Burt Kimmelman

The blues, Tom Weatherly, and the American canon

Letter to the author, August 26, 1991.

If you read Weatherly’s sixties and early seventies poetry in something more than a cursory way, you’ll see Preface in them. Jones’s book seized him too — although I won’t say that it was seminal for him. Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide NoteDutchman, and Blues People (appearing in 1960) were written by someone hailing from Newark, New Jersey, who had made a life in Greenwich Village. 

In 1964, as I was about to leave for college, I attended James Baldwin’s new play Blues for Mr. Charlie. By then, Everett LeRoi Jones (a.k.a. LeRoi Jones, subsequently Amiri Baraka) had moved to Greenwich Village, though I would not discover him till the following year. Jones’s equally brilliant and even more searing play, Dutchman, was also first produced that year. Baldwin had published Notes of a Native Son in 1955, which helped to create a Harlem of nearly mythic stature as he delved into its sorrows, complexities, and triumphs.

Michael Heller: New writing and commentary

Michael Heller is the author of nearly thirty volumes of poetry, essays, memoir and fiction. His collected poems, This Constellation Is A Name: Collected Poems 1965–2010, appeared in 2012. His poetry notwithstanding, Heller’s masterly essays have been a major influence on our arts and letters; his collections of criticism (especially on poetry and art) have been instrumental in shaping contemporary poetics.

'Gradually the World'

A review of Burt Kimmelman's new and selected poems

I was unfamiliar with the poetry of Burt Kimmelman when Jacket2 asked me to take up the assignment of writing about Gradually the World: New and Selected Poems, 19822013. Reading, rereading, pondering the volume — which is a life — has been an education for me in poetry’s use as engagement with writing as a means of being in the world. Why, after all, is anyone writing? Of necessity, I suppose, to figure out how to survive in — even appreciate — being alive temporarily in a world. Kimmelman’s poems surely serve that function for him and his readers.

Let 'em eat kitsch

A review of Thomas Fink's 'Joyride'

Ceci n’est pas un article à propos de schtick (except perhaps as René Magritte might have it be). Thomas Fink’s glorious new book of poems presents us often with the joy of Yinglish, but in whole it is all about the magical present, and this is no coincidence.

A hole torn in the world (PoemTalk #42)

Nathaniel Tarn, 'Unraveling / Shock'

Nathaniel Tarn; "Dying Trees" jacket

LISTEN TO THE SHOW

The eighth section of Nathaniel Tarn’s sequence Dying Trees is titled “Unravelling / Shock.” Dying Trees was first published as a chapbook in 2003; later, in 2008, it was included entirely in Tarn’s New Directions book, Ins and Outs of the Forest Rivers. When the Dying Trees sequence was still unpublished, Tarn gave a reading at the Kelly Writers House (2002) during which he read several sections of the then-new poem, including the one discussed here by Marcella Durand, Burt Kimmelman, Erin Gautsche, and PoemTalk’s producer and host, Al Filreis.

The setting is certainly Tarn’s parched American southwest. Drought is killing the trees; a cancer diagnosis is delivered; nationalism has brought more warring. The convergence of the three forms a “web.” “A hole [has been] torn in the fabric of the world.” News travels bodily; leaders fail to lead; beetles pierce bark; a demonic mouse – “wee” and yet terribly efficacious – compounds the morbidity to the point of body-snatching. It happens as an ecological, medical, and political simultaneity, and the speaker is not in a state to be much concerned about keeping the categories separate. Thus the poem is itself “the whole infernal weave” – a quality more obvious in this eighth section of the poem than in others.

A hole torn in the world (PoemTalk #42)

Nathaniel Tarn, "Unravelling / Shock"

Nathaniel Tarn; "Dying Trees" jacket

LISTEN TO THE SHOW

The eighth section of Nathaniel Tarn's sequence Dying Trees is titled "Unravelling / Shock." Dying Trees was first published as a chapbook in 2003; later, in 2008, it was included entirely in Tarn's New Directions book, Ins and Outs of the Forest Rivers. When the Dying Trees sequence was still unpublished, Tarn gave a reading at the Kelly Writers House (2002) during which he read several sections of the then-new poem, including the one discussed here by Marcella Durand, Burt Kimmelman, Erin Gautsche, and PoemTalk's producer and host, Al Filreis.

The setting is certainly Tarn's parched American southwest. Drought is killing the trees; a cancer diagnosis is delivered; nationalism has brought more warring. The convergence of the three forms a "web." "A hole [has been] torn in the fabric of the world." News travels bodily; leaders fail to lead; beetles pierce bark; a demonic mouse – "wee" and yet terribly efficacious – compounds the morbidity to the point of body-snatching. It happens as an ecological, medical, and political simultaneity, and the speaker is not in a state to be much concerned about keeping the categories separate. Thus the poem is itself "the whole infernal weave" – a quality more obvious in this eighth section of the poem than in others.

Poem about a Motherwell Painting

Burt Kimmelman

Obviously I've been reading and thinking about Burt Kimmelman's writing recently because Burt was here at the Writers House visiting. Before we move away from this poet, as is inevitable given so much that's going on, let's take one more look. It's a poem with a fabulously open first line: "Nothing is ever decided." Open enough out of context--just as a line--but now add that the poem is about a Robert Motherwell painting (seen at MoMA in January 1988) and, further, that the poet gave an illuminating brief intro to the poem before reading it at KWH the other day. Sometimes I like blogging about these matters because in such a space (as a matter of lasting record) several contexts can be laid out so easily across the various shareable media: the video (above) of the poet's intro; a PDF (click here) of the text of the poem (from the book Musaics, pp. 20-21); the audio-only recording of the poem being performed.

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