Fall Poetics and New Paintings

I’m many, many years away from attempting a decent expression of personal poetics, and I feel regrets regarding this, now and then. That it should already have been set down for posterity. Someone’s posterity, anyway. Thirty, forty years ago, in print, in book form, or at least in those Little Magazines of yore. I spoke it, of course, often, back in the day, leaning against walls (as mentioned in recent posts), and in other venues. In and out of class, in and out of special seminars, parties, walks along the strand with lovers and friends. Or just inside me own head.…

Seeking Weir

Guest Blogger: Robert Mueller

It is tempting to admire poets whose poetry rewards the loving attention of repeated reading.  Barbara Guest provides that experience, and some readers may draw away from her results simply as if she were just trying, just trying to be difficult.  It is true, the writing has a distinctly prepossessing character.  Everything associated with the poetry, including the image, the style, the statement, the brilliant and tranquil charm of her spectacular, or humble, or both, words, or both in the same blizzard-cutting phrase, speaks nobility.  If they step proud, if they step serene, they inveigle the rushing blame, put it fondly to rest.…

George Spencer’s The Guesting Rose

A Line from Barbara Guest’s Roses

That air in life is important but may be less so in the arts interests me. But we are 60% water and worth $28.49 in bone, fat and chemicals so should we focus more on water and $’s and less on air. But you may respond the atmosphere that encases us is all air but this is not completely true since there is pollution and those little filaments we see when light shafts float into a room and illuminate the air. Then we see what we think is truly there. Of course this ignores the question of the further reaches of space where air may be solid and water may be a gas.…

Dimensions: More Than Spatiality

Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase. 1912

Below, we have a new essay by Robert Mueller. He deals with two fine poets, Barbara Guest and Jill Magi, with imagination and verve.

Jill Magi’s author’s page over at Shearsman Books can be found here. Jill’s homepage can be found here.


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The topic of poetic space on the page is an interesting one. How it looks alters our reception and perception. We read it differently to ourselves depending upon topography.

Poetry is both spatial and aural. Traditionally, poetry was heard, not seen, passed down to us from bard to bard, from shaman to shaman, registering across the centuries in the ear, as we imagined the words and their referents with our inner eye.…

Robert Mueller: Barbara Guest and Jill Magi

Barbara Guest, Now Jill Magi in brevi


Robert Mueller

Shearsman Books, which seems to specialize in poets on their way, recently brought out a fine collection of poetry by Jill Magi, her second full volume, titled Torchwood. This collection is assembled uncharacteristically, even for a time when in poetry books great attention is paid to the presentation. For Magi, it started with the patchwork of historical and personal documentation of her earlier volume Threads (Futurepoem, 2007), and is extended here in a sequencing and a selection that are beautifully realized. The poet nurtures a light touch, sometimes a homey touch, and almost always the quick and sure calibration.

Odds and Ends

We have a new essay by Robert Mueller below, about my dear aunt, Barbara Guest. He knows her work well, and offers a unique perspective. Barbara Guest deserves a much wider audience, and with the expected release of her collected poems in September, I have faith that that will happen. A new generation of readers should follow.


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Finished Philip Pullman’s wonderful trilogy, His Dark Materials, and will write about the last two books this week. I will say up front that the last two books in the series provide fabulous material for more movies.…

Robert Mueller: Barbara Guest, West and East

The Silent Confucius, The Confetti Trees, Hollywood, Who
Else but Barbara Guest
by Robert Mueller
Barbara Guest’s books are wonderful because of how they come to us with their bountiful co-valencies and layering.  The Confetti Trees, a series of short-short stories or quasi-filmmaking anecdotes that qualify as prose poems (Sun & Moon, 1999), has this implicating character, so that when it takes its measure in the rich play of glitter and artifice that are Hollywood, one of its expounding layers is a blending cosmic plot.  Guest’s stories, deft and trothfilled-wacky in their fabulous causes, propose circumstances that concern none other than the coming to America of Confucianism. …

The Long Way Home

The Embarkation of Odysseus. By Claude Lorrain. 1646.

It looks like we should be picking up steam in early April, with new poetry, essays and fiction. To celebrate Barbara Guest’s forth-coming Collected Poetry, I will be posting some essays about her work and life. A remarkable poet, she deserves a much wider readership and far more recognition.

Current books of note: Reading Carmen Laforet’s Nada, a very fine coming of age novel, set in Barcelona. Recently finished William Everdell’s The First Moderns. Brilliant overview of the people and events that shaped the modernist movement around the world.…

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