grove press

100 Selected Poems by e.e. cummings

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 Review by Stephen Page
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 I’ve been thinking lately how most of my life I dreamed I would live in a shack in the mountains without telephone or T.V., walk the woods, eat berries, drink snowmelt, and write about place.  I would of course visit a city on the weekends, for culture, you know, and sit on an unmade bed in an inexpensive hotel in the afternoon and watch soap operas on T.V.  Seriously though, the culture part of the dream includes art, ballet, theatre, cinema, fine cuisine, wine, friends, a love interest, a once a week teaching job—then back to the shack for a week of writing and communing with the natural world.  When I lived alone and single, which I have most of my life, it was easy to continue the shack dream, because by living alone, I was closer to that person on the mountain.  Since I have been married though, the hermit of me has hid, or should I say, reclused, but did not completely disappear.  He lurks among my cortical synopses, resides in my hippocampus.   He and the shack where he lives will be a part of my life’s work.  For a writer, there has to be a balance between writing and life.  Some writers need more of one than the other.  They way I see it, a writer may try to live a full life and write, but when the time comes to write, he needs to write, and only write.  The writing has to be more important than life when he is writing about life.  And (now I am getting away from the topic, but drawing a parallel), depending how private the writer is, a writer may want to edit, exclude, or delete his life from history and leave only his writings.  Sooner or later, though, someone is going to tell his story—that is, what he did, how he treated people—and that someone may be his mother, his sister, his spouse, his child, his friend, his enemy, or his dumped lover (any of whom may not be very kind); so why shouldn’t a writer keep a diary, talk to people, interview, write letters—tell his side of the story.  If he lived a good life (and that is, of course, a subjective phrase dependent upon cultural mores, subcultural trends, parental teachings, etc. etc.), he shouldn’t be ashamed about people knowing about his life.  He shouldn’t be afraid.  Not if he has courage.  Anyway, along those lines (and I have to focus on the shack—place), let’s see how life develops, you and I, the reader and the writer, let’s see how our poems appear, how we diarize and how we are biographed.  On those notes, let’s look at a book:
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Last week, I read e.e. cummings’s 100 Selected Poems.   He’s a god of course who visited this earth to show off and play with people’s heads.  Anyone could aspire to write half as well as him.  He breaks downs language only to rebuild it to high art.
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Stephen Page is a poet in Argentina via Detroit Michigan. He can be found here: Stephen Page

The Niagara River by Kay Ryan

niagara river

Grove Press Poetry

Paperback: 96 pages

Publisher: Grove Press; First Edition edition (August 17, 2005)

 

Review by Diane Sahms-Guarnieri

Kay Ryan’s The Niagara River (her sixth collection) is like driving a compact car.  Its short poems are a quick read with lots of quirky language that can fit into any small- sized parking space in the reader’s mind.  Despite the quick read, these poems possess an explicit seriousness and cleverness, as well as a keen and creative awareness about life.    The first poem in Ryan’s book is her title poem, The Niagara River.  In this poem, the speaker is having a meal atop the Niagara River; as the current moves the people dining along, the paintings are changing scenes/along the shore.  This 18 lined poem, with no more than seven syllables per line, concludes: We/we do know, we do/know this is the/ Niagara , but /it is hard to remember/ what that means.  Undersized in format this poem has immense strength like the Niagara River itself – a calm, petite poem until its end punch.  An abrupt ending, harsh and ambiguous, like the surprise of a powerful waterfall at the end of a calm and delightful meal, and it comes at us without a question mark (?). An overpowering question about meaning: the river’s meaning, life’s meaning …without answer! Compared to Emily Dickinson, who utilized shortened lines and condense verse, Kay Ryan’s shortened lines have a flow to them, enjambment.  Emily’s lines were sharp, quick with lots of punctuation marks.  Conversely, Kay’s lines flow, ironically like a river.    She possesses a command of line breaks and syllables that is quite amazing, even tricky.  In fact, readers of  her poetry may not notice during their initial read that a majority (if not all of her lines) in a given poem have an average of five or less syllables per line, as if while writing her poems, she uses one hand to write with and the another  hand to tap out syllables.  (Note: There are the occasional 6 or 7 syllabic lines within several of her poems.)    Further, all of the poems in this book are formatted the same (with the exception of two), that is, all poems are tightly aligned at the left margin and appear like a long Roman column.  The two poems in the entire collection that are different have stanzas.  The short syllabic lines and her unchanging format have not hindered the appreciation of her poems, by any standards set by the vogue poetry world of today.  This is because her style, wit, cleverness, and strong mixed metaphors are prevalent in this body of work that has won her The Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. The Niagara River can be found at this link: The Niagara River: Poems (Grov…

 

Diane Sahms-Guarnieri, a native Philadelphian, is the author of three full-length poetry collections.  More about Diane can be found athttp://www.dianesahms-guarnieri.com/  &https://dianesahmsguarnieri.wordpress.com/