Sunday, January 04, 2009


... to find that I have over forty poems written towards the new series or project or whatever it is that I'm working on. Some will end up getting junked, many will end up getting revised -- of course. But I didn't realize how much work I'd done already. Wow.

Along those lines, I'm looking for recommendations. I'm interested in books of "poetry as biography" (whether of historical or fictional personages, I don't care which). I recently finished leadbelly by Tyehimba Jess, which is a good example of the kind of thing I'm looking for -- and is a phenomenal, powerful collection to boot. I'm currently reading Your Own, Sylvia by Stephanie Hemphill, which is another one; I'm not blown away by the individual poems, but I like the concept, the way the poet writes from a bunch of different points of view & includes footnotes to explain some of the biographical details. And while I was in Colorado for Christmas, I spent a few hours at the Tattered Cover Bookstore (aka "heaven") in Denver & picked up It's Hard Being Queen: The Dusty Springfield Poems by Jeanette Lynes. Haven't read that one yet, but it looks most intriguing.

Are there others I should know about? I'm interested in how others have worked with similar material -- chronology, plot, structure. I'm toying with the idea of interspersing bits of ephemera among the poems -- snippets from interviews and articles, that kind of thing -- and am currently debating about how much of the plot (you know, the "facts") I need to lay out & how much I want the reader to have to trust the gaps.

Books that aren't necessarily biographical per se, but which use individual poems to tell a larger story, would be of interest as well. I'm less interested in the "verse novel" sort of thing than in books of individual poems that fall together to tell someone's story. What I'm envisioning has more in common with a series of linked short stories than with a novel, if that makes sense.

I'm also interested in poems that use the imagery of rock & roll. Those are a little easier to find, I think, but I bet there's some I don't know about.

Any & all recommendations are most welcome!

Also: Happy New Year one and all! May 2009 bring us all prosperity, happiness, and the right words at the right time.


Lyle Daggett said...

Hard Country by Sharon Doubiago (West End Press). Doubiago herself has described it as an epic poem, though it's written as a long sequence of poems, connected by a loose narrative of traveling across the United States in 1976. Rampant with historical and mythological and political content, and mingled with a narrative of ending a relationship with one person and starting one with another.

Letter to an Imaginary Friend by Thomas McGrath.
A more-or-less autobiographical booklength poem, that draws in a great deal of historical and mythological and political content. I'd describe it as more episodic than narrative. Sometimes highly lyrical, sometimes raucously funny and satirical, sometimes wildly experimental. Covers a time frame from early 20th century through sometime in the 1980's. McGrath worked on the poem for something like 30 years, and finished it toward the end of his life.

Both of the above are large substantial epic-scale works, not sure if you're looking for something that large, anyway these are what came to mind right away.

Smaller in scale than the above, there's the "Twenty-One Love Poems" (I think it's called) sequence by Adrienne Rich in her book The Dream of a Common Language.

Word verification is "chips." Munch munch.

Kristin said...

W. T. Pfefferle's "The Meager Life and Modest Times of Pop Thorndale," published in 2006 by the National Federation of State Poetry Societies Press: it was the 2006 winner of the Stevens Poetry Manuscript competition. Pop Thorndale is a man at midlife in suburbia, trying to make sense of all the ordinariness of his life. It's a more compelling volume than it sounds.

Leslie said...

After the Lost War--Andrew Hudgins' book about Sidney Lanier.

Collin Kelley said...

Oyl by Maureen Seaton and Denise Duhamel. Hilarious and thematically linked.

Karen J. Weyant said...

I really liked the books, Kettle Bottom by Diane Gilliam Fisher and Bellocq's Ophelia by Natasha Trethewey. As for rock and roll and poetry? Have you ever read Sweet Nothings: An Anthology of Rock-n-Roll American Poetry?

Anonymous said...

Carver by Marilyn Nelson

Winners Have Yet to Be Announced: A Song for Donny Hathaway by Ed Pavlic

Mystery Train by David Wojahn

Anonymous said...

and shameless self-promo: the book of the tales of circus zimba but you can download it for free

Laine said...

Happy New Year, Anne! This research sounds great. Hope we'll see you at AWP. Something tells me I'm going to be packing light and coming home book-heavy.

Pamela said...

Catherine Barnett's Into Perfect Spheres Such Holes are Pierced is a wonderful book, as is Kyrie by Ellen Bryant Voigt. I also second Leslie's recommendation of Hudgins. The way some of those poems move through music would really interest you, I think.

Charles said...

Into Perfect Spheres is one of my favorite books ever.

Anonymous said...

Hi Anne,

I have a collection out from Foothills Publishing that tells the story of homelessness and how I got there and who I met.

It's called Project: Butterflies/2007.

I am working on another collection now about a different subject.

Nanette Rayman Rivera