-world opposites. Lynn Xu's poetry eschews conventional narrative, indulges what often reads as literary-critical jargon, and makes bracing leaps between complex ideas, yet the substantive effect of these technical maneuvers is unmistakable: To underscore the immediacy of experience, the ways in which we are consumed by language and culture and relationship rather than vice versa, and the inability of the individual to disconnect from the whole (a condition our ruralist literary forebears would have found baffling).

The error Hoagland makes, and many contemporary readers of poetry make, is to take rather too far this juxtaposition of form and content that experimentalists have long told us is de rigueur. Undoubtedly, form and content are inextricably intertwined; they are not, however, complicit in a suicide pact. Hoagland and other literary critics with more or less conventional literary tastes have used Robert Creeley's maxim--"form is never more than an extension of content"--as a Sword of Damocles over experimental verse for far too long; in fact, poetry whose form is superficially obtuse or opaque is often our best vehicle for the expression of sentiments that are deeply human.

Lynn Xu's frighteningly taut emotional erudition speaks well not only of its author's emotional investment in her moment but also our own literary moment's investment in emotion. Debts & Lessons is a collection of love poems par excellence, and not merely because its seven sections include verse collations entitled "Say You Will Die for Me," "Our Love Is Pure," and "Lullabies," but because it does the difficult work of circumscribing human frailty using apt rather than desultory methods. It is desultory to repeat what has been done before merely because it previously sold well at market or found critical acclaim; it is apt to use a form appropriate to its content, and a content appropriate to lived experience in contemporary times.

Xu's use of Chinese characters, torqued enjambment, brief lines, inverted syntax, ample negative space, and nonstandard grammar, syntax, and punctuation constitutes a series of aesthetic elections perfectly suited to the aching tenderness of the sentiments contained in Debts & Lessons. Not every sentiment in the collection is as easy to access as every other; not every word is as immediately suitable to the ear as every other; not every vignette is as linear in the retelling as it might have (wrongly) seemed to be in the event; but what a betrayal of the truth of deeply-held emotion were it otherwise! And what a poor tribute to the intricacy of the human mind! Read Xu's Debts & Lessons not because it is easy but because, like your own life, it is both difficult and sublimely beautiful all at once.

A graduate of Harvard Law School and the Iowa Writers' Workshop, Seth Abramson is the author of three collections of poetry: Thievery (University of Akron Press, 2013), winner of the 2012 Akron Poetry Prize; Northerners (Western Michigan University Press, 2011), winner of the 2010 Green Rose Prize from New Issues Poetry & Prose; and The Suburban Ecstasies (Ghost Road Press, 2009). A contributing author to The Creative Writing MFA Handbook (Continuum, 2008), he is also Series Co-Editor for Best American Experimental Writing, whose first edition will be published by Omnidawn in 2014. Presently a doctoral candidate (ABD) in English Literature at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, he has published work in numerous magazines and anthologies, including Best New Poets (University of Virginia Press, 2008), Poetry of the Law (University of Iowa Press, 2010), Poetry, American Poetry Review, Boston Review, New American Writing, Harvard Review, AGNI, Fence, and Colorado Review. In 2008, he was awarded the J. Howard and Barbara M.J. Wood Prize by Poetry.

Earlier Editions in the Series: