Wednesday, October 05, 2005


More recommended reading

Some more recent (more or less) items I've enjoyed reading:

Unfortunately, It Was Paradise by Mahmoud Darwish, translated and edited by Munir Akash and Carolyn Forche with Sinan Antoon and Amira El-Zein (University of California Press, 2003). A selection of poems by the most widely known contemporary Palestinian poet. Poems of stunning beauty and power. Includes a brief introduction, and a glossary of Arabic words and other terms that occur in the poems.

Little Stones At My Window by Mario Benedetti, translated by Charles D. Hatfield (Curbstone Press, 2003). A selection of fierce and tender poems by this remarkable poet of Uruguay, covering more than 50 years of work, much of it written in political exile from Uruguay during periods of military rule. Includes the original Spanish of the poems. Also has a useful introduction by the translator.

Maria Sabina: Selections edited by Jerome Rothenberg (University of California Press, 2003.) A rich intricate collection by and about a shaman poet of the Mazatec people in Mexico. Includes an ample selection of the chanted oral poetry Sabina uses during the healing ritual work she performs; and prose material by Henry Munn, Homero Aridjis, and other authors, relating various encounters with Sabina, and including an account of her life written by Alvaro Estrada as told to him by Sabina. The book also features poetry by several poets whose work has been touched in one way or another by Sabina's poetry and life, among them excerpts from Anne Waldman's "Fast Speaking Woman" which Waldman has acknowledged was inspired by and patterned on the poems of Maria Sabina. This is a wonderful, essential collection. Includes a short bibliography of related written and audio material.

Walker Woman and Shulamith, both by Julia Stein (both published 2002 by West End Press, P.O. Box 27334, Albuquerque, NM 87125). Walker Woman journeys through the daily circumstances of urban life and political struggle in the modern world and in particular in Los Angeles where Stein lives: riots in South Central, the impossible overcrowding of classrooms, the death of her father, the vast danger and beauty of the earth, the beauty and intelligence of the people who work and live the life and work of the world. The poems in Shulamith explore the lives and histories of Jewish women, starting from the many biblical stories and tracing forward through the Holocaust and heroic resistance in Europe, and the relentless work of labor organizing in the United States through the 20th century, pulling together a personal and collective story that stubbornly insists on the truth. *** If you would like to know more about poet Julia Stein, you can also visit her weblog California Writer.

Down Wind, Down River by William Witherup (Published in 2000 by West End Press, P.O. Box 27334, Albuquerque, NM 87125). Warm, gritty, tough poems full of the stark beauty of the land, particularly of the western United States, and bearing the sharp political edge that has characterized Witherup's poems since I first read them more than 30 years ago. The poems make rugged weather essential for life. *** More about William Witherup can be found at his web page, here.

Exile in My Homeland by Dale Jacobson (published 2005 by the print-on-demand publisher Author House). This one is just out -- a copy arrived in the mail last week. A booklength poem casting a many-layered narrative, partly historical, partly mythological in texture, illuminating the vast epic story of political oppression and resistance that shapes the world we live in. I plan to spend much time with this one.

The Ghost Openings by Sheryl Noethe (published 2000 by Grace Court Press, 375 Riverside Drive #5C, New York, NY 10025). Sheryl Noethe was one of the first poets whose work affected me, shaped my outlook on the world and my ideas about what poetry is and how to write it -- more than 30 years ago when we were in a poetry writing class in Minneapolis during the last year of high school. Her poems bear a gift of deep humanity and and hunger for knowledge of the world, the desire to cross the vast space that lies between each of us and the other people in our lives and in our world. All these years later, when I read Sheryl Noethe's poetry, it still speaks to me with the same essential intelligence, helping me to find, again, what poetry is and why we need it. *** Sheryl Noethe's web page is here; and here's a short interesting interview with her.

That's it for now. In future posts I'll talk in greater depth about some of the poets here, and will list more worthwhile reading. There's always more.

Oh, I'm always, always, looking for translations. Thanks so much for this list. I'll definately check out the Mario Benedetti, Sheryl Noethe, and William Witherup.
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