In this issue of PIW we celebrate the launch of a USA domain under the editorship of the Poetry Foundation in Chicago. And we’re also commemorating International Women’s Day on 8 March with a new archive tour and an article about PIW editors’ and poets’ perspectives on gender and poetry.
A number of American poets, previously guests at the Poetry International Festival, have featured on PIW over the last few years. We’re delighted that the Poetry Foundation will now bring new poets from the USA to PIW every few months, and we look forward to watching the USA domain grow.
This first USA issue offers a trio of contemporary poets. W.S. Di Piero, a poet, critic, translator and essayist, celebrates the profusion of people and events in city life in many of his sensory and descriptive poems, singling out, through observation and imagination, small moments of beauty, sadness or magic: a nude display model “on sale to no one” is carried through the streets past “the awful rich”; a girl tips a “throe of ashes from a brassy urn” into the river; a single note struck on a vibraphone in a club carries out onto the sidewalk, is sucked up by “a passing peopled train” and carried away to the coast.
The subjects of Ange Mlinko’s sparky work range from farmer’s markets to falling leaves; securities on mortgages to Nicolas Sarkozy; lipstick colours to lobster bouillabaisse. Mlinko explores not only the aesthetic possibilities of language through association, wordplay and rhyme, but also investigates miscommunication and linguistic confusion – “Descartes” is misheard as “the cart”, Queen Elizabeth “ascended to the thrown”, “the word ‘empty’ [is] mistaken for ‘tempting’”. In ‘Kouign Amann’, which opens, “I went to make kouign amann. It sounded Irish / and/or Maghrebi. But it’s Breton”, she sifts through linguistic resonances and etymologies, investigating how language and naming defines and connects the places around us: “Bretagne’s off-kilter // menhirs call to our bric-a-brac rock / like names orphaned after the glaciers’ retreat / from Briquebec to Wequetequock.”
Atsuro Riley’s percussive poetry is also heavily sound-driven. Riley is a collector, bricoleur and inventor of vocabulary, much of it gleaned from the speech, sounds and images of the rural South of his childhood; he has learned, as he writes in ‘Strand’, to “hammer, wire, and jerry homely words”. Hyphens nail together compounds like “vowel-bends”, dipper-sip”, “hen-drops” and “coop-mines”, and sound associations are as vital a driving force in his poems as semantics and syntax − “Bait. //Bide”, he writes in ‘Stock-lake’; “Leaf. Leave. Leaves. Leaving. Left” in ‘Strand’; “creek-shrimping and cooler-dragging / and coon-chasing and dove-dogging and duck-bagging and / squirrel-tailing and tail-hankering and hard-cranking” in ‘Map’. Though rich in sound and texture, his poems are also lean and taut: the language-play Riley so obviously delights in is neither florid nor self-indulgent but rather energetic and fizzling, and he is capable of vivid evocations of landscape, story and memory in even the most concise of poems.
We hope you enjoy this window onto the exciting terrain of contemporary American poetry.
Up next . . .
March is the month of new domains for Poetry International Web: in our next issue on 15 March, alongside the work of Wadih Sa’adah from Australia, poetry from Indonesia will join the pages of PIW for the first time.
You can read previous issues of PIW here.