Tag Archives: 3 Poems By

3 Poems By…Gregory Pardlo

One of the things I run into surprisingly often is people saying to me, “I’ve never heard of you before”…Yet I’ve been publishing in “mainstream” journals and my book won that prize, so what is it that is making me invisible? It’s not the work and it’s not the publishing credits. — Gregory Pardlo in The Guardian.

“That prize” is the 2015 Pulitzer for poetry, and Pardlo’s question is a good one, one I hope we’ll wrestle with when 3 Poems by… kicks off its 2016 season.

pardloIf you’re new to Eleventh Stack you might not know that the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh hosts a spirited poetry discussion on the second Thursday of most months. Pittsburgh’s poetry lovers include a wide cross-section of your friends and neighbors, from casually interested laypersons to (extremely modest) local celebrity poets. Normally the poets we discuss are chosen by a facilitator, but this year the group will be reading the work of writers who will also be reading at Poets on Tour. This reading series, a collaborative Library project with Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures, brings some of the best contemporary American poets to a Pittsburgh stage, and I’m more than a little psyched about being in the same room with a Pulitzer prize-winner.

But first, a look at his work.

Digest, the volume for which Pardlo won “that award,” is a tightly-knit collection of masterful code-switching. Highly structured poems that both mirror and mock academic rhetoric rest alongside the looser, more conversational rhythms of personal lyric pieces. The collection’s initial poem, “Written by Himself,” indicates which voice we are meant to accept as most truthful/genuine:

I was born still and superstitious; I bore an unexpected burden
I gave birth, I gave blessing, I gave rise to suspicion.
I was born abandoned outdoors in the heat-shaped air,
air drifting like spirits and old windows… (3).

Don’t think for a second, though, that Pardlo is bluffing his way through academe. In some ways it is a mask he wears, and in other ways it’s a mask that wears him. Either way, though, it’s a highly conscious costuming that results in some gorgeous images and wicked wit, as in the following passage from “Corrective Lenses, Creative Reading, and (Recon)textual/ization”:

In this course we
will venerate the subjective mind, or rather, examine how subject/
object share the fuzzy circumference of a lone spotlight
beneath the proscenium arch. There is no reliable narrator. For example, tea
leaves or cloudbursts in the shape of ladybirds.
(19).

If you’ve ever been anywhere near graduate school, the title alone is pure comedy gold. And yet, the deliberate use of academic language to cut through its own usual fog to a different level of awareness isn’t just amusing: it’s sensuous, gorgeous. Perhaps you can dismantle the master’s house with the master’s tools?

Having said all that, what really matters is what you think. If you’d like to read a smart, self-aware, dazzling collection of poetry, click here to reserve a copy of Digest for yourself. If you just can’t wait, click here to register for 3 Poems by…Gregory Pardlo and receive an e-mail with the three pieces the group will be discussing on January 14th at 7:30 p.m.. At the very least, leave a comment below and let me know your best answer to Pardlo’s question: How is it possible so many of us have never heard of him before now?

–Leigh Anne

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3 Poems by E.E. Cummings Poetry Discussion

fourth-dimensional abstraction by E.E. Cummings

"fourth-dimensional abstraction" by E.E. Cummings

The exhilirating and wildly popular 3 Poems by… Poetry Discussion Group continues this month with a visit to the lovely, perplexing and sometimes snarky world of E.E. Cummings.  We’re even going to touch on the controversy over decapitalizing his name.  Famous for his unconventional punctuation and typography, his vibrant celebrations of love and individuality, and his scathing satirizations of conformists, Cummings is among the best-loved American poets, and critics often credit him with revolutionizing American poetry.  And did you know that he identified as a painter as much as he did as a poet? 

3 Poems By E.E. Cummings Poetry Discussion will take place tomorrow, Thursday, November 13th, at 7:30 in Classroom A at Main Library.  We will discuss:

We’re even tucking an extra poem into our boots, “the Cambridge ladies who live in furnished souls,” just in case we want to keep going.  (But don’t tell, because then we’d have to rename the group, and “4 Poems by…” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.)

Questions?  Email Don and me at newandfeatured@carnegielibrary.org or call us at 412-622-3151.

–Renée

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Emily Dickinson: 3 Poems Discussion Group

 

As mentioned in a previous post,  Main Library will be hosting a brand new discussion group beginning Thursday evening, October 9th, entitled 3 Poems By …Each session of the 3 Poems By … Poetry Discussion Group will concentrate on three representative works of a particular poet.  There will be a brief intro by one of the two moderators (Renée or Don), followed by a guided discussion of the 3 poems under consideration.  

Think of it as a book discussion group without the (whole) book, just 3 poems.

Up first is Emily Dickinson who, along with Walt Whitman, revolutionized American poetry by making it frankly personal and, again along with “Father” Walt, is one of the two most important American poets of the 19th century.  Dickinson herself was as enigmatic as her work; in that very real sense, her poetry reflects who she was.  However, the reader must be wary.  Dickinson herself famously cautioned, in a letter from July 1862, that the “I” or persona in her poems was “a supposed person.”   The critic Harold Bloom observed that when reading Dickinson “One’s mind had better be at its rare best” because there is much to be ferreted from the seemingly simplistic language and rhythmic meters of her considerable body of work. 

So, all things considered, three small dollops may be just enough.

The three poems we’ll be reading and discussing by Dickinson are:

  • There’s a certain Slant of light
  • After great pain a formal feeling comes
  • Because I could not stop for Death

Whether its subject is going out on a formal date with a very persuasive suitor, a near clinical description of the sheer weight and power of grief, or an early lyrical accounting of what might be taken for the very modern syndrome known as seasonal affective disorder, any of these three poems will not fail to astonish in either theme or execution.

Join us at Main Library on Thursday, October 9th from 7:30 to 8:30 in Classroom A in the Center for Museum Education, which is in the hallway of the rear entrance to the library.  Registration is requested, not required (it helps us to figure out how many chairs we need), so to register or further information please contact Renée (412 622-3151) or Don (412 622-3175) or drop us an email at newandfeatured@carnegielibrary.org.

 

– Don

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