Thursday, February 23, 2006

Jane Hirshfield at the Well, NEA & Contest questions

In the Writers section of The Well, Jane Hirshfield is being interviewed. You can post comments and questions via email to this week-long discussion.


NEA poetry fellowship applications are due (postmarked) March 1. I must say, they have made the online PDF application form extraordinarily difficult to fill out. I kept trying to use a backspace to delete and being bumped out of my non-saved page. The form won't let you save it as a file, so you must fill it out perfectly from an already printed out and hand-written-on form. They no longer have Word app forms you can download. Messy.

But most people I've consulted seem to think they really only pay attention to the samples. You get 10 pages of single-page poems, or one long 10-page sequence. Period. No two-page poems. It's an interesting process, trying to figure out which are your best 1o poems.

Which would you say are yours? How would you assess "best" for this purpose?


I've been collecting poems on the theme of divine love as it appears manifest in the world around us. Rounding up the usual suspects, Hafiz, Rumi, Sri Aurobindo, John of the Cross, Mirabai and Lalla, with a few contemporary things from Frost, Stafford and others salted in, it occurred to me that most poets don't address topics such as generosity, kindness, service to others and the like. The exceptions are often-quoted because they're so scarce. I think of Naomi Shihab Nye's wonderful poem Kindness. Where are the poets who write about something beyond the narrow confines of the self and its small grudges and complaints?

1 comment:

  1. Rachel,
    thanks for the heads-up on the Hirshfield conversation; (& good luck w/ the NEA).

    The question about kindness etc. as subject in poetry seems perhaps problematical. Unless one is a teacher pontificating, most writers will not expound on or narrate their own acts of kindness, though generousities received / poems expressing gratitude can be written. In general, the occasional poem might be a tradition less common in Anglo-American poetry practice than in, say, East Asian cultural contexts. In Chinese antiquity (and into the present), the occasional poem -- e.g. a short poem written at a particular time to present to particular people -- has been perhaps a chief use for poetry per se, meseems; -- and hasn't been considered trivial, since the classical poets like Li Bai and Tu Fu and Wang Wei all practiced this extensively, as a part of daily life. But then, oftentimes, a sense of divinity-in-life, and gratitude for its forms and recognitions, may be imminent in poetry as essential subtext rather than topical subject, no?