Poems about the poems themselves, such as “Gender,” tempt us to underestimate or even to dismiss metapoetical claims: “I write poems about boobs and dicks.” This is of course deceptive, a misdirection, because ultimately, in every Lasky poem, the words (and overall the voicings of ecstatic, troubled experience) come as a remedy for language’s absence as otherwise the expected state. “I write poems about boobs and dicks,” yes, “But my anger comes not from this / But from being silenced / So that I hate what they like / Not listening to me / So that I could go on and on.”
Coming after a long literary history of poetry meant to idealize solutions to human problems and concerns—even if such fixes are only to be imagined—poets such as Hannah Weiner, John Wieners, Bernadette Mayer, Laynie Browne, Lee Ann Brown, and Dorothea Lasky explore the seemingly hopeless, seemingly “low” (or at least "daily") underside. The strength of their work as a poetics has derived from explorations of emotional detritus, (masks of) self-loathing, sexual frankness, etc.
Sean Bonney, one of the finest UK poets of our time, died in Berlin on 13th November 2019. His work comprises seven major books and a series of pamphlets; it includes some of the most vital writing in the language today. He pushed at the limits of poetry, creating new forms in each single book. No other contemporary work destroys so thoroughly the universe of resurgent fascism.
[NOTE. Kazim Ali was born in the United Kingdom and has lived transnationally in the United States, Canada, India, France, and the Middle East. His books encompass multiple genres, including the volumes of poetry Inquisition, Sky Ward, The Far Mosque, The Fortieth Day, All One’s Blue, and the cross-genre texts Bright Felon and Wind Instrument. His novels include the recently published The Secret Room: A String Quartet and among his books of essays are the hybrid memoir Silver Road: Essays, Maps & Calligraphies, and Fasting for Ramadan: Notes from a Spiritual Practice. He is also an accomplished translator (of Marguerite Duras, Sohrab Sepehri, Ananda Devi, Mahmoud Chokrollahi and others) and an editor of several anthologies and books of criticism. He is currently a Professor of Literature at the University of California, San Diego. His newest books are a volume of three long poems entitled The Voice of Sheila Chandra and a memoir of his Canadian childhood, Northern Light.]