Category Archives: Poetry

Romeo and Juliet of Hell’s Kitchen: On Tina Cane’s Once More with Feeling

By Matthew Lippman

When you read Tina Cane’s Once More with Feeling you will scratch your head and say, “What the fuck?” You might not actually say, “What the fuck?” But I did. The question gave rise to another one: “What took so long for someone to publish this book?” But don’t waste too much time on questions; return to the poems and read them again — once more, with feeling. One way to read this book is to listen to Lou Reed’s 1989 classic record New York. The book is a Romeo and Juliet of Hell’s Kitchen. That is to say, it is New York — a New York that rolls around in the late 1970s then falls straight away into the 1980s. If you were coming of age in New York at that time, be it in Queens, Manhattan, or Canarsie, you will get this book. It’s part of your DNA, already in you, even though you had no idea it was there. It’s some back page of your personality, which you might have filed away, might have forgotten about, but once you step inside Cane’s vision, boom, there you are, hopping into the L train at 14th Street and headed into Williamsburg. It’s 10th Avenue, stinking and brutal, up in your eyeballs. You know it. You will know it. Delicious, like a mile-high pastrami sandwich from The 2nd Avenue Deli, or the rear corner of Gus “N” Bernie’s Candy store, with all those fantastic comic books. Continue reading

The Heart Grows Stranger: Sorrow & the Unspeakable in Three Recent Prose Texts

By Kristina Marie Darling

In Black Sun, Julia Kristeva observes that mourning is, in essence, a loss of language. Words abandon their meaning; sentences no longer fit together the way they should. Yet it is language that allows us to derive significance from an experience, integrating it into our understanding of the world around us. The sorrow of a lost object, then, is a double loss: the thing itself has vanished and so too has its place in the lovely arc of story. Once we have fallen out of language, the absence itself becomes unspeakable, and likewise, the stories that makes us ourselves. Continue reading

Not Forgotten: On the Sonoran Poet Abigael Bohórquez (1936-1995)

By Anthony Seidman

Last year, the Mexican poet Mijail Lamas organized a reading for my third collection of poetry, A Sleepless Man Sits Up in Bed (Eyewear).  The event took place in the Bhutanese-style library at the University of Texas in El Paso, where I had completed a bilingual MFA in 1997. After the reading, I found myself in Mijail’s small apartment, surrounded by piles of books.  I had been pestering him about obscure poets from the northern desert or borderlands of Mexico. Mijail pulled a thick tome from the top of a book tower. With the air of someone who prefers to stay silent until the moment is right, he opened Poesía reunida e inédita, a collection by Abigael Bohórquez (1936-1995), who, despite the many years he had spent in the nation’s capital, was decidedly a poet from the north. He was Sonoran in tone, his voice resonated with the languid strains of marginalization. He was also openly gay. Mijail intoned the music of Bohórquez with a dark bottle of Victoria beer in his left hand, and his right waving back and forth like a conductor’s sans baton. Continue reading

Destruction and Deconstruction in Tommy Pico’s Nature Poem

By Massoud Hayoun

Tommy Pico’s book-length epic Nature Poem is written, in parts, like a string of OK Cupid messages from every run-of-the-mill gay manic depressive I’ve ever met — frantic thoughts, ultimately wretched and whining.

Maybe that’s what grated on me at the onset of this young, gay, city-dwelling Native American man’s journey. All-too familiar to me, as a gay Arab-American man, are the histrionics that pass for conversation at the Boiler Room in the East Village or at The Abbey in WeHo on a Saturday night. Even at a gay bar I once visited in faraway Urumqi, China, there was this same mixture of thirst and depression. It’s a global plague, deeply bourgeois; if you have the disposable income to buy a drink at a gay bar, you probably have enough time to think. And if you think too much about what’s going on around you at a gay bar, you’ll probably become thirsty and depressed. Continue reading

Divergent Streams: The Poetry of Roberto Echavarren

By Anthony Seidman

The notion of a singular “Latin American poetry” perturbs the reader who discerns the radiant gathering of traditions, ruptures, and voices among the Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking peoples of the Americas. For example, the Poesía Negra of the Puerto Rican Luis Palés Matos (1898-1959) looks simply decorative when compared to the politically charged poetry of the Cuban Nicolás Guillén (1902-1989), another voice from the Negrismo movement. The controlled sonnets of Borges bear little resemblance to the overflowing cadences of Nicaraguan poet Joaquín Pasos. The Whitman who supposedly informs Neruda proves to be a different and more tangible presence in the poetry of the Dominican Pedro Mir (1913-2000). The Mexican José Gorostiza (1901-1973) is “difficult” in a way wholly different from that of the Peruvian César Vallejo (1892-1938). And yet many poets fresh from MFA programs gush about the singular burning coal of “Latin American poetry,” which was pressed against their lips so they could sing. Roberto Echavarren’s The Espresso Between Sleep and Wakefulness may be a disappointment for these readers, who only expect the love lyrics or elemental odes of Neruda. Then again, he may be revelation. Continue reading

Encountering Derek Walcott

By Alan Warhaftig

Derek Walcott, born in St. Lucia in the Windward Islands, died on March 17, 2017 at the age of 87. He was the greatest poet produced by the strong literary culture of the Anglophone Caribbean, and is often listed among the greatest poets of the English language of the second half of the 20th century. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1992 and was knighted in 2016. Continue reading