The ModPo team went on the road to Providence, Rhode Island — joined by Laynie Browne — to film some new collaborative readings of poems to add to the ModPoPLUS syllabus. Of course while there they just had to stop at the remarkable home of Rosmarie and Keith Waldrop, where Laynie, Kate Colby, and Mónica de la Torre (and, in a cameo appearance here, Lee Ann Brown), recorded a special episode of PoemTalk. This episode is presented here as an audio podcast, and as a video too. The poem discussed, “Memory Tree,” is from Rosmarie Waldrop’s book Split Infinites (published by Gil Ott’s Singing Horse Press in 1998). Here is a link to the text of the prose poem.
Begin again: that was the advice of the Benedictine monk John Main, founder of the Christian silent meditation movement in the West, to those who found themselves floundering in their commitment to the daily task of meditating. It is an idea that is strangely comforting — to begin again — in all the contradictory impulses of that phrase, for a beginning is new in its never-been-here-before quality and resists the idea of repetition nestled at the heart of again. But that is what we must do in the face of the tsunami of the attacks bearing down on all those committed to a fair and equitable society — begin again and again and again
What is the relationship between serial and elegy? What poetic form might accommodate the dailiness of grief without erasing or domesticating what has been lost? How might a poem lament the dead and honor the differences made by loss without foreclosing the possibilities that loss has made available? What potential does loss hold? Might poetry hold space for such potential?
Possibility is neither forever nor instant. It is not easy to sustain belief in its efficacy. — Audre Lorde
Laynie Browne is one of our finest poets working in the mode I am calling contemplative poetry. By which I mean not necessarily a poetry that is contemplative in the religious sense (though yes, inescapably there is also that in Laynie’s work) but rather in the compositional sense, that is, writing itself, language itself, composition itself.
A sense of community is everywhere apparent in the poetry world — the desire to share and promote what is offered widely, and to make of poetry a means to transform minds, hearts, and social practice. Fortunately or unfortunately, it can be difficult in all this to find a space quiet enough for a contemplative spirit, an exploratory sense, in the poem, of working through what’s real in how to respond to a world in and through language. For me the value of this is much more than personal, more than the pleasure it affords.
Laynie Browne, Rodrigo Toscano, and Michelle Taransky joined Al Filreis to talk about Robert Fitterman’s Sprawl, where (as K. Silem Mohammad once observed) “the mall hasn’t been this scary since Dawn of the Dead.” It’s Dantesque, notes Rodrigo in this conversation. The arrangement of the parts wants its readers to be lost, says Laynie, exactly as mall developers and architects encourage consumer misdirection and dislocation.
I am pleased to see that among the 2014 recipients of Pew Fellowships are:
Laynie Browne Browne explores and reinvents various poetic forms, including sonnets (Daily Sonnets, Counterpath, 2007) tales (The Scented Fox, Wave Books, 2007), and letters (The Desires of Letters, Counterpath, 2010).
Thomas Devaney A native Philadelphian and author of the newly released Calamity Jane (Furniture Press, 2014), Devaney takes inspiration from music and visual art, writing for the ear as well as the eye.
J.C. Todd Todd’s work complicates and contemporizes the longstanding tradition of war poetry, and investigates how war permeates human life and language.