We introduce three brilliant emerging poets, all with poetry books out in early 2011. They give us an intimate look at what these books mean for their writing careers and how they arrived at the present moment in their respective journeys, and they read from their forthcoming books exclusively for Huffington Post readers.
Melissa Kwasny's forthcoming book of poetry is The Nine Senses (Milkweed Editions, March 1).
All my books of poetry are explorations of and investigations into similar questions: How do I maintain a relationship with the natural world in this time of ecological devastation? What can I learn about being human from the non-human forms of life? What part does language play in this search and what part the various philosophies of Western, Eastern, and Native cultures? The Nine Senses is a collection of prose poems. The prose poem is a form I am still investigating for its potential to intensify my dialogue with the image and its central place in both poem and meditative practice. The turn through images is what I'm working on now. The mysteries of the world reveal themselves through close attendance to image--and by image, I mean anything perceived by the senses. "The natural object is always the adequate symbol," Pound said. "No ideas but in things," said Williams. But, even if we believe the image stands alone, we also notice that it flickers back and forth between thing and symbol. Is it a concrete thing? Is it metaphor? Does it have meaning for me? I love that. And on a deeper level, on a phenomenological level, that's what the world consists of: we see it, and it speaks to us, sometimes on increasingly deeper levels. So, formally, I want to know: How do I move from image to image without traditional interpretations? (The French poet Renè Char has been a great teacher here.) Because we do see strings of images. And if we try to make sense of them--the ongoing tension and resolve between understanding and image--that movement is fascinating to me. I am, in other words, interested in the paths of revelation.
Deema Shehabi's debut poetry book is Thirteen Departures from the Moon (Press 53, March).
This first book of poems, Thirteen Departures from the Moon, is a culmination of 20 years of exile; it's about finding home in a seemingly impermanent situation---both in the metaphysical and literal sense. It was only when I turned to poetry that I found comfort because it anchored me in my exile. It provided me with respite from that gnawing feeling of loss. Or perhaps, it was in writing that I felt more displaced from norms of experience, so it was more honest than artificial normalization (ie assimilation, acculturation). Many of the earlier struggles had to do with finding a voice that bridged two sensibilities---namely, where I came from and where I am now. My perception of what constituted expression in language seemed diametrically opposed to the dominant modes of thinking. One mode of thinking was that "good" poetry had to be purged of its historical and political reference. Another mode of thinking was that the language had to be restrained and cleansed of ornamental representation. My relationship with language, however, has everything to do with lush evocation of place and an insistence upon a spiritual and sensuous ethos. Sometimes, it is the perfect image combined with an intense presence of what is not being said. Sometimes, it is the moving away from the material world, as in Sufi poetry. Sometimes, it is in such intense material presence that the spirit is hiding behind the door of words.
Anna Moschovakis's forthcoming poetry book is You And Three Others Are Approaching a Lake (Coffee House Press, Feb. 1)
I'm interested in what poetry can do that other kinds of discourse can't, or don't, or won't. My first book, I Have Not Been Able to Get Through to Everyone, was in some ways a critique of (and maybe a lament for) a view of lyric poetry as expression, a picture of the inner self presented to the outer world through language. I didn't know this during the writing; only after years of editing and selecting did I find the title, which was stolen from a poem I cut from the collection. One effect of being a slow writer--that book took five years--was that after I'd finished, I was ready to work differently. There's a line in I Have Not: "Just because I have something to work out doesn't mean I have to do it in words." I had a reaction to even my self-critical lyricism and started making poems that relied heavily on appropriated text--from books, advertisements, the Internet. I was interested in the developments of Conceptual Writing, Flarf, etc., but I wasn't trying to join a school; I just needed to address, head-on, the I/You, Author/Reader relationships. I've always been interested in empathy and its theorization, since I read Hume as an undergraduate and didn't know whether to laugh or kneel down in awe at his bizarrely technical diagramming of how an emotional state or affect transfers from one being to another. I found myself borrowing other people's strongly held positions in lieu of, and as a way of, articulating my own; this led to the four serial poems in You and Three Others Are Approaching a Lake. Each poem puts diverse material, both "written" and "found," in conversation with an outmoded polemical book (I chose the books for their titles, which indicate the solidity and scope of the positions found within). I still have things to work out, and I still do it in words. But here, the things are less about identity and more about ethics, and even in a poem like the second one in this reading ("Death as a Way of Life," in which the appropriated text is minimal), the words and ideas are not necessarily "mine"--when are they?