Monday, January 30, 2012

Reading: Tom Sleigh and Melissa Green

This Thursday, February 2, 2012, the Suffolk University Poetry Room presents a reading with two acclaimed contemporary writers: Tom Sleigh and Melissa Green.

TOM SLEIGH is the author of eight highly acclaimed books of poetry, including Army Cats (Graywolf, 2011), and Space Walk (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2007), which won the $100,000 Kingsley Tufts Award. He has also published a translation of Euripides' Herakles (Oxford University Press, 2007), and a book of essays, Interview With a Ghost (Graywolf Press, 2006). He has received the Shelley Prize from the Poetry Society of America, a Fellowship from the American Academy in Berlin, the John Updike Award and an Academy Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, an Individual Writer's Award from the Lila Wallace/Reader's Digest Fund, a Guggenheim grant, and two National Endowment for the Arts grants, among many others. He teaches in the MFA Program at Hunter College and lives in Brooklyn.

MELISSA GREEN'S first book of poems, The Squanicook Eclogues (Norton), was awarded prizes from the Poetry Society of America and the Academy of American Poets; it is currently available as a reprint edition from the Boston-based Pen & Anvil Press. Fifty-Two, her second book of poems, was published by Arrowsmith Press in 2007. Her work has been published in AGNI, Little Star, Charles River Journal, Fulcrum, Epiphany and Ibbetson Street. Ms. Green lives in Winthrop, MA. More about her work:

This reading, free and open to the public, will take begin at 7 PM in Sawyer Library, in the 3rd floor Poetry Room, at 73 Tremont Street Boston, MA.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

A Review of a Review

Philip Nikolayev on Henry Gould on Ben Mazer's Poetry

What follows is Philip Nikolayev's comment on Henry Gould's January 2012 review of Ben Mazer's collections POEMS (among other texts) for The Critical Flame. on Friday, January 27, 2012. Nikolayev has given his permission for this reposting of his thoughts. -- ZWB
At long last, a thoughtful, sustained endeavor -- the first of its kind and scope, and by no less a person than Henry Gould, himself a poet whom I hold in high esteem -- to figure out and come to terms with the poetry of Ben Mazer, who in my biased and partial view is one of our times' very finest poets.

Gould, by dint of his particular sensitivity, taste and learning, is better equipped than most poets today to review this work, and the limitations of his honest effort, which I feel succeeds only partially, highlight the peculiar challenges of the task. The essay wins my applause in spite of these limitations.

I find much in this review to be off the mark, e.g. the overemphasis on Ashbery (who -- did I spell him right? I am not American! -- will yet serve for some decades as the catchall digestive pill to process anything that is perceived as opaque in current American verse; that said, Mazer himself alludes to Ashbery) and on John Beer (whom I have not read, but the discussion here did not pique my curiosity); or the naïve remark in passing that Mazer "doesn't care for exactitude; his olympian indifference even extends to spelling and syntax" (Henry, that’s precisely exactitude, those things you mention are *exactly* as Mazer wants them, and every comma in the writing is carefully decided upon). I wish the ostensible difficulty –- the complexity -– of the verse had met with a more technical discussion than its dismissal as mere "sea-washed vagueness" (though I am strangely grateful that the N +1 "types of ambiguity" are not invoked for the school children).

Nevertheless, there are many true, nuanced reflections here, and the general take on things has many merits. There is the true admission that Mazer's poetry  is "full of beauty and pleasure," even if the essay, possibly somewhat against its own intention, paradoxically fails to reveal a genuine excitement. In spite of all this, Gould's review is groundbreaking and will certainly influence further critical analyses of Mazer's work.

Henry Gould left a few comments in gracious response:
Thanks, Philip. Just a couple points : "sea-washed vagueness" was not intended as a dismissal (I like sea-washed vagueness). And, 2nd, the poet's playing fast & loose sometimes with spelling and syntax certainly may have been exact & purposeful : but if so it's a purposeful indifference. Nevertheless I really don't want to over-emphasize this aspect in Mazer's POEMS: it plays a very minor role in a few poems, I think.

Ben Mazer certainly warrants a full-scale stand-alone review, where his work is front & center (as does John Beer to some extent). But what I was trying to do in this essay was map out a dynamic, a larger context, a "way of reading". I don't think this happens often enough - in the roar of chit-chat & PR we tend to lose our bearings...

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Slam poets not stumping for Paul

No one was more surprised to discover that Sunday's event was a Ron Paul rally than Manchester poets and event organizers Mark Palos and Sam Teitel, both of whom are also fixtures on the Worcester and Boston poetry scenes.

“The intention of the event was to provide people from the local and New England community a place to read their poetry as a reaction to the Republican debate on Saturday night,” said Teitel of the event, which featured performances by Worcester poet Sarah Sapienza and Boston poets James Caroline and Harlym 125. If anything, Teitel and Palos felt that the tenor of the evening was largely liberal and anti-Republican.

[...] Both organizers insist that Slam Free or Die does not endorse any candidate, whether it be Paul or President Obama.

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From an entry in the Worcester Telegram "Pop Culture Notebook" blog.

Melita Hume Prize for Poetry

Eyewear Publishing announces its inaugural (2012) THE MELITA HUME PRIZE FOR POETRY. This is an award of £1,000 and a publishing deal for the best first full collection (i.e. debut) of a young poet writing in the English language, born in 1980 or later. The aim of this prize is to support younger emerging writers during difficult economic times, with a quality publication in England and a helpful amount of money which can assist them in their studies, travel or accomodation, for example. This is open to any one of the requisite age, anywhere in the world.

About the sponsor: Melita Hume is a Canadian book collector, and compiler of information about Canadian authors, who lived most of her life in St. Lambert and the Eastern Townships.

Please post your submissions to: Melita Hume Prize for Poetry, Eyewear Publishing, Suite 38, 19-21 Crawford Stree,t London W1H 1PJ United Kingdom.

Please include an SASE or equivalent, a biographical note of 100-250 words, and a brief covering letter including email contact details. The deadline for submission is April 8, 2012. The winner will be announced September 1, 2012. For email queries, contact info @

Friday, January 6, 2012

Manuscript consulation opportunity

A message from Joan Houlihan, Founder & Director of the  Concord Poetry Center & Colrain Conferences:

A Colrain Poetry Manuscript Intensive with editor/poets Martha Rhodes (Four Way Books) and Joan Houlihan, will be held at the beautiful Brandt House in Greenfield, Mass., February 24-27.
The Colrain Poetry Manuscript Intensive is a one-of-a-kind, total immersion weekend designed for poets with book-length manuscripts looking for a publisher. It includes a pre-conference reading of your entire manuscript, pre-conference work, and in-depth sessions with both editors. If you have a manuscript that has come close to publication (e.g. finalist, semi-finalist, positive feedback from a publisher), or if you attended a previous Colrain conference and wish to re-visit your manuscript in a smaller, in-depth session, the Intensive is for you.

The Intensive is limited to 8 poets. Please see for details.